No More <i>Sensationalism!</i>

Jennifer Lopez JLO Gigi Gigli
The latest ratings are in, and they're down for news programs. Analysts believe it's because the public has grown tired of so much serious news. Personally, I hope it's for the opposite reason — that we're tired of so much non-serious news.

I don't know about you, but I'm sick of sensationalism in the media. So many stories involve violence, celebrities, sex, or "shocking surprises." It's not bad enough that they emphasize these stories, but they often mislead us as well. Last week, I heard a "tease" on the news that said, "Al Gore makes an important announcement about running for President in 2004." Of course, when they returned from the commercial, I learned that the "announcement" was that he had not changed his mind and still had no plans to run in 2004. In print, they use big and bold print to catch our eye. Presumably, some people don't read the entire article or column, but just skim to the bold print. And often, these are just teases, too. It's got to stop.

In California right now, a porn star and Arnold Schwarzenegger are together on the gubernatorial ballot. However, that doesn't mean that this woman deserves the same amount of attention that he does.

The Clintons are always in the news, whether they have done anything newsworthy or not. And when it comes to actors and actresses, the lurid trumps everything else. When Hillary Swank won an Oscar for her role in "Boys Don't Cry," some people weren't interested in her wonderful performance — they just wanted to see Hillary naked.

So much of the news we see, hear, and read is negative. President Bush is in great physical shape. He prides himself on running, and he's pretty fast. In fact, if he and the First Lady ever had a race, it certainly wouldn't surprise me if George W. Bush beat his wife. But we don't see many stories about the President's being in wonderful health. Instead, America is flooded by negative stories rather than positive ones.

Of course, many famous people love publicity, so it's understandable that sometimes the sensational aspects of their lives are emphasized. Because of his commercials, people don't think of Bob Dole as a war hero or public servant. Today, when people think of Bob Dole, they think of Viagra and Britney Spears.

From the play they get in the news, you'd think that shark attacks are more common than stubbing your toe. The reality is that shark attacks are quite rare, but unfortunately, this is the kind of sensationalized reporting that gets people to pay attention.

Right now, some news outlets are "all Kobe, all the time" even though all they've had so far is a preliminary hearing. What do people think — that Kobe will confess before the trial begins? And why are people being so critical of the woman? Nobody has demonstrated that the alleged victim wants publicity or her own talk show. Shouldn't we leave them both alone, and just let justice take its course?

We are assailed by far too many "facts" about celebrities. I honestly wouldn't care at all if Demi Moore's boyfriend is actually 40 years younger than she is! And why is every financial and business detail about these people news? Who is really interested in learning that Jennifer Lopez doesn't change her underwear as often as she changes her agents?

There's only one way to trash trash news. If we all just turn off and turn away from it, I guarantee that all media outlets will immediately stop giving us manipulative, sensationalized "news."

Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.

By Lloyd Garver