This year was pretty huge for dishonest journalism, intellectual fallacies, and poor coverage of current events. The fact is sensationalism sells, and sensationalism ruins any credibility the piece could potentially have. It is worth looking at the worst instances of poor journalism so that maybe it can improve next year. Here is my list of the worst instances of news coverage of 2014 in no particular order:
1. All of the #Gamergate
Not only is comparing transparency in video game journalism to Nixon’s scandal used to hide war crimes extreme hyperbole, but it is downright offensive. The desire for media transparency in all things is a noble goal, but the issue is that the basis for Gamer Gate for many people were baseless accusation made by an angry ex-boyfriend. Zoe Quinn’s jealous ex accused her of sleeping with a reviewer for a positive review of her game. These claims were never backed by any evidence and have been the basis for an entire movement. This is a case of “fruit of the poisoned tree” even if Gamer Gate extends past misogynistic harassment and jealous ex boyfriends, it is based on false allegations and the accused has been wrongly made the poster child for corruption in game journalism. It also shows an extremely naive mindset; our world and political news is not transparent, so why would our entertainment news be transparent? This is a prime example of focusing on symptoms instead of underlying issues with our media in general.
2. The coverage of police brutality in recent months.
I am not going to take sides on this one, use emotionally charged language or suggest a solution. But the cases of police brutality were extremely poorly covered by people on all sides of the argument. All news reports seem meant to stir up conflict between the two sides of the argument, which is not the job of an honest journalist. What we have right now is outrage and antagonism when what is needed is reflection and analysis on the tragic events that have been occurring. This happens in the wake of every tragedy man made or natural. People naturally point fingers and faction off in an “us vs them” mentality. Again, this is no business of an honest journalist. Sensationalism has been at an all time high in recent years, and this is merely a symptom of that.
3. The response to David S. Goyer’s comments on She-Hulk
David S. Goyer has drawn much animosity from comic fans, especially Marvel fans. He in not so many words called She-Hulk, a beloved and acclaimed character, a porn star. He insinuated that she only exists as a way for Hulk to have sex. What is worse is the fact that he was fishing for a fight and everyone gave him exactly what he wanted. Goyer clearly knew nothing about the character and was just taking a cheap shot at the competition. She-Hulk being Hulk’s cousin proves that Goyer didn’t know what he was talking about. The issue is, he was seeking attention and everyone gave him exactly what he wanted. You had DC fans jumping on the bandwagon to agree and Marvel fans getting up in arms. The best way to handle this situation would be the same way to handle a schoolyard bully, ignore him. Goyer isn’t necessarily a sexist, he just said something that was incredibly sexist in order to get attention. In engaging him and validating this behavior, journalists and fans alike lowered themselves and lowered the bar.
4. Anything involving the President
There is no way to narrow this down to one instance. Barrack Obama is likely the most polarizing figure in American society today. It seems that there was seldom a happy medium between “worst President ever” and “best President ever.” The main issue here is that both sides define him by what he isn’t, instead of adequately trying to present and accurate picture of what he is. It is no shock that partisan politics are extremely contrarian in nature; it is less about being the one to win and more about making sure the other side loses and not about being accurate in the slightest. This is another instance where taking sides would be irrelevant. The issue is how both sides are handling things, which is poorly.
5. The casting “scandals” of upcoming movies.
There has been a surge of people protesting the casting of films. This seemed to start with the casting of a black man as The Human Torch, but the most recent case is Idris Elba being cast as James Bond. Rush Limbaugh and many American journalists and fans have gone on rants about why a black man can’t be James Bond. Never mind the fact that Elba is actually British which besides womanizing and a high body count is really Bond’s only defining quality. That isn’t to say that this should be framed as a race issue because Gal Gadot received plenty of body shaming and uncalled for remarks in regards to her casting as Wonder Woman. Sensationalism seems to be the name of the game this year as journalists seem to be instigating rather than reporting facts. Value judgments are flying around left and right which should absolutely be outside a journalist’s priorities.
Journalists that tell people how to think instead of what to think should be the goal of this year. Hopefully genuine discussion can come to replace contrary arguments and emotionally loaded writing. Here’s to a better year for critical thought and transparency.