DO WE LIVE IN A WORLD OF MEDIA INFOTAINMENT AND MELODRAMATIC REPORTAGE?
For the past 4 decades, the role of the media has been in the process of transforming. Traditionally, the role of the media has been purely on performing an informative role concerning various events taking place across the globe. This phenomena is commonly known as the provision of hard news where the reporter presents the facts to the viewers they way they occurred. However, this is no longer the case, as the media is increasingly indulging in the provision of information as well as entertaining the society. The media houses have been shifting from the traditional methods of providing news to the public in order to ensure that they remain competitive. As such, this essay seeks to establish whether the society is living in a world of media melodramatic reportage and infotainment. In so doing, the essay will utilize the human interest stories covered by different media houses across the globe.
Meaning of media infotainment
According to Musa (2006), infotainment is a natural result of aggressively seeking and maintaining the loyalty of a news audience in a given geographical location. In simple terms, infotainment focuses on ensuring that the producers give the audience news in a manner that makes them feel entertained. In so doing, the news anchors select elements in the entire coverage that grab the attention of the viewers in order to present them within the constrained period allocated. However, many people have been criticizing this approach of disseminating news arguing that, in order for the media to realize its intended objectives; it must always remain objective. As such, the news producers should ensure that they give the audience credible and detailed news at the required speed and depth, unlike selecting certain pieces they deem captivating. Disseminating news to the public in an objective manner is essential as it will help them stay informed.
On the other hand, Anderson (2004) defines media infotainment as a cluster of media programs that blur the traditional distinctions between entertainment and information based genres of television programming. In essence, the term infotainment denotes a reduction in hard news and in correspondence the development of various entertainment programs that mimic the style of providing news to the public. The inception of infotainment received a wide variety of critics as people argue that it makes broadcasting entertaining rather than providing news to the public. Despite these critics, most media houses have been focusing on making their broadcasts entertaining. The media houses have been doing so in order to gain more ratings through the incorporation of stories that are interesting to humans. In addition, most media houses are increasingly embracing infotainment because of the belief that it enhances interest in politics, and therefore democratic participation in the society. However, in spite of these facts, there have arguments that infotainment leads to a poor access to information; hence, its disadvantages outweigh the advantages.
Features of infotainment
Infotainment has a number of characteristics. For example, the focus of infotainment is on issues revolving around the interests of humans, violent crime, and other issues where public policies are not vital in the entire story. Based on this fact, it is evident that infotainment frames news in an episodic, as opposed to thematic manner. Further, soft news does not feature in some cases discussions pertaining to certain conflicts or situations surrounding them. Instead, soft news feature wide variety of issues that do little in exposing the political and social tensions that underpin a given conflict in the society. This feature is contrary to hard news that is central to public policy components featuring disruptions in the routine human life.
Further, infotainment is resilient in nature on what most people best understand as a dialogical format. In supporting these arguments, Collyer (2014) posits that cable news is the best example of media infotainment. According to him, cable news delivers its news mainly through human interactions that base on conversations, as opposed to journalistic monologs. For example, the media house often invites analysts during news time to deliberate on various issues raised on that day. In addition, presentation of their news is usually in form of projected solutions, and questions obtained from popular commentators, interviews and the famous instant opinion surveys. Deflem (2013) criticizes this approach of disseminating news to the public arguing that it compromises the authority of the journalists. The approach compromises the authority of the journalists since it gives them an immediate access to viewers and at the same time, the expectations of representing reality. Consequently, viewers become part of the narration or the show by assuming the role of a witness in an unfolding dialogue not a dictation of facts. In addition, Collyer (2014) criticizes this approach arguing that sources can in some instances asymmetrically guide and influence the story’s tone since the time provided for analyzing various issues is constrained.
Apart from being resilient, infotainment is specialized in nature. The element of specialization came about because of the diversification in the modern media to include satellites, the internet, and even news networks that deliver news to the public on 24 hour basis. Some of the famous networks that deliver news on 24 hour basis are the British Broadcasting Corporation, commonly known as BBC, CNN, CBN, Aljazeera, and many others. These networks tailor make the news to suit certain conditions, tastes, and identities. For instance, CBN provides a section of the global population with commentaries anchored in the Christian faith. The commentaries in most cases support the existing societal values as opposed to confronting them. This situation to some extent majorly contributed to political fragmentation across many societies in the world. On the other hand, it is arguable that this situation exists in the society because of the increasing nature of journalism that is driven by the existing market forces. The market forces originate from the increased need for cashing in certain targeted demographics. Consequently, most corporations sought to make their news in a manner that captures aspects that will enhance the loyalty of the viewers.
In addition, infotainment makes use of simple information that allows the societal members to take part in democracy from a popular point of view, characterized by shallow and unsubstantial information. Based on this argument, it is evident that infotainment serves as a reporting system that gives the viewers information that will only enable them assume a certain stand concerning a given issue. Therefore, from these discussions it is evident that no costs implications that relate to accessing this type of information, since it only raises political awareness to people with little or no political awareness.
Meaning of melodramatic reportage
According to Musa (2006), melodramatic reportage refers to the presentation of information to the public inform of sensational dramatic pieces characterized by exciting events, as well as exaggerated characters. The main aim of using exciting characters and exaggerated characters is to appeal to the viewers’ emotions, as well as entertain them. On the other hand, Hartley (2012) defines melodrama as a type of a narrative that provides the highlights for severe distinctions between evil and good. The presentation of the highlights takes place through a number of situations and characters that are strong in morality, disgrace, and shock.
For many decades, melodrama has been a famous form of entertainment, since it started with the early middle ages drama, commedia Del’ arte. Since the inception of melodrama, various media houses and reporters have been using it in entertaining their viewers. The main reason behind the increasing popularity of melodrama is its ability for responding directly to the viewers’ needs for stories, especially on matters revolving around evil and good. In addition, Melodrama’s popularity has been on the increase because of the expansion of investigative journalism where the journalists apply its formula. Using this formula, the reporters portray the maiden as the public good depending on his views. The maiden can be public safety, health, financial wellbeing, environmental protection, and issues revolving around quality life.
Do we live in a world of media infotainment and melodramatic reportage?
Various opinions exist concerning the question whether the current society dwells in the world of media infotainment and melodramatic reportage. The people, arguing that the current society does not dwell in media infotainment and melodramatic reportage, believe that is the case since the media shifted its focus to accumulating more profits. Consequently, the media no longer focuses on serious issues that are of interest to the society, but lucrative areas that will enable it to continue making more profits. However, this argument is untrue since the media is increasingly informing the public on many human interest stories.
An example of a human interest story that proved the current existence of media infotainment and melodramatic reportage in the society is the one aired by the International Middle East Media Center. The story focused on the plight of a young family based in Ithna village of Israel. The family members received a notice informing them of a planned demolition of their house by the Israel Army. The family comprised of a husband by the name Slemiah, aged 28 years, the wife aged 22 years, and their female children aged 4 and 2 years respectively. Slemiah’s family built the house on a piece of land that they owned for centuries. However, because of the notice issued by the Israel’s Army on the planned demolition, Slemiah is under pressure of paying huge amounts of money. The aim of the money is to facilitate preparation of the legal documents required in the forthcoming court proceedings, since the Israel’s army sued the family.
The moving part of the story was that Slemiah borrowed the money used in building the house from his cousin. In addition, Slemiah possessed all the legal documents required in proving the ownership of the piece of land, since his parents were the original owners of the land before, he inherited it. Apart possessing the documents, another painful part was the fact that the army did serve Slemiah with any notice until he finished building the house and moved in. Upon moving into the new house, the Israel army issued Slemiah with a notice that he was not the legal owner of the land. The news caught the attention of many people in the country, as Slemiah’s neighbors faced similar issues 6 months earlier. For example, with a period of 6 months, the Israel army demolished 2 houses worth millions of dollars in the same area. Despite, being in possession of all the legal documents required in proving the ownership of the land, Slemiah has to pay a huge amount of money to various authorities. The amount of money that Slemiah is to pay exceeds the family’s monthly income.
In case Slemiah fails to win the case, he will be required to cater for the costs of hiring a bulldozer that will demolish the house. On the other hand, if he fails to raise the money for hiring the bulldozer, the Israel army will confiscate his identification card and that of his wife until he pays the money. Apart from the demolitions, Slemiah’s neighbors underwent regular raids and harassment from the Israel forces without any concrete reason. These raids and constant demolitions of the houses made lives of the people in the village unbearable. For example, since the demolition order reached Slemiah had to quit his job and start staying at home because of fearing for the lives of his two beloved daughters. Apart from worrying about the lives of the children, the family is in fear of an abrupt arrival of the Israel’s forces and the expected outcome concerning the new residence. All these problems facing members of the village drew the attention of ISM activists, and as such, are pushing the forces to desist from the inhumane acts.
Apart for the International Middle East Media Center, sky news reported about the story of Slemiah’s family. The media aired this story in order to inform the public concerning the plight of some of the citizens under the Israel’s forces. As such, members of the public who watched the first part of the story are sticking to the media in order to get to know how the story will unfold eventually. Based on the story it is evident that media houses are in a supremous battle. The media houses are in a supremous battle where each seeks to report a story in the most entertaining manner than the other in order to maintain the viewership. For example, the two Medias gave the story a varied depth of coverage with international Middle East Media Center, giving the story more emphasis.
The story captured the element of media infotainment since it focused on an issue that would capture the attention of the viewers. This issue captured the attention of many people, since most of them were victims of the demolitions and harassments by the Israel forces. Further, the story captured the element of media infotainment since it focused on enhancing the viewers’ loyalty. The issue focused on enhancing the viewers’ loyalty since most of them would be forced to continue following the media house’s news in order to establish its outcome. In addition, the story captured the element of media infotainment since it was very entertaining besides being slightly informative to the public. The issue was entertaining since the media house gave the viewers an opportunity of expressing their opinions concerning it.
Apart from media infotainment, the story demonstrated melodramatic reportage since the reporter used a melodramatic formula in capturing the attention of the viewers. For example, the reporter presented the family as a good character that is in problems. On the other hand, the reporter presented the Israel army as a bad character, while the ISM activists as someone fighting on behalf of the village members. Further, the story demonstrated melodramatic reportage since the reporter used exciting characters that will clearly bring out the element of good and evil in the society. In addition, the story demonstrated melodramatic reportage since the reporter used it in entertaining, as well as educating the society concerning the existence of various evils.
The story concerning the Malaysian airplane is another human interest story that has been hitting the headlines of sky news and the international Middle East Media Center. Sky news reported the story with the headline that a Malaysian plane crushes in the Indian Ocean. Since the plane crushed, sky news has been giving regular updates to its viewership in order to maintain their loyalty. Further, in order to make the story captivating to the viewers, the media house has been providing a platform where relatives of the lost members air their views. In a similar manner, the international Middle East Media Center has been providing regular updates concerning the searching efforts of the plane to its viewers. By so doing, the media intends to ensure that its viewers remain loyal. Unlike, sky news, the international Middle East Media Center has been inviting various analysts who provide their views concerning the possible loss of the plane. The interactive approach of disseminating news adopted by the media is effective since it ensures that the viewers receive the news in a manner that makes them feel entertained. This approach of giving news is contrary to what sky news and the international Middle East Media Center used to do as their news used to be purely hard.
Based on the story of the Malaysian plane crash, it is evident that the current society dwells in the world of media infotainment and melodramatic reportage. For example, as evidenced by the two media houses, they have been reporting the same story in a manner that makes the audience feel entertained. The media houses have been reporting the story in a manner that makes the audience feel entertained through inviting different professionals who provide their views concerning the issue. On the other hand, the media houses have been utilizing melodramatic reportage through ensuring that the viewers feel the plight of the people who lost their loved ones in the plane crash. In addition, the media houses have been utilizing melodramatic reportage through ensuring that the viewers feel entertained as they access the news no matter how bad it is.
In addition, the story of a man complaining that the Israel’s government plans to snatch his land, covered by sky news and international Middle East Media Center is another human interest story. The government has been encroaching in the person’s land ever since it started digging sewer systems in the area. As such, bulldozers keep invading his land as each day elapses. The moving part of the story is that the family had been living in the land for a very long time, since Abed inherited the piece of land from his grandmother. Since then, the family had been staying in the piece of land doing farming. Despite, being highly fertile, the land has enough water that can enable a person to practice irrigation farming.
Before the bulldozers were brought, the government tried all means in order to eliminate Abed from the land. For example, at first the government took away the irrigation systems from him. The government did that in order to transform the springs into locations for swimming for the people who settled around the region. Therefore, this move obliged Abed to buy more than 200 tanks in order to store water for irrigating his crops at the end of every month. Apart from the closure of the springs, Abed underwent massive arrests and harassment from the Israel police. For example, the police arrested him recently for putting a door in his cave that could shelter him from the intense cold. The policy arrested Abed, citing that putting the door was an illegal act since he did not have the permission for constructing anything in Israel. Currently the case is in progress and the court will determine it September this year.
The two media houses gave the issue an equal treatment and did their best to capture the attention of their viewers. For example, the international Middle East Media Center captured the issue with a stunning title, all what I need back is my piece of land. Similarly, Sky news captured the issue with the same title. In terms of making the news interesting, Sky news invited a number of professional who discussed the issue in details thus providing the audience with a better understanding. However, unlike sky news, the international Middle East Media Center collected views form the viewers who expressed their views on the issue. Engaging the viewers made the news interesting and the entire coverage entertaining. In addition, in making the viewers understand the issue in question, the two media houses portrayed Abed as a person in major problems. The problems originated from the frequent harassments Abed was subjected to by the Israel police officers.
The story captured the element of media infotainment since it focused on an issue that would capture the attention of the viewers. This issue captured the attention of many people, since most of them were victims of harassments by the Israel forces. Further, the story captured the element of media infotainment since it focused on enhancing the viewers’ loyalty. The issue focused on enhancing the viewers’ loyalty since most of them were forced to continue following the media house’s news in order to establish its outcome. In addition, the story captured the element of media infotainment since it was very entertaining besides being slightly informative to the public. The issue was entertaining since the media houses gave the viewers an opportunity of expressing their opinions concerning it. Moreover, the story captured the element of media infotainment since the media houses gave different parties the opportunity for expressing their ideas concerning the issue. Doing this greatly helped the viewers get a wide variety of information concerning the issue, hence a better understanding.
Apart from media infotainment, the story demonstrated melodramatic reportage since the reporter used a melodramatic formula in capturing the attention of the viewers. For example, the reporter presented the Abed as a good character that is in problems. On the other hand, the reporter presented the Israel government and police as a bad character. Further, the story demonstrated melodramatic reportage since the reporter used exciting characters that clearly brought out the element of good and evil in the society. In addition, the story demonstrated melodramatic reportage since the reporter used it in entertaining, as well as educating the society concerning the existence of various evils.