James Poniewozik, rapidly becoming one of my favorite bloggers, recently posted about the respectable media’s response to the recent Tiger Woods frenzy. And I think what he has to say is pretty darn fascinating.
“…the “serious” news outlets can’t just wholeheartedly revel in the human filth of the story. Not just for high-minded reasons, either: there are cold business reasons. As with so many things today, traditional media are caught between a newfangled audience, with new expectations, and an old-fashioned audience that expects old-fashioned standards of propriety.”
Poniewozik hits it right on the money. Newspapers and broad magazines (Time or Newsweek) attempt to cater to all audiences. In years past, this wasn’t a hard task with the limited ways of receiving information. In the past, a story this thick with rumor would have broken much slower, with only facts being reported instead of a feeding frenzy of speculation.
Poniewozik points out the essential problem here:
“Fail to satisfy the newfangled group, and they’ll quickly click elsewhere; fail to satisfy the old-fashioned group (who don’t want celebrity news on the front page, or news coverage with a point-of-view), and they cancel their subscriptions.”
Later in the post, he mentions the problem of money that newspapers face. After all, when people want to read about Michael Jackson’s death, why not plaster your paper with it? (What possible connection does Michael Jackson have with Duluth, Minnesota? Seriously! And notice how Fawcett is just sort of shoved in the corner).
So what do you guys think? Is it ethical to plaster your front page with sensationalist news, or do you only print the facts at risk of losing money?