I recently subscribed, and more recently unsubscribed, from the local news feed from the Boston Globe. It was awful! Almost every article was targeted straight at the readers reptilian brain. Just one scary story after another. If you read that crap day after day you won’t trust anybody. They even had a story that would lead you think your girl friend might just kill you and cut your unborn baby from your belly. Just awful!
There really needs to be a term of art for this kind of – ah – entertainment. The dynamic where news outlets fall progressively into picking out only those stories that get a rise out of their readers worst fears is despicable. Terror porn news?
Consider for example this article from the 2005 from the Times of London “Britain faces big chill as ocean current slows.” I think they wrote that to fufill their objective; the one filed under: shock the bourgeoisie. But, given that I know the media’s first instinct is to try to route around my rational brain and try to kick my poor reptilian brain in the balls. How am I to discount that information?
And, talk about modeling a bad behavior! How much stuff I read seems to fall into this pattern. I used to explain to my children that the educational value of watching Mr. Bean was that you should absolutely never ever do anything he does. Since then I’ve come to think that actually applies to all television, possibly to all entertainment; and today I’m thinking all media. Oh no, where does it end!
If it bleeds, it leads. We can tell the kids that if it’s not peer-reviewed, it’s either cheer-reviewed, jeer-reviewed, or beer-reviewed.
I think ‘yellow journalism’ is still an apt term for that sort of thing.