“Yellow journalism is 112 years old today (now 123 years in 2019) and is still alive and well. The term was first coined in 1896 during a time of battle of the New York Journal and the New York World for domination of the New York City market. Critics attacked both newspapers for building circulation based upon sex, violence and crime, sprinkled with emotionalism, inaccuracies and exaggerations. What has changed?

“Today’s yellow journalism finds fertile ground in would-be journalists whose motives have little to do with social conscience, disclosure of injustice, uncovering wrong doing or giving voice to the voiceless. These journalists-in-name-only are self-seekers whose motives involve pride, profit and a program of abusing the standards of journalism. Today’s journalists, particularly those of the electronic media, are in danger of becoming entertainers, celebrities and spokespersons for the rich and powerful.

“Too many contemporary journalists, in a rush to be first in print or on the air that has to do more with personal prestige than with informing the public, have overlooked two basic journalistic rules: 1) Find a second, confirming source, and 2) check, check again, and then recheck.”

The above paraphrased from Allan Andrews, former editor of Pacific Stars and Stripes, Tokyo, Japan; 1996.

Today’s world has seen an enormous decline in the dominance of newspapers across the country as the source of national and international news. Electronic media like CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, CBS, NBC, ABC and such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal pop up everywhere. In the old days, the Associated Press and United Press International were the “wire services” that gathered, wrote, and transmitted stories to newspapers all over the country. Those organizations were held accountable by the newspaper members. Cable news 24/7 did not exist. Local newspapers mostly were the source of all news, local and national.

At one point, there were about 1,800 independently owned papers in the United States and scores of independent radio/TV stations. Now there are 1,500 newspapers, 1,100 magazines, 9,000 radio stations, 1,500 TV stations, and 2,400 publishers owned by just six corporations. Those corporations are General Electric, Newscorp, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner and CBS. All appear to have both a profit and political agenda.

With the incredibly huge consolidation of newspapers and the electronic media into fewer and fewer corporations, particularly at the national level, has come the tradeoff of accuracy and objectivity for profit and political bias. Allan Andrews had it right then and has it right now.

Richard Blacklidge, then president of the American Newspaper Publishers Association, said in 1972, “Eternal vigilance is the price of any liberty, and surely that will continue to be true where press freedom is concerned. But, more than being vigilant, the press must above all be responsible — which is to say professional, conscientious, discreet, fair and accurate — in discharging its cardinal obligation, its reason for existence: to serve the American public as a medium of information and entertainment.”

Do today’s news sources meet this standard or is there a dominance of “fake news.” You decide.

Kent Blacklidge, Kokomo

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