Media responsibility: consensus opinion

Photo courtesy of Blake Israel

What should news companies put on the front page?

In light of the recent Titan submersible implosion and its widespread coverage, we at the Technique Editorial Board wish to discuss an issue that arose in tandem and sparked discussion worldwide: media responsibility. The circumstances surrounding the Titan submersible indubitably made for flashy headlines and the morbid countdown denoting its passengers’ last moments of oxygen held viewers’ attention worldwide.

However, at the same time, a migrant ship carrying approximately 700 passengers, many of whom hailed from Syria, Pakistan and Egypt sank off of the coast of Greece. Many were quick to juxtapose the two incidents; one incident was splayed across all news headlines while the other was decidedly not. We wish to discuss possible causes and effects of this phenomenon and the responsibility of news media companies to cover all news equally and without bias.

News outlets are far from perfect. Companies are constantly inundated with news, with the most notable issue changing on a weekly basis. It is difficult to be intersectional when audiences quickly lose interest in certain topics, especially with the rise of social media in the dissemination of news.

While it is good to use social media to expand the reach of information, social media has contributed greatly to the sensationalization of news. Certain stories, such as the Trump indictment, continue to unfold and the stories surrounding the issue can be told for a longer duration of time while staying interesting. News media has turned to focus on what stories get views and, consequently, profit.

The demographic of most American or European news companies is more affluent. This allows for the inherent privilege about choosing what to learn about and what is entertaining, compared to learning for the matter of survival. Being able to read news as a form of entertainment is a privilege.

When interviewed, people in Palestine knew about the migrant ship issue, but not the Titan submersible. While many Americans had the privilege to choose what story interested them more, this was not the case for those who may

have been closer to the incident. This is especially impactful when considering that many of the migrants were from regions of South Asia, such as Pakistan. Contrarily, two of the people on the Titan were from Pakistan as well, but were from one of the richest families in the country.

It is difficult to delineate a singular reason why the Titan submersive disaster was so widely covered on the news, while the parallel migrant ship tragedy was placed on the back burner. This may be due to the way the story unfolded, everyone counting down with the time constraint. It may be due to the fact that five very affluent people paying 250,000 dollars per head is simply a more intriguing headline. Viewers want to know about what it is like to have a quarter million dollars of spendable cash.

More possibly, it may just be that it is easier to empathize with five people as opposed to 700. Struggles surrounding migrants and refugees is not a new issue; as macabre as it may be, this incident may quickly become another statistic, rather than a tragedy.

The Greek government did not save many of the migrants, even though reports say they could have done more. Meanwhile, fervent searching for the Titan continued even after their oxygen ran out. This begs the question of whether low and middle income lives are simply less valued than their high income counterparts.

News media companies hold a responsibility to balance important news with attention grabbing headlines. In the future, news companies should work to present a broader expanse of news stories and wider perspectives as well. It is imperative that they attempt to minimize sensationalization and try to present all facts and stories without bias.

There is no doubt that it is difficult to expect news companies to balance views and fair dissemination of news. However, they must reconsider what is seen as “front page” news, while also ensuring that a story is not only becoming worthy due to the way it is framed for viewers, but due to its value in informing the public. News companies need to remember the role they hold in contemporary society: to empower the people.

The Consensus Opinion reflects the majority opinion of the Editorial Board of the Technique, but not necessarily the opinions of individual editors.