The Media Sensationalizing Stories for Profit

by notoriousirm on March 31, 2015 - 9:31pm

The American media is dominated by many different news outlets that shape the perceptions and opinions of a broad section of the population. One of the most popular in this market is CNN, which is a 24-hour news channel that is considered to be one of the most popular in North America. Many people automatically turn to CNN whenever they want to watch to the news because they have known it for years. When it started broadcasting, it was the very first television station to focus only on news broadcasting, which revolutionized the news delivery.

For over a year now, CNN has been covering the story of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 accident extremely closely and on a continuous basis. This constant focus has lead to the point where their coverage has caused public backlash, since CNN is becoming repetitious with their reporting, the information that they are reporting is not truly relevant.

When Flight MH370 disappeared somewhere in the Indian Ocean on March 8, 2014, it was understandably a significant story since it is horrific to learn of a plane carrying 239 people to just disappear into nowhere, with no one having any idea of where it could be (O’Brien). The importance of this event cannot go unrecognized by any means, however CNN seems to be exaggerating inconsequential details and presenting them as news. They have been putting numerous articles about the accident even though there have not been many important developments in the story. The only significant development there has been was when the rescue crew that was tirelessly searching for the plane came up empty handed after such an extensive search. Instead of focusing only on significant events like this, CNN has also have been writing articles that are more like fillers than they are like an important for people to know.

This past month, CNN posted an article entitled: “21st century technology might have solved the mystery”(please see link below). This is just one example of many articles that CNN has written about the incident. The article points out the obvious, since it is quite clear that if there was better technology, the plane would not still be missing. They also created a segment with airline “experts” who gave their input on the situation, speculating about why the plane may have gone missing. This is interesting to a certain extent, however it is questionable how much value these people are adding to the public’s understanding of the situation. They do not need a whole panel of people to be able to speculate what may have happened to the plane. The investigators who are learning the actual facts, although the collection of facts is slow, have a more interesting input than people speculating who do not have a first person understanding of the situation.  

The moral dilemma in this case is that CNN appears to be choosing to get everyone’s attention by overusing a shocking story to boost ratings, rather than providing more variety in the news, which in some cases could be more important events for people to know about. The reason they do this is to grab people’s attention so they will keep watching their network. This can give them more viewer interest, allowing CNN to receive higher ratings and thus higher advertising revenues. There are many problems with this approach, since viewers rely on them for news and put their trust in what they are being told.

This approach can also be considered as a case of media bias, which is ethically troubling since they are extensively covering this story in great detail just to keep people watching. They are sensationalizing the story by jumping on every little detail of the incident, and they also make a lot of speculation of what may have happened to the flight. The news is supposed to present a summary of what is going on in the world in a concise fashion instead stretching out stories, and at a certain point, speculation cannot be considered news.

CNN is but one example of news outlets that are willing to sensationalize to generate profits. A notable example is TMZ, who are not regarded as highly as CNN. The main difference between TMZ and on one hand and CNN on the other, however, is the fact that it is easy to see that TMZ is not taken as seriously by viewers and it is mainly looked at for entertainment purposes as opposed to important events. It is important for any business, including CNN, to earn profits to stay in business, but it should never be done at the expense of their credibility and reputation. It is best for a serious news network like CNN to take a Teleogical approach to reporting, because focusing too much on profits erodes the moral and important outcome of providing serious news and analysis to a trusting population. The summum bonum that all of these networks should follow needs to be this in order to a have well informed society.

Link to Article:

Works Cited:

O’Brien, Miles.“21st century technology might have solved the mystery”. CNN. (March 7, 2015) Retrieved from: . Web. (March 30, 2015)


I think that you are right on point with this. CNN which is supposed to be a serious news outlet is all too often abusing of its viewership by pretending like ''expired'' news stories are still top stories that need to be analyzed neatly. Instead of focusing on more current events, they always like to go back on things like plane crash stories, and more recently the Germanwings incident. They really should be putting their attention on stories and events that matter and that are in desperate need of attention by the general public like stories coming out of Syria. Here's a link to my final project explanation post which could provide more information on how current events like the Syrian Civil War are covered and the issues associated with it: