Beware of Controversial Churnalism: News as Entertainment

Most newspapers and television stations aren’t really in the News and/or Information business. They’re in the advertising industry, making money by selling toothpaste and automobiles. Still, it drives me slightly nuts when so-called news programs and news channels use emotionally charged language to attract and hang onto viewers. Their hope is to keep you tuned in, so the really important thing you need to know is coming up in a few minutes or a few days. I’ve heard such enticements called “churnalism” because their goal is to stimulate readership and viewership, not to inform.

These words during a news broadcast or as headlines in a newspaper are a clue:

  • Alarming
  • Amazing
  • Angers
  • Blames
  • Bombshell
  • Chilling incident
  • Conspiracy
  • Controversial
  • Crackdown
  • Devastating
  • Disturbing
  • Emergency
  • Feared
  • Lashed out
  • Leaked documents
  • Monstrous
  • Power play
  • Scary
  • Shamed
  • Shocking
  • Sparking outrage
  • Stuns
  • Urgent
  • Victims

A key component of democracy is an educated electorate. We need information. I have no objection to legitimate descriptive words:

  • Deadly
  • Hoax
  • Indicted
  • Missile
  • Missing
  • Nuclear power
  • Rape
  • Sniper
  • Suicide bomber
  • Survivor
  • Suspect
  • Turmoil

There’s enough news that’s important and interesting to inform us without adding the lurid enticements of charged language. I’d prefer to keep our news sources and our entertainment sources separate. (I hope you’ll find some humor in and be entertained by this blog title, even though I have no toothpaste to sell: Beware of Controversial Churnalism.)

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Beware of Controversial Churnalism: News as Entertainment

  1. Karen Martin

    Although not a big fan of television I do like to tune into the news occasionally. I agree with your view of so called churnalism. I tend to tune out these entertaining journalists by turning off the television or leaving the room. There are better sources available to get answers to what’s going on in the world.

  2. Jim Catoe

    “If it bleeds, it leads.”

  3. Rhetoric, in and of itself, is neither positive or negative. It’s how you spin it that changes that. This is what I teach my trainees about communication.

    There was a day when the news were based on just the facts. Unfortunately, competition for viewers has changed that approach. The sad thing is most people don’t recognize they are being played.

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