Scandalous Journalism

By Claudia Williams

Scandalous Journalism: High-profile incidents or stories that cause damage to the subject and run contrary to the usual rules and ethics of journalism / or violate a journalist’s mission: to report news events in a fair and accurate manner.

Television shows like “Scandal” http://abc.go.com/shows/scandal depict scandalous journalism in a dramatic sense, but also in a somewhat real way. Most common in politics and the lives of the rich and famous, scandals come with the territory. Sleeping with your secretary, having a secret child from years ago, or tax evasion are some of the common things you hear when it comes to a political figure having a scandal on the news. The minute this prints in the newspaper, or airs on the six o’clock news, the life of the subject involved is in shambles. Journalists flock to the front yard of the up-in-coming Senator to ask a million questions, about why and when and what is going on? The more and more they dig, the more and more information they receive, and sometimes this information is not true.

One really famous scandal that erupted because of the media and journalists was the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal. In 1998, Bill Clinton was accused of having sexual relations with a white house intern by the name of Monica Lewinsky. Clinton denied these accusations, but with the amount of media surrounding this case, it blew up everywhere and became one of the most talked about scandals in the US. The “Lewinsky Scandal” eventually led to Clinton’s impeachment. Had it not been for the mass amounts of media and journalists following and finding every detail of this case, I don’t think that it would have become such a massive scandal. It would have simmered down much faster and quietly.

What do you think about scandalous journalism? Do you think it is fair for the media to publicize something that could be damaging for the subject, to the point of impeachment, for instance? Or do you think that is the best part of journalism? Revealing secrets and scandals? Would you personally feel bad about releasing a story regarding a scandal, or would you love it?

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7 responses to “Scandalous Journalism

  1. You bring up an interesting point. As a writer, I don’t often think about the implications my story will have on its subject. I’ve always assumed that as long as I tell the person’s story fairly, accurately, and without bias, I’m doing my job correctly. I think it’s important that journalists cover scandals. Members of the public have a right to know what’s going, and it’s our job as reporters to inform them. However, I do think scandals are overdone in the news. Rather than beating a scandalous story to death, it might be better for news outlets to simply tell the story and then back off. This way, the public will still be informed, and the scandal’s subject can make it out of the spotlight a little less damaged.

  2. You bring up some good points here. However, I think there’s a reason tabloids are so popular: scandal sells. Not that this should be advocated, but I think that media’s focus on scandal targets a different type of audience besides people who actually watch the news for news. I think that the emphasis on scandal does harm people who are victims or participants of shameful or embarrassing acts and we shouldn’t feel the need to overemphasize it beyond simply informing the public that it happened. Personally, I would feel horrible about releasing a scandal because I think that it sometimes crosses a line between personal and public, but it high profile cases like Bill Clinton’s, people have a right to know.

  3. This is a very interesting topic. I agree with Lauren I never really think of my story impacting the subject’s reputation I just write the facts. But I also agree with Sarah that scandal sells, and sells real well. As a super-fan of Scandal the show I really enjoy the drama and craziness of scandals, but in real life I’m not sure how open I would be to writing about it. The idea that potentially my story could harm or hurt someone’s image really hurts me. I don’t think I would be able to do it. Now it’s possible that will change in the future as my career progresses but as of now I do not see myself publishing stories that encourage the attention of a scandal.

  4. I agree with the previous comment: scandal sells. Everyone wants to hear about the dirty details of all the big political figures. I think that those types of stories need to be covered because people have a right to know, but I think the media has a habit of dwelling on them for far too long. There are other important things going on that could use the news coverage besides a politician’s latest affair. Once it’s been covered I think it’s time to move on.

  5. Similar to what many people have been saying, I do agree with the fact that scandal sells. I think this may be the only thing that gets some people to pay attention to the news, which is sad. While I do think it is important to keep the public informed, I also think some journalists take it too far. Reporters camped outside the houses of the people involved and constantly hounding them seems a bit harsh. I think there should be some better, more morally correct ways to get information. I also think the media should know when to move forward from the topic. If something happens, it is covered constantly, even if there is nothing new to share. To me, that moves from news journalism to “scandal” news, and that is what bothers me a bit.

  6. As journalist, it is their job to cover things in the media, especially things that they think the population would be interested in. As everyone else has said, scandal sells. Yes, it is important to cover serious stuff, but people are interested in gossip and what is happening in the ‘famous world.’ There are certain magazines that make their earnings off of gossip, such as People Magazine. Being in the spotlight, they should know that if they do something wrong, it will most likely be covered and put out for the public to read. I personally like reading about what is going on with celebrities, but I do not think that I like writing about that. I do not want to ruin someones reputation, and stuff that journalist write about happen daily to ‘normal people’ but that doesn’t get written about because they aren’t in the limelight. Unfortunately for celebrities, they are in the light and are always being watched and as journalist, it is our job to write about them.

  7. I agree with everyone else who has commented that scandal does sell. This idea is seen with media nowadays and coverage of high profile stories such as Ferguson, Casey Anthony, The Missing Malaysian Flight. Sometimes I think that modern day media is focusing too much on these stories, however, journalists are just writing about what people want to read. In order to change that media needs to be less focused on these sensationalized stories, and start focusing more on everyday news.

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