27 April 2010

News and Media: Gossip Sells

By Jennifer Linforth

Newspapers are filled with stories that can be manipulated into all sorts of tales of mystery and intrigue. They are also filled with what so many love best...

...gossip and rumor.

In the 19th century gossip was an art form! It was craved as much back then and it is now. Ladies whispered of it over tea, men debated it over cigars. Lives adhered strictly to etiquette and social standing, so you can well imagine would happen if a tidbit of bad manners or ill morals seeped out to the public. It could ruin a family in a heartbeat! Gossip and rumor truly didn't leak however. Servants were often paid for their loose-lips as were members of society willing to spread untruths to expose their friends. A paper notorious for this was The John Bull, its editor also known to simply make up stories to stir the pot!

Papers reported important political issues and social affairs. By the 19th century journalism's ethics were being established. Papers were a sort of social conscience and many acted in good form. Many others did not and either way a balance was struck between truth and rumor that continues to this day. Scandal sells, and papers of the day quickly understood that, using the aristocracy to pad their pockets. Nothing has changed in this day and age...

Can you imagine a world without gossip rag? Tabloids? People getting their fifteen minutes of fame for whatever the reason? Can you see a world of nothing but facts and full truths? One summer my local news broadcasted nothing but good news once a week. Not gossip, no tragedy, no scandals or politics, just plain old good news.

It didn't last long. Why do you think that is?