Letters to the Editor

Yellow journalism in Jamaica

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

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Dear Editor,

I think we are pretty well aware that headlines sell newspapers. For a reading public, albeit with bustling lives and so many demands for our attention, we scan the papers often committing to memory only their headlines and precious little of the actual content. We expect that the headline will capture the essence of what we need to know, and we are prepared to believe it. We believe it because we have been assured of the highest standard of journalistic conduct. We trust our traditional news sources and we rely on the news they bring us to inform our daily lives. What we aren't prepared for, however, is for those we rely on for critical information to lie to us, so very blatantly, passing off false information as factual.

There is a term called “Yellow Journalism”— bless my journalism lecturers who brought the term to my attention and reiterated ad nauseam that as serious journalists or media houses, dabbling in yellow journalism must be avoided like the plague.

Yellow journalism is said to be the use of “eye-catching headlines to sell more papers”. Jason Skogg writes that yellow journalism emerges “when papers begin to overstate their news reports or make them seem more interesting and exciting than they were”. Skogg further states that yellow journalism stretches the truth and stories of crime, corruption and scandal are used to sell papers.

I make mention of this to set the context of the latest actions in respect of statements incorrectly and very unfortunately attributed to politicians which have been denied as misleading and out of context.

It is one thing to be bombarded with fake news on social media — you filter some and others you believe — but it is another thing altogether, when trusted media entities sink to the level of “yellow journalism”, discarding all the ethical principles which make the profession what it is.

As if this was not bad enough, many of us have believed and shared the false narrative before coming to realise it is fake news.

When this happens the media house should apologise forthwith to salvage its reputation. And I would caution that the media fraternity should have no place for yellow journalism. The journalism profession is one that relies on trust; trust between journalists and their sources and journalists and the public. A breach of trust in this way has to have the public questioning where they've placed their trust.

Roshean Williams





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