Having readers raise eyebrows and find interest in an article is just part of journalism, but it comes to a head when it becomes inflammatory.
Far too often, journalism turns yellow and resorts to scare stories just to receive reads or cable views. Lately, it seems that journalism is wandering down this yellow path.
It seems like there is an increased use of exaggerated diction to increase appeal.
Last Thursday, Arkansas’ ABC affiliate KATV ran a story titled “Ebola fear spreads to Arkansas.” The quickly pulled article began by saying that the Ebola virus is only six hours away in Dallas, and since Arknasas is in close proximity to the city, there is fear of it spreading. The article went on to mention Harding alumnus and videographer Gil Gildner on assignment in Liberia. One line stated that Gildner planned to return to Little Rock within the week, insinuating that he would no doubt bring the Ebola virus with him.
Yes, KATV, Ebola fear did spread to Arkansas, because you forced it to.
Many historians credit yellow journalism for starting the Spanish-American War after coverage of the sinking of the American warship, the Maine, off the coast of Cuba surfaced in papers everywhere. For the entirety of journalism’s history, there has always been an inherent risk of crossing the line.
In the United States, there are rules protecting the press and its ability to investigate and cover news. There are also rules protecting citizens and businesses whose entities are made into news. To insinuate that one man plans to bring the Ebola virus to Arkansas crosses the line, and it’s no surprise that KATV pulled the article.
It is important to remember the facts about Ebola. The Center for Disease Control has advised the government and the media to remind everyone that Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever is only spread when someone comes in contact with the bodily fluids of an infected individual, it is not spread through the air. Unfortunately, many media outlets have not portrayed this information correctly, or overhyped the issue entirely.
It’s not just this one article that is an issue. It seems that yellow journalism is on the rise. With articles titled “Justices let gay unions roll in 5 states” (from the Democrat Gazette), maybe we are crossing the line too often. It is noble to pull articles when they have gone too far, but the damage is still done. There are better ways to say that marriage equality is now a reality in five states. There are better and more appropriate ways to headline, caption or describe news and stories. Without care and intention the world could easily see journalism spiral further down this yellow path.