British newspapers: Unethical and sensationalised? Yeah, but so what

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Papers

(Pic: by Nick Clapp, of newspapers)

It’s often said newspapers have no morals, ethics or sensitivity. People complain about them being biased, sensationalised and prejudiced.

To be honest, this is largely true. And I for one am glad that’s the case.

No responsibility

 The truth is, newspapers have no genuine responsibility to be ‘fair’ and ‘objective’.

This is because they are not public service organisations. Yes, papers play a part in maintaining democracy.

But don’t forget, they are organisations designed to make profits and money first and foremost.

This is why they are full of adverts and fight so hard to get noticed amongst the competition. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating papers lying or making up stories.

 I’m just saying it’s not right or fair to expect them to be impartial.

As journalism students, we are told ‘don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.’ It’s probably the best piece of advice I’ve heard so far.

You may think what I’m saying is pretty unethical. But why is it? There’s no shame in trying to sell newspapers.

Techniques

Headline puns, big pictures and shocking headlines are the best way to do this.

Would you want to read something written in plain, boring language? No, nobody would. It may be factually correct, but it wouldn’t be interesting.

Take for example today’s Daily Express. This isn’t a paper I normally read, and I’m not advocating views in it. But as an example, think about this headline.

“Scandal as millions wait longer to see their doctor.” Now, is it really a scandal?

“People waiting longer to see doctors” would probably be more accurate. But it’s nowhere near as interesting.

The truth is, if you don’t like the way certain papers act, ignore them. You could go your whole life without ever needing to read one.

Like it or not though, the techniques used by papers to intrigue readers and keep their interest are clever and fantastic.

After all, about one in every 12 people will buy one daily. That’s pretty impressive.

So even if you don’t like them, at least show them some respect.

Read more of Wordsmith:

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Rupert Murdoch’s media monopoly

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Matt Baker: David Cameron’s nemesis

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Ruper Murdoch’s media monopoly: Fair or undemocratic?

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Debates have raged for a long time about how much power News Corporation’s owner Rupert Murdoch really has.

Some argue he doesn’t exert large amounts of control over the many parts of his media empire.

Then there are others who say his influence is profound. One such person, Brian MacArthur, worked under Murdoch for several years as an editor of The Times newspaper.

He said, in a recent guest lecture at the University of Central Lancashire, ‘The Sun Says’ section of The Sun is clearly “what Murdoch thinks.”

Opinion

It’s one thing to hear it from someone who has worked for the media tycoon. It’s quite another to hear it from the man himself.

In the above clip, Rupert Murdoch admits trying to “shape the agenda” of his news broadcasters.

Having said it himself, for whatever reason, it shows he’s willing to use his organisations for his own means.

This would probably shock many people. But should it?

After all, he is a businessman, first and foremost. He expects some kind of return on his investment.

As news providers (on the whole) don’t actually make lots of money, owners use them in other ways.

Of course, arguments against him using his own media monopoly to peddle personal views have validity.

Plurality

Someone who only watches Sky News or reads The Sun or The Times will get Murdoch’s own opinions shoved in their face.

However, we live in a country of media plurality, meaning it’s unlikely people will see news from just one source.

As long as the means is there to get a wide range of political views (which it is thanks to the range of newspapers and broadcasters) it means democracy functions effectively.

As bias is unavoidable (and objectivity can never be achieved), our media plurality is the next best thing.

Murdoch may control large swathes of the news industry. But as long we have access to a range of opinions across the spectrum, it doesn’t really matter.

Read more of Wordsmith:

Celebrity gossip: Why people love it

Gareth Bale and robots

Japan earthquake shows importance of rolling news

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Media Ownership – should we be worried? (Passing Nightmare)