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If It Bleeds, It Leads

Jan. 25, 2017
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In today’s society, our minds are constantly flushed with a heavy stream of media intake. Thanks to Facebook reposts, numerous news media outlets at our fingertips, and Donald Trump's constant Twitter updates letting us know his every move, we are immersed in a slew of what the media wants to show us, whether we realize it or not.   

The phrase “If it bleeds, it leads” is derived from the statistical concept that horrific news stories have a higher reader's rate. The public is more interested in violence than it is in cute stories about people being good to one another.  This fear-based media technique of showing violence and chaos in the world preys on the reader's anxiety and uses it to lure an audience in, making people afraid not to read the article.

The bottom line is we actually like bad news, so perhaps it’s time to stop complaining that there’s nothing good being portrayed in the media today. Our society thrives on drama and negative happenings. Think about it: during the attack of the Twin Towers on 9/11, people were glued to their televisions watching people jump to their deaths. Why? Those who had never bought a newspaper before bought one the next day with that iconic photograph of the Firefighters hoisting up the American flag on top of the rubble. We call over a manager to complain about our waiter, yet how often do we call them over to compliment them? We live for the negativity, and the media knows it.  


Articles with negative or threatening headlines get more clicks than those with positive wording. According to a recent study: “Negative superlatives work 30 percent better at getting your attention than positive ones. The average click-through rate on headlines with negative superlatives was a staggering 63 percent higher than that of their positive counterparts.”

As a Journalism student, we were taught to be just and fair- to be the voice of the people and the watchdog of our society. Journalists told the truth, they were trusted and respected. They brought light and exposed the shadows that the public dare not enter themselves. 

However, with the massive expansion of new media outlets, the eruption of citizen journalism, and the steady decline of newspapers and paid newsroom positions, media has unfortunately become more about what sells and how much attention it will gain.  

As the 2016 presidential election concluded, America watched, peeking through our fingers with horrified looks on our faces as it was announced that Donald Trump was America's new President-elect. Since then, the media has exploded with daily Trump articles, spreading the fear of racism, sexism, terrorism, and growing hate crimes. 



Trump did not create racism and sexism; it already existed within people, and hate crimes occurred every day in America. However, now people with that mindset have the President advocating for them, and the media has our attention and a story to build it around. According to the Southern Poverty Law Centre, a recorded 867 hate incidents occurred just in the 10 days following Trump's election. The more hate that is promoted, the more is created and considered to be the new normal. Provoking fear has now become a lucrative business. 

So, grab your popcorn and Xanax, America, because it’s going to be a very long four years. Today Trump skips his intelligence meeting to hang out with Kanye West, and tomorrow I’m sure he and Kim Davis will be kickin' itand  discussing some of his new policy plans while they post selfies on Twitter.

Cover Image by Shutterstock