, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Joseph Pulitzer, chromolithograph superimposed...

Image via Wikipedia

I recall studying journalism in college when discussions came up about the notion of “yellow journalism” and how a man named Joseph Pulitzer was synonymous with the term.

For those who might not be familiar with the term, it generally means the kind of journalism that is sensational, sometimes tacky, and aimed more at attracting readers and viewers than the kind of responsible journalism one might expect from a respectable newspaper or news organization.

Think of yellow journalism as the kind of reporting we see today from most main-stream outlets: irresponsible reporting that exaggerates and downright lies, while not focusing on the real issues affecting America today. Even Wikipedia, which has regularly been called into question for its objectivity, rightly reports that yellow journalism is “a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers. Techniques may include exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering, or sensationalism. By extension “Yellow Journalism” is used today as a pejorative to decry any journalism that treats news in an unprofessional or unethical fashion.”

So it seems rather ironic that Joseph Pulitzer, a man synonymous with sensational journalism, would have his name attached to a journalism award that allegedly honors those who’s work is worthy of the highest honors in news reporting.

Aside from the LA Times’ reporting of the fiasco in the City of Bell, where council members and the city manager were robbing the city blind by taking outrageous salaries and pension plans, I doubt that the rest of the Pulitzer prize-winning works will be widely recognized by the general public as true journalism that exposed political corruption and affected a positive outcome.

While I found the Wall Street Journal editorials named by the Pulitzer Committee interesting and somewhat entertaining, their heady reading is certainly not something most people are going to read, much less react to as they contemplate who to vote for in the next election.

While years of blame has been cast on the Internet and “New Media” for the downfall of journalism in America, the fact remains that journalism for the most part died a long time ago when editors and publishers stopped serving their communities and neglected their audience in exchange for cost-cutting measures and higher profit margins. While newspaper companies did enjoy double-digit profit margins for a period of time as recent as 10 years ago, newspapers over the past several years have completely lost their shorts because those earlier cost-cutting measures lead to newspapers nobody wanted to read. Once the customer (the reader) lost interest in the product, profits succumbed to a business acumen that was more interested in chasing dollar bills than the tried-and-true method of serving one’s customers and treating them with respect.