There are few cool heads in today’s media, and with good reason, its been proven time and again that sensationalist headlines, and content that paints a worst-case scenario sells better than the truth.

In short, the news has become a tabloid.

For many, including CNN, the change occurred on September 11, 2001. News services were providing 24-hour coverage on the attacks and aftermath and the new age of viewer measurement was laid bare. Everyone had the same story, the same coverage and for the most part, the same angle. The only way to keep the audience engaged was to say the same thing, but slightly differently. Channels quickly learned that certain words, headlines and statements kept people watching for longer. The age of the breaking news story was over, as people learned they could get the same information on any channel or website, the only question was who would they tune into?

Now, we live in the age of news and entertainment being combined as one. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the nightly news use to be a series of stale facts, with a light-hearted story about a duck or some  restored train carriage at the end. But as we’ve seen recently, this phenomenon is moving to a new and dangerous phase – news agencies  touting rumours, half truths and in some cases outright lies, as facts in order to be the first to break a story, in the most dramatic way.

On November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was assassinated and news anchor Walter Cronkite refused to announce the President’s death until it was confirmed by the White House. If JFK were killed today, it’s likely news agencies would release breaking announcements of presumed death, attributing it to some, “unknown source,” who could easily be disavowed in the event he were found to be alive.

The issue is, we are becoming confused between opinion, rumour and fact. The following  headlines do not sell news –

– Road Toll At Record Low

– Brexit Won’t Impact Farmers Short Term

– Trump Softens Policies

– Terrorists Surrender, Repent

However, they’d all be interesting.

It’s the media’s responsibility to communicate the news. They also have a responsibility to their many shareholders and stakeholders who rely on viewership and engagement numbers for their ongoing profitability through growth in ad revenue. It’s our responsibility as a viewing public, to cast a cynical eye over sensationalist news, and judge for ourselves whether it merits panic, or even consideration.