‘Sleaze’ should not be leads in American newspapers
Posted on January 28th, 2016
By Professor Shelton A. Gunaratne
American newspapers used to set the trends that the rest of the free world’s newsrooms followed to raise the quality of journalism in the world.
Therefore, I was disappointed to see today’s (January 28, 2016) edition of my hometown newspaper, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, splashing the banner headline ND’S ONLY PLAYMATE OF THE MONTH DISCUSSES MAG’S DECISION TO STOP PUBLISHING NUDE PICS under the deck “July 1987 centerfold proud of Playboy, still goes to parties at the mansion,” to get reader attention to a story filed from Beverly Hills, Calif., by reporter Adrian Glass-Moore.
The Forum allocated almost the whole front page of its main section to its putative lead report except for a minor story at the very bottom on the Fargo police investigation into the suspicious death of a young man.
In my 22 years as a journalism educator in Minnesota, never would I have imagined the possibility of giving so much prominence to such “sleazy” trivia in a family-oriented newspaper published in a prairie state noted for its conservative values. I would have .no compunction of giving an F grade to a student who submitted me an assignment with such a pathetic distorted news sense.
I believe that change, insubstantiality and unsatisfactoriness are the three marks our cyclic existence. Thus, change is inevitable in the course of time. However, it is up to us effect change for the better, not the worse, by disciplining the five aggregates, of which we all are composites– material form, feelings, perception, dispositions, and conscientiousness. By not restraining these aggregates, we are engendering the three roots of evil –greed, delusion, and hatred.
The changes in the news sense signified by The Forum’s reversion to “sleazy” news as front-page leads is the result of greed/desire for increasing its sales and profits by downgrading its public responsibility to promote ethics and morals in society. The resulting delusion will inevitably lead to unsatisfactoriness among its readers. The gains it accrues by this myopic change will be insubstantial to prevent the demise of the print newspaper before the middle of this century.
The Forum, as well as other American newspapers, may be able to survive longer by adopting the strategy of mindful journalism as suggested in my book “Mindful Journalism and News Ethics in the Digital Era: A Buddhist Approach” published by Routledge in 2015. The goal of the American newspaper should not be making ceaseless profits but providing a dedicated public service to the community it serves on a non-profit basis.
Quality journalism will not emerge from cutthroat competition based on selling news as a commodity. American journalism should revise its news values to reflect mindfulness and convince the rest of the world to do the same.