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Sensationalism

Paul Hendriks Vettehen


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Sensationalism may be defined as a theoretical concept that encompasses those features of journalistic products that are capable of attracting the attention of the audience. Since the early days of newspapers, complaints about sensationalism have recurrently emerged in public discussions about the quality of journalistic products. In a nutshell, these complaints pictured sensationalist news as a journalistic device being designed merely to attract the attention of large audiences at the expense of informing them properly about socially significant events. In its defense, it has been argued that sensationalist news is an appropriate response to the evolutionarily developed human habit of attending to information that increases the chances of survival and reproduction (→  Evolutionary Theory ). Traditionally, sensationalism in the news has been conceived of mainly in terms of story content. Stories about topics such as crime, violence, natural disasters, accidents, and fires were considered as sensational. However, this definition of sensationalism provided no theoretical basis to explain why sensationalism would attract the attention. It also provided no theoretical basis for the negative effects sensationalism is often accused of. Against this background, the concept of sensationalism gradually evolved in the late 1990s. Notably, Grabe et al. (2001) and Hendriks Vettehen et al. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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