The era of “fake news”
This thesis examines the role of sensationalist journalism in American politics as well as its societal and political implications on the American public. This research seeks to define the differences between objective and sensationalized journalism, outline the influence of objective journalism on civil discourse, document the historical shift from objective-style reporting to a reliance on sensationalism, explain the impacts of sensationalism during the COVID-19 pandemic. In short, sensationalist journalism is devoted to audience targeting, distorting events, and evoking emotional responses from viewers whereas objective journalism is committed to fact distribution, fairness, and neutrality in reporting. The thesis also presents the results of an empirical survey conducted on a sample of the American public to determine specific reactions to sensationalized articles and how they correlate to personal political attitudes. Chapter 1 briefly introduces my research question, explain the necessity for this research, and explain the remaining chapters of the research. Chapters 2 and 3 provide a historical look at objective and sensationalized journalism, as well as the two networks utilized for the survey, FOX and CNN. Chapter 4 explains the methodology used in the survey, then Chapters 5 and 6 reveal and analyze the results of the survey. The final chapter concludes with an examination into the accuracy of my initial hypotheses, the limitations of my research, and an outlook on the future of journalism. Ultimately, this thesis found that the way in which the media frames specific events or articles affect political and social attitudes towards scientific phenomenon, which prompts further research on this topic.