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Blog Ancient Writing Ethics, schmethics, don't blame the media for sleaze

Ethics, schmethics, don't blame the media for sleaze

Editorial column written for The Voice (April 1995)
Created: April 10, 1995

By Alan T. Miller | The Voice | Volume 30, Issue 14

The media has come under strong criticism lately for its relentless pursuit of reporting sleaze to the masses, with complaints ranging from what the media chooses to cover to how the media goes about covering it.

Constant bombardment of frivolous news along with countless reports of who's doing who, who's getting it, and who's not, has media pundits in arms. The media's naughty behavior has become the focus of mainstream news, tabloid TV, and daytime talk shows.

It seems everyone is voicing their concern that the American media establishment is out of control, lacks scruples and is on a one way ticket to hell.

What appears to have escaped the collective consciousness of those who are disgusted is that it's not wholly the choice of the media for what's reported, if they want to stay in business that is.

It is the consumers of that media, more specifically the same individuals who boost the television ratings and sales, which fuel the media.

In a nutshell, the media is trying to burn the candle at both ends. While the media is fueled by profit, they must do what's necessary to sell their product. Whether they want to or not, if sleaze is what their audience demands, sleaze is what they must supply.

In other words, they must cater to those demands which force the media to report not what they might feel is appropriate, but simply what will sell. And smut sells, Sex, scandals and other frivolous news coverage seems to be what people want these days.

Eliminating the sleaze must fall on the backs of those who define the demand. A change in demand will require a change in our nature, a change in our obsession with sex, sleaze and sensationalism. Unfortunately, that's easier said than done, if not simply impossible.

As a society, we are obsessed with sex, yet, at the same time, we are defiant to admit it. We live in a sexually repressed society, a society that treats the issue of sex as taboo. So if we can slip it in on prime time TV, that's all the better.

I feel , Americans have tuned into shows like Hard Copy and A Current Affair for some kind of a collective a sexual release, providing a socially acceptable outlet for what is normally prohibited and then of course, have made a big stink about it to cover their guilt.

The way I see it, until the media can untie itself from ratings and print sales as a driving editorial force, its content will remain in the gutter for many years to come.

If those who criticize the media are really concerned about changing how the media operates. They must support those outlets that prescribe to those standards they respect. They must stop sending the media mixed signals and do something to curve their insatiable appetite.

Consumers of media want ethical standards in journalism, but at the same time appear unwilling to change their consumption habits. As long as consumers of media continue to ramp up their appetite for sleaze, and reporters and editors want to ultimately keep their job, I am sure there will be much more to come.

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