Media sensationalism, it seems, is the overriding requirement for all reporting in today’s world. The U.S. Presidential debate between President Biden and Donald Trump is just the latest example of sensationalism triumphing over content and good reporting.

      In that debate, President Biden stumbled over his words and, in the process, created an image of someone not fully in charge of his faculties. That, unfortunately, was clear and obvious. He picked up his game later in the debate, but the starting image stuck.

      Donald Trump refused to answer questions about whether he would honor the results of the upcoming elections, lied continually about everything from the January 6th insurrection, to the economy, and on virtually every other topic in the two-hour debate. I haven’t seen a complete analysis, but I would take a reasonable bet that he did not speak the truth once during that time. And, he did it with a smile, a shrug, a sneer that showed his complete contempt for the audience and a complete disregard for the fact that he was deliberately lying to the American people. I’m reminded of the old joke that asks, “when do you know when a politician is lying?” Answer, “when he/she opens their mouth.” Unfortunately, in Trump’s case it is not a joke.

      Why, then, did all the headlines after the debate focus on President Biden’s stumbles and only referred, in relatively small print, to Donald Trump’s complete disregard for the truth?

      The answer to that question focuses on the media’s primary goal – the most sensational next headline.

      We have all become somewhat immune to Donald Trump’s continuous stream of lies, fabrications, and total disregard for the truth in his posts on social media, in his campaign rallies and even in the country’s courtrooms. We are like the punch-drunk boxer who keeps coming back for more. The punches (lies) don’t register anymore because we are so used to them, and the same goes for the media. They don’t register Trump’s lies and rants because they are not sensational anymore – they are routine.

      The result of this obsessive quest for sensationalism, in terms of the debate, is that the headlines focused almost entirely on President Biden’s stumbles, with only passing references to Trump’s despicable, lying, performance.

      I therefore have to ask the question of which is more important, and which should a responsible media emphasise: A President who stumbles on answers to questions on a TV show, but whose policies and programs appear to be working well, or on a charlatan whose only concern is for himself, and who would cheerfully sell the country to the highest bidder given the chance. The answer is clear to most of us, but it seems opaque to the overwhelming, sensation-driven, mentality of the media.

      The media always claim that they are the conscience of the people and their “Freedom of the Press” is sacrosanct. It should be. But, such grave responsibility comes with the requirement of integrity and balance.

      The reporting on the Biden/Trump debate shows vividly that those two requirements, integrity and balance, have been subjugated to the self-centered requirement of sensationalism – “How do we sell more fucking newspapers”.

      This irresponsible approach to journalism not only creates more suffering and diversity in the country, it may well be driving American democracy into a deeper, and deeper, abyss. 

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