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So the media feeds scandal and sensationalism to an unwitting public?

By jardinier ·
How many times have I heard that statement made here -- more times than I have had breakfast quite likely.

It is totally untrue and always has been. And my proof? Simple. Two of Australia's broadsheets -- the Fairfax owned Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, Melbourne -- publish lists of most viewed articles (online edition of course).

Here they are for October 25.

The Sydney Morning Herald:

1. I thought she was a psychopath: Corby
2. Rape squad rounds up DVD gang
3. Critical after L-plater crash
4. $12 million? That's-a four tuna!
5. This iPod user rocks
6. Apple's iPod code 'cracked'
7. TomKat to take the plunge
8. Mills sues over 'upsetting' stories
9. Boys sell film of girl's humiliation
10. Boy, 4, dies after being hit in driveway

The Age, Melbourne:

1. Rape probe over sex attack DVD
2. Outcry over teenage girl's assault recorded on DVD
3. Hundreds watch in horror as man drowns
4. This iPod user rocks
5. Shopping trolley prank breaks woman's neck
6. Apple's iPod code 'cracked'
7. Corby blames Bali nine traffickers for jail ****
8. YouTube buzzes with threats
9. Pot or tot could be the medicine for longer life
10. Mills to sue over leaks

I rest my case. These are the articles most viewed voluntarily by READERS. I can't detect a single news item of significance in either of these lists of PREFERRED viewing.

As you would no doubt know, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, Melbourne, are BROADSHEETS as distinct from TABLOIDS.

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Proper content analysis

by JamesRL In reply to So the media feeds scanda ...

Its been 25 years but I still remember covering this in university.

You can tell a lot about a newspaper by looking at the placement of a story (front page, above the fold, below the fold, following pages), and by the amount of space given to it (column inches).

It would be interesting to see if both papers are giving these stories prime real estate or relgating them to back pages, and if they devote more space to them than say world affairs.


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Online editions

by jardinier In reply to Proper content analysis

I am talking here about online editions because obviously it would be unfeasible to measure readership preferences with print editions.

So there are links to ALL sections of the paper as well as to most articles, on the "front" page of the publication.

So regardless of where the stories are positioned, you can select a link to whichever headline appears of interest to you.

The fact that "most viewed items" are even listed would suggest that SOME readers would go straight to the stories which have proven to be most popular.

Naturally there is a lead story -- with at least a small photo -- in each category and perhaps some/most people would read these first.

But you will notice that there is NO world news in the preferred top 10.

Check the sites and you may have some further comments:

And this is the Murdoch home page in Australia:,,,00.html

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On-Line sources

by maxwell edison In reply to So the media feeds scanda ...

I might suggest that the Internet is an information source -- and an information force -- that actually rivals the more traditional media. The Internet is, along with talk radio, actually cutting into the monopoly the traditional media has had over the decades.

When it comes to comparing the methods of delivery, the depth of its content, or any balance that may or may not exist, I don't believe one can accurately be compared to the other. And this even includes the Internet sources owned and controlled by their more traditional media counterpart.

Moreover, I'm not sure how many people would claim to "get their news" from Internet sources. People like you and me, Julian, certainly get a good deal of our "news" from the Internet, but probably not all of it. I still read the newspapers and watch network news. Recently a local newspaper published their endorsements for the candidates running for the U.S. House of Representatives in our state. There are seven seats up for grabs, and six endorsements were for the Democrat candidates; the lone endorsement for a Republican candidate was one whose district is EXTREMELY safe, and whose primary issue is illegal immigration, a current "hot-button" issue, and one that this very same newspaper criticized this guy for in the past (and the first time they've endorsed him over the past dozen years.) And these are the editors who both write and approve news stories, and they determine story placement as well as write the headlines.

Major TV networks, all liberal leaning, which are ABC, CBS and NBC, have 20 times the viewership than the more conservative FOX News, but it's FOX News that gets labeled as "partisan". The print media, most of which is picked-up from the AP, the New York Times, or the Washington Post is much more favorable to left-leaning issues and candidates than right-leaning.

I'd be interested in seeing a reliable poll (or is that an oxymoron?) about the percentages of people who get their "news" primarily from the Internet versus the more traditional news sources. Only then can we "compare" what the Sydney Morning Herald (or any newspaper, for that matter) might put on it's Web page to what it might put on its front page.

As a side-note, I also might suggest that the "media" we see in the United States is vastly different from what you folks might see in other parts of the world. For example, I can't tell you how many times Oz has made the claim the our media is favorable to the Bush administration, even to the point of being "controlled" by them. He makes that determination by what he sees (and presumably reads) in the Canadian media. I always wonder what planet he's living on when he makes such a ludicrous comment. Nothing could be further from the truth. (Or perhaps he's just yanking my chain!)

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The Media and the People

I don't think it really matters where (or rather, how) people get their news these days - radio, television, internet, newspapers - they will always gravitate to what's the most sensational.

Why? I think it's because people in general are either too bored with their lives (and crave a little excitement) or they're so stressed out they only have time for the sensational highlights.

Whatever the poor old journalist serves up to his/her editor, and even whether editing is then applied, it's the reader/viewer who dictates what our news tells us, not the journalist/writer.

Which means that even stories of low interest, everyday mediocrity or real seriousness need to be somehow 'sensationalised' for anyone to take note.

Who wins? It's a catch-22.


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Celebrity Worship

by onbliss In reply to So the media feeds scanda ...

I read a commentary that reminded me of this post. So here I post a link to it:

The article is about celebrity worship, though its focus is on USA, I think this is an Universal habit of people.

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So the media feeds scandal and sensationalism to an unwitting public?

by maxwell edison In reply to So the media feeds scanda ...
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by onbliss In reply to So the media feeds scanda ...
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Since time immemorial, people have loved to gossip, and love gossip. It's as simple as that. Even Mrs Noah did it!!

Serious stories don't promote 'gossip', so they are discarded. Only 'gossip' counts, especially if it's about other people.

You've only to watch some of our TV sitcoms and soapies to know that 'gossip rules'. And no matter what we do, we're never going to do away with it. It's too entrenched.

So don't blame the poor journo; he/she's only doing what the public wants to hear.


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What do you think about ..... Isn't it shocking?

by jardinier In reply to Gossip

Yes people love gossip. And it is usually the stories that I would consider the least important which women especially (sorry ladies but it is a fact) like to gossip about.

Look what they (the public and the media together) did with Lindy Chamberlain. A lot of females that I knew at the time strongly asserted that Lindy was definitely guilty. The fact that they weren't privy to the court hearing was irrelevant.

Was it the media or the ghoulish public who made this fiasco? I guess one fed off and encouraged the other.

And it was only by a lucky fluke that evidence was eventually found to prove her innocence.

A lass I know who looks after the women's/gossip magazines at a supermarket said she could accurately pick which magazines would sell best simply by the cover -- the celebrity involved and/or the title of the story.

Chapelle Corby is still featured almost daily in the various media. Do I care what happens to her? Not in the least. But to many people -- once again especially/mainly females -- the day-to-day details of Ms Corby used to be and once again are of far greater interest than Iran or North Korea for example.

My late mother -- bless her soul -- would get deeply emotionally involved with any story about an abducted child or story in a similar category. ?Isn?t it terrible? and so forth.

Now here is another point relating to the choice of news read by mature, upper middle class men. When I used to travel on the train -- to the blue ribbon conservative part of Sydney where I live -- I could not help but notice that almost all males read the sports section first.

Perhaps it is some aberration on my part that makes me disinterested in spectator sport, celebrity worship, ghoulishness and so forth.

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Whisper, whisper

I have a theory about why it's the women who go in for most of the gossip, Julian. In the not too distant past, it was the women who always stayed at home to keep house and look after the children.

If we backtrack again just a little more, we can say it was in the days before electronic media had entered our homes.

Therefore, women were, in general, cut off from what was going on in the greater world of politics and international events, only being privy to what was occuring locally and 'over the back fence'.

So, unless their menfolk briefed them every night about what was going on elsewhere, the major news stories - the important ones - generally slipped right past the ladies unrecognised.

As for men and the sports pages, I wouldn't have a clue, unless it was/is a kind of buffer (aka relaxation) against the daily grind of their paying jobs.

Or maybe it's a kind of wishful thinking game on the part of (most) men - 'I wish I were like so-and-so, the (name of sport) hero'.

Apart from that, I wouldn't know. It's just my take anyway.


PS: I had no idea Chapelle Corby was still being talked about in the media. Is she really?

I'm afraid my media interests go no farther than the topics discussed on Insiders, Inside Business and Asia-Pacific Forum, and what's written about them in the daily press - and the puzzle pages, of course!

My interests simply don't stretch as far as issues like Chapelle Corby. There must be something wrong with my gossip mechanism.

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