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  • Writer's pictureReece Bithrey

The Problem With The Tabloids Sensationalising News In Such Troubling Times

(Picture Credit - The Sun/The Daily Star/My Own)

Take a look at this morning's papers. Chances are you'll be drawn to the tabloids more than the broadsheets. It's probably because they're more eye-catching and offer more sensationalist and provocative headlines, but the problem is they spread half-truths all the time.

In today's copy of The Sun, the headline reads "HOUSE ARREST", as if to suggest that everyone following Boris Johnson's lockdown is now under house arrest and not allowed to leave their houses under any circumstances. This obviously isn't the case, as The Sun have even addressed themselves below as they tell people to "Only shop for basics." These mixed editorial messages don't help to put anybody's mind at rest, and with such a blunt description, it never helps matters, not least when they're stating that everyone's under house arrest.

Just to be clear, you can still go outside "for food, health reasons or work (where this absolutely cannot be done from home)" as per the Government website. With the tabloid papers' coverage, it just seems like people are being told to stay at home and never leave, as a result of which people will go mad and buy into the overstated news even more. There's been nothing to suggest that we're on complete and utter lockdown and people can't even leave their house for food. With The Sun specifically, the £1000 fines piece is highlighting the extremes once again. A small piece of research - well, one Google search - reveals the fact that the Police have now been given powers to fine those on-the-spot £30 who don't have a good reason for meeting, up to an unlimited amount for persistent non-compliance.

The Daily Star chose to utilise one of this country's most iconic and recognisable posters. Lord Kitchener's infamous recruitment drive for the First World War has been completely changed to now read "YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOU TO NAFF OFF HOME.". Sure, the sentiment is clear that they're asking people to stay home, but the way it's been delivered utterly detracts from the point of the message. Granted, it's a clever use of the poster, but some might see it as potential graffiti, especially given the underlying comparisons made. The Daily Star are essentially comparing the outbreak of coronavirus to a war-zone, which is similar to other language used by both Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, although the language choices of "naff off home" just drives home an attempt at humour within this headline, which just doesn't work. In fact, it entirely draws away from the true sentiments of the message.

The fundamental problem with all this is the scaremongering offered by the tabloids in an attempt to grab readers' attentions and exploit their anxieties surrounding the outbreak. A certain section of the population are paranoid, as is evident with the panic-buying of toilet rolls over the last few weeks - a problem that Johnson's lockdown should help to solve. This paranoia is only helped along by the tabloid's efforts to desperately create an innovative front-page to draw readers in. Where these papers fall down is on this exploitation. It's just not right and something that has to be stopped.

As much as media law and ethics are there to be adhered to and is now a fundamental part of any journalism degree, that all seems to change when someone gets hired for one of these shady tabloids. Whoever has come up with that headline and associated cover design must be feeling very happy with themselves as it's being discussed nationwide nowadays. There's no doubt that it's a good idea in a meeting, but on the shelves of newsagents and supermarkets, just looks distasteful. Light relief is needed in these uncertain and frightening times, but that shouldn't be done by making people's anxiety worse with such prying headlines.

On the other side of the coin however, are the positive stories from the virus outbreak, which whilst are somewhat few and far between, should perhaps be focused on more so than this incessant stream of negativity that the tabloids are playing up to. Like them or hate them, The Telegraph have been publishing daily round-ups of good news in these dark times at 12:30pm on every weekday. It's at times like these when positivity and community spirit are required to relieve people's sanity and Keep Calm And Carry On, as opposed to being told in no uncertain terms to "naff off home" on a defaced Lord Kitchener poster or not shamelessly plug 12 week home delivery and how you cost"less than the Daily Mirror.".

The way to deliver news properly is to take notice of the broadsheets, which, whilst they are politically biased like any newspaper, instead choose to report the facts. This morning, the Guardian ran a headline featuring a quote from the Prime Minister: "PM: " Stay at home, this is a national emergency", whilst the Financial Times was a tad less concise: "Johnson forced to close Britain in bid to halt rapid virus spread". Such descriptive headlines offer exactly what the news is and reassure the public, instead of offering harrowing, and often misconstrued, evidence to back up a comedy headline.

It's clear from today that these tabloids need to clean up their acts, but it's not something they're going to be doing this side of Christmas. What needs to happen now is a complete review of media freedoms in this country and the status of such outlets within wider society. They've all got no right to print such thin truths and should instead report the facts, like any proper outlet should.

Stay safe.


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