In high school, I took a journalism class or two. I had no idea that that meant writing for the high school newspaper, but once my schedule was set, that was it, and I was stuck. I decided to make the best of the situation, and actually started paying attention to what my teacher was saying. That's how I learned about yellow journalism. Yellow journalism is all about half-truths and exaggerations. It's sensationalism, pure and simple, designed for a purpose. Sometimes that purpose is to smear someone's name, as happens in a political campaign.
Mainly, yellow journalism sells.
Most journalism out there has a yellowish-tinge these days, due to the
internet and the 24/7 news cycle. News is supposed to be factual and
objective, and sometimes that gets lost in the rush to get people to click on websites. People understand that information from some organizations should be taken with a grain of salt, because it is slanted in a particular way. CNN is not supposed to be one of those sites. CNN is supposed to be objective and impartial, like any valid news supplier.
Blackfish is purported to be a documentary exposing SeaWorld as an evil force, exploiting killer whales to make a profit. Blackfish is a film
that was made for a specific purpose. That purpose was not to educate the masses, but to stir up a false sense of moral outrage. And it worked. SeaWorld got some awful press. People felt bad after watching the film, and they wanted to do something about it. Schools cancelled field trips. Musicians pulled out of concert obligations. Individuals vowed to never darken SeaWorld's doors again.
And the film is pure yellow journalism.
Those people were paid to create a
film that slanted a certain way, make no mistake. The company did not
hire people to make a film out of some rare form of philanthropy. They
got paid, and they will continue to get paid each time their product is viewed. Even if some of that paycheck goes to charitable causes, it doesn't change a thing. Businesses have to profit, and the best way for a film company to profit is to get people to see their work. And CNN is no unsuspecting angel in this. CNN paid to air the film on their station, and they plastered
stories about it for weeks, specifically slanted. CNN got paid, if not in cash, in the valuable website clicks that advertisers adore. After the film aired, CNN initially kept
up a relatively steady stream of stories about the film's backlash
against SeaWorld, to keep the drama going. However, stories with a different angle, including information from trainers who worked on Blackfish?
I haven't seen any on CNN yet. That story only showed up in my local newspaper, where SeaWorld has become a vital part of San Antonio. What was left out of the movie, and off
of CNN, was a more balanced view that would have offered a fuller picture
upon which to base an opinion.
My teacher taught us about yellow journalism for a reason. He wanted us to be discerning in our reading, as well as our writing. When information is needed, it is a journalist's obligation to supply it, so that the reader can come to their own conclusions. Factual and objective, was Mr. Mathwin's mantra, and I remember that lesson to this day.
I do not for one moment believe that SeaWorld is a completely innocent party; it is a business that has to make a profit, just like any other. But I refuse to base my opinions on yellow journalism. I will wait for facts, and base my opinion on them after some thought. It's sad that more people don't do that, but instead let themselves be bamboozled.
There's a sucker born every minute. And the producers of Blackfish counted on it.