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Media Studies Case Study


Key Learning Outcomes

By the end of the case, students should be able to:
  • Discuss how and where should the line be drawn between good responsible journalism and the largely exploitive culture of the tabloid press.
  • Apply examples to demonstrate the difference between good responsibe journalism and bad tabloid journalism.

 

1.0 What is tabloid journalism anyway?


Journalism that presents news usually through sensationalism, emotionalism and over simplification of complex issues catering to the lowest common denominator many times even lying (Örnebring & Jonsson 2004 p287).

News of the world scandal

This is the scandal where journalists from News of the World, the tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch's and News International, hacked into the phones and voice-mails of celebrities and other newsworthy people to get access to their private information resulting in the closure of the NOW newspaper (Marsh 2011 p53)
Did the journalists at NOW cross the line of what constitutes good responsible journalism?
Is hacking the phones of two dead girl’s relatives defensible? Is invading the privacy of a premiership footballer cheating on his wife with a model good journalism? Why is this indefensible? The answer is simple; the rationale for doing it crosses the line more than the manner in which it’s done. If the intrusion was done in the name of exposing crime, misconduct, corruption or abuse of power by people public organs of power accountable to the public such as politicians, the rationale would be defensible (Marsh 2011 p53; British Journalism Review 2010 p3). 

The British Journalism Review (2010 p3) asserts that the line between good responsible journalism and bad journalism can be crossed if the rationale behind it is invalid. Invasion of privacy in itself isn’t a bad thing; the same way shooting one terrorist armed with a bomb isn’t a bad thing if you are going to save thousands of lives. Bad behavior in journalism isn’t new or even necessarily bad if acts of deception lead to results that turn out to be valuable to public knowledge rather than high circulation. The public-interest defense is one of the key points that separate good journalism from exploitative tabloid journalism. The phone hacking scandal passed the line of decency when who they sought to investigate and reveal did not pass the public-defense criteria. Holding a government agency accountable passes that criteria but investigating who a talented footballer is sleeping with doesn’t pass. 

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