Ignoring the Truth to Please the Masses

For one week a brutal heat wave hit Chicago in 1995, and killed over five hundred Chicagoans directly from the heat, and caused thousands of hospital visits for heat strokes (Klienenberg 1999).  It was a disaster of nature, according to journalists.  While it is true that the excess heat was uncontrollable, the number of deaths that resulted was not solely the work of the sun. This disaster revealed numerous problems in the social and political condition of Chicago.  Nonetheless, the majority of news reporters failed to attribute the heat wave deaths to the underlying social issues, instead choosing to naturalize the disaster and deter the true cause of the high number of deaths. Klienenberg theorizes that this is because the majority of journalists are writing for the mass American audience who they believe are more interested in the power of the weather than in political affairs.  Most of the news journalists are a-political and are not interested in activating change, but rather telling a story that readers will be interested in.

Likewise, according to Bristol and Donnelly, global health journalism struggles to report the social and political issues of the world because of a lack of interest in readers.  While the mass population may watch a report on the tragedies of global issues, they often turn the TV off once the reporters attempt to explain the underlying causes.  There is a lack of interest in the intricate political issues and thus journalists tend to naturalize disasters.  They often discuss world health issues on a purely surface level in order to please readers.  For example, a news reporter may discuss the statistics and tragedy of diarrheal disease, but never address the underlying governmental and social causes for the prevalence of the disease in a specific region. Perhaps if journalists told the whole truth, the public would be more aware and therefore more powerful against the social injustices that enslave the globe.



2 thoughts on “Ignoring the Truth to Please the Masses

  1. Very interesting that you comment on the journalistic perspective in providing information to the masses. And its true, because an event might not be “sexy,” for media, they fail to shed light on a situation or problem. Also the lack of interest, could be explained from just #firstworldproblems. I feel like one of the main reasons for this lack of interest is because there does exist the notion of superiority based on the economic well being of a country. The problems of the rest of the world will not affect this specific population thus, its of no importance. Such a sad thing to realize.

  2. It is such a misfortune that more of the public does pay attention to the causes of the tragedies they can’t get enough of. They want to hear the details of a woman who was murdered, but not the structural flaws in our society that led to her death. People are interested in the headlines and the grisly photos, and not the substantive analysis on why it happened or what can prevent it further.

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