Unlike the time when it was first established, journalism no longer runs on the revenues from circulation. While circulation still maintains a percentage of the revenue generated, advertising is the primary source of revenue for newspapers today. Magazines, websites and journals are also supported by revenues from ads. While the book publishing sector has yet to give in, e-book readers are beginning to implement ads in users' devices. Of course, website ads have become so common, they go without saying. Since advertisements are a huge part of media, it is not possible to overlook its influence. For example, advertorial pages – which are hybrids of a news articles and advertisements – exist, as do sponsored content, and newspapers are also constantly the subject of hidden advertising claims. While a sizable portion of these claims turn out to be false, exaggerated or just striking back at the competition, there are some cases that the claims do actually carry weight. So, an important question remains: Are we being influenced by advertisements in our day-to-day news making?
To answer that question, I want to examine an issue I have encountered lately. Since the problem largely persists in journalism that often centers on providing commentary, not much is written on the subject. Nevertheless, I believe this must be a bigger topic of debate. First, let me elaborate on the term commentary. Today's magazines tend to focus on individual hobbies, arts or subjects such as trends, movies, TV shows, video games, technology or others. Since they concern subjects that are generally subjective, they are given more leeway by the readers, especially if the content was in the form of an article or a column. The same goes for the features pages in newspapers. Among those, a new trend seems to be emerging that I find problematic. Instead of giving the necessary and relevant information to the reader and letting them form their own opinions, many news articles are sounding more and more like sales pitches. For example, just search for the words "Here is why" online and you will find countless headlines such as "Here is why you should see this movie," "Why having a Kindle is an absolute must for readers" or "She is the next pop icon, find out why" among many others. While they are seemingly mediocre headlines of blog posts, such headlines are becoming more frequent in respectable media outlets. As a reader, when I encounter a similar headline, I feel like the writer is trying to force-feed me an advertisement. As a journalist, I find them to be counterproductive toward the article's content since they only serve to diminish their credibility.
Of course, I am not saying all of them are completely wrong. For example, if a movie critic says, "‘Avengers: Age of Ultron' is a great movie," that is perfectly acceptable, as long as he or she also provides sound reasoning for that claim. But the journalist's job is to provide all perspectives of the matter, provide accurate information and leave the reader to form his or her own opinion.
This problem might still be limited to the type of publications I mentioned above. However, such sensationalism-based headlines gain a stronger foothold, we may see journalists in newspapers adapting to it. To return to my original point, journalist should leave advertisements as they are – a source of revenue – and stop taking cues from their wording in order to transform their articles into a sales pitch. That course of action will only serve to damage a journalist's credibility as well as the organization for which they publish.
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