Consolidation of Media Ownership
Media and Sensationalism
Media companies and conglomerates have an economic interest in drawing large masses of the public. Some media companies and conglomerates also support a particular political agenda. One tactic media platforms use to draw large audiences and to push particular viewpoints is sensationalism, a type of editorial bias used to create interest and excitement. Sensationalism exaggerates events and topics in news stories in order to manipulate the audience into engagement. Media companies have found that sensationalist programming attracts more advertisers, the main source of revenue for media companies.
An example of sensationalism is the way mass media reported on the Y2K (the year 2000) issue at the end of the 20th century. As the year 2000 approached, it was widely reported that the shift from 1999 to 2000 would cause far-ranging technology problems because computers mostly used two-digit numbers to represent years. The concern was that computers used to process financial transactions and manage services such as electricity and water would malfunction, unable to accurately process any information involving a date. Mass media outlets, including newspapers and television news, ran many stories about the potential disasters that could occur in societies that had come to rely on computerized systems. As a result, many people made increased purchases to stock their homes as if they were preparing for a natural disaster. This was beneficial to advertisers, whose main interest is selling products. The media hype around preparing for possible disasters did not align realistically with the technological preparations that programmers carried out well ahead of time to avert potential problems.
Another example of sensationalism is the way media will report crime. Because sensational stories attract interest, media tend to focus on them. Television and newspapers often use sound effects, graphics, and language to dramatize reports about crimes. This creates an emotional response in the audience, who is both interested in dramatic stories and worried about potential danger. However, the heavy focus on crime and the hyperdramatic reporting style can serve to create a public belief that crime levels and potential dangers are much greater than they actually are. Critics of sensationalism argue that media outlets have a responsibility to provide neutral, accurate information rather than to produce or capitalize on exciting stories.