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Societies’ Concern about Sensationalism, Media Ethics, and Practices Proposal

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Updated: Jun 25th, 2019


In the contemporary world, people handle things differently because of their desire to earn massive profits. The media executives aspire to generate huge profits, and therefore, they have taken a different approach in handling the junior journalists.

Journalists, who ought to exercise an authoritative role in giving reliable information, are acting under the influence of the public and the pressures from their bosses. Lately, the journalists desire to obtain public attention at all cost. They do not consider the effects that their actions would have to the larger society.

Various societies are raising their concerns about the ethical considerations of the journalists. Communities are wondering if the media executives take a stringent analysis of the possible negative effects of programs before making broadcasts.

This research proposal gives a clear outlay of the procedures that the researcher will employ to obtain the required information. The researcher will interview various members of different age groups within the area of study.

Thereafter, the researcher will sample various media outlets, and select the respondents to take part in the study in a random manner. Essentially, the entire research will take a quantitative approach, where the researcher will go the field and collect first hand information.

The main data collection instruments will comprise of questionnaires and interview pamphlets. Further, the researcher will employ two approaches to analyse the collected data.

Thematic analysis will be essential in detecting the themes and subthemes in the responses of the interviewees, while the statistical package for social sciences will be helpful in analysing collected data.


Background information

The main role of the media is channelling communication to the public. Through the media, citizens are enlightened about the happenings within their nations and across the entire world. In the past, people could spare time to listen to the news broadcasts, as they were very vital.

The few media outlets that exist could spend quality time to prepare conspicuous news that could capture the attention of every individual. However, media stations are increasing in number, and every media station competes for the public attention (Kellner, 2003).

With the increase in the number of lucrative advertising deals, the media attendants are emphasizing on the quantity rather than the quality of information passed to the audience. The stifling news bulletins are meant to capture the attention of the observers and listeners.

Interestingly, any advert that is aired during such prime moments generates massive income to the media station. Sometimes journalists have to use inaccurate news to capture the attention of the audiences.

With an increase of the viewership and ratings, the media outlet is likely to obtain more lucrative deals than before (Kellner, 2003).

It is noteworthy that people in the contemporary world are becoming enlightened, and they no longer believe in the inaccurate news. The desire to generate massive profits has obligated the journalists to ignore the media ethics that they ought to employ in their practices.

The loss of trust in the media, the unethical broadcasts, and the ignorance that prevails in all the affected people has degraded the societal values. Therefore, various societies are highly concerned about media ethics and practices, and thus, they question the future of the media industry.

Literature review

Ethics is a set of moral conducts that are very essential in every aspect of life. Journalists have an enormous role of ensuring that they portray the highest level of moral standards in everything that they perform daily.

To ensure that journalists have the essential ethical trainings, curriculum developers ensure that they incorporate ethics into syllabuses of the journalists. By so doing, the educators release competent journalists into the society.

However, it was noted that the employers are to blame for the unethical practices in the profession of journalism. The executives of media outlets are always on the neck of the field journalists. They have set targets that the journalists have to attain by the end of the day.

With or without sensational news on the ground, the journalists have to develop some thrilling stories to broadcast to the public (Jones, 2004). Cases have happened where journalists had to develop inaccurate stories and sensationalize them to attain the set targets.

It is worth noting that the heightened technologies have eased the procedures of entering into the media and communication industry. The rising number of media outlets brings some competition amongst the service providers. Every media outlet desires to have the highest number of viewers and the highest rating.

The most popular media outlet attracts companies that intend to make adverts, and through the adverts, the media stations are able to generate massive profits (Kellner, 2003). The struggle to have the highest rating is what makes media outlets to ignore the standards of transmitting their messages to the public.

Sensationalism is a very common occurrence in the contemporary world. News editors have developed a habit of over-hyping news stories to increase viewership. The editors will omit some important facts and emphasize on controversial parts of the news regardless of their irrelevance.

The entire exercise leads to misrepresentation of information and exaggeration of useless facts. The news broadcasters will stress on some news contents that cannot help the modern business-minded people.

Cases have happened where news writers present their controversial subjects in noticeable pages of the newspapers to attract the readers.

The press coverage presents exaggerated and biased controversial political matters under the influence of prominent politicians (Jones, 2004). Therefore, enlightened citizens will never trust some of the information presented by media outlets.

The fact that media outlets are trying to catch up with the evolving technologies and to make the best out of them is recommendable.

However, it is very discouraging to note that politicians, wealthy companies, and influential people are taking advantage of their power to control the media and the things that they broadcast to the public. The whole issue has weakened the media’s voice of authority.

The journalists in the contemporary world are becoming unaggressive and submissive to the powerful people at the expense of the other citizens. The media will air what the influential people want the rest of the citizens to hear. The editors will alter any true information that may raise the eyebrows of the citizen.

They will wipe out off insightful information about corruption and scandals that involve prominent people. The journalists will have to distort national public figures that may bring suspicions for monetary gains. The whole issue brings biases and inaccuracies of the broadcasted information.

Members of the public can no longer trust the media transmissions, as they cannot know if the information is accurate or not (Tsfati & Capella, 2003).

Essentially, the media outlets can only regain the trust of the public if they stop being money minded, but instead become purpose driven by employing all the ethical practices that are indispensable in the career of journalism.

Statement of the problem

The aggressiveness of the various media outlets heartens the journalists to air sensational information to the public. Media sensationalism has played a significant role in reducing the interest of the viewers by increasing the doubts of whether the broadcasted information is precise or not.

Journalists perceive the sensitive information as crucial as it captures the interest of the citizens; however, the information depicts the dark side of the journalism career. The society feels that the media is playing a significant role in instilling immorality among the young children.

Street magazines, journals, and the television among other media outlets display distorted materials to the public. Children, especially the adolescents, will always develop ways to access the sensational information while the adults tend to limit the time they spend reading and viewing the distorted materials.

So far, societies have shown their concerns about media ethics and practices by raising their voices against the sensational information.

The whole issue presents an enormous problem that may breed an immoral generation if the situation continues. Moreover, the media outlets may find it difficult to convey serious news to the people, who usually take things lightly.


Null hypothesis: Media outlets portray ethical practices of journalism that do not raise the eyebrows of the society, and thus they do not relay any sensational information to attract the public and earn massive profits.

Alternative hypothesis: Media outlets portray unethical journalism practices that raise the eyebrows of the society, and their main aim is to relay sensational information to attract the attention of the public and earn enormous profits.

Aims and objectives of the research

The research will aim at finding out how the public perceives the information relayed by the current media outlets. Secondly, the research will aim at obtaining the exact reason as to why the journalists have to broadcast sensational information that may not be accurate. To arrive at the set aims, the researcher will focus on the specific objectives listed below.

  1. Determine accuracy levels of the information relayed by various media outlets and determine the ethical considerations of the journalists.
  2. Measure the level of satisfaction of the target customers of the media outlets and find out their opinions on what the media should do.
  3. Take a stringent analysis of the current media transmissions and compare their content with that of the transmission in the early days.
  4. Determine the best approaches that the media outlets should employ to win the trust of their target customers and the address the society’s concerns.

Research questions

To achieve the set objectives, the researcher will be obligated to have the following research questions in mind.

  1. To what extend is the target customer satisfied with the media transmissions in the current world?
  2. Is there some pressure that influences the journalists to carry out their practices in an unethical and sensational manner?
  3. Do journalists care about the effect that their sensational information has on the young children, teenagers, and the entire population in general?
  4. What is the level of accuracy and reliability of the information that the journalists present in various media outlets?
  5. Is there a significant difference between the accuracy, reliability, and ethical considerations of the current broadcasts and the previous broadcasts?

Research methodology

This research aims at obtaining first hand information that will help in informing the media that their unethical practices are bringing more harm than good. The collected data will be essential in testing the hypothesis.

Therefore, it is very vital to employ a very organized approach to achieve its goals. A detailed research design, a decisive sampling procedure, viable data collection tools, excellent data processing, and analysis procedures will be necessary.

Research design

The research will take a quantitative research design, as it will involve some form of numeric data. The whole research will aim at analysing the relationship between the dependent variable, media ethics and practices, and the three independent variables:

  1. influence from prominent people,
  2. desire to generate massive profits,
  3. the highly set targets.

Clearly, the information needed is very sensitive, and the researcher will have to collect first hand information that would help in coming up with a decisive conclusion.

From the newly collected data, the researcher will be able to develop influential explanations that may help in convincing the journalists to review their unethical practices.

Sampling procedures

This research will take two stages in sampling the respondents to take part in the study. Firstly, a random sampling technique will be useful in selecting the potential respondents. Secondly, the researcher will employ convenience sampling to find people, who are willing to participate in the study interviews.

The two-stage sampling process will be very essential in achieving randomization and in selecting the right respondents who will give information willingly. The two stage sampling procedures will only apply to the target customers of the media industry.

Essentially, the media industry targets citizens of all ages across the nation. Moreover, it will be very essential to consider some children, whose views will be very important.

The researcher will be very keen in ensuring that the sample comprises of males and females to avoid biases. The researcher will ensure that it employs a balanced sampling procedure to enhance external validity of the findings.

Essentially, the researcher will select the participants depending on various variables that will guarantee of the selected sample as a true representation of the study population. The researcher will target about one thousand respondents and will predict a response rate of 90%.

For the media outlets, the researcher will make a random selection of the outlets and the respective respondents. The overwhelming journalism role is worth considering when determining the journalists, who to take part in the study.

Therefore, from one point to another, the researcher will have to use personal judgment to identify the friendly journalists, who would give the required information with ease. The purpose of the strategic sampling procedures is to collect the most viable and convenient information from the willing respondents.

Instruments of data collection

The main data collection instruments will be the interview pamphlets and the questionnaires. The interview pamphlets will be structured in a strategic manner to collect all the required information. The researcher will have to list the topic that relates to the research questions, research objectives and the research hypothesis.

Thereafter, the researcher will then reorganize the questions such that related questions have a systematic flow. Introductory questions will come first, while the other questions will follow systematically.

The most complex questions will be somewhere in between the questions while very friendly questions will appear at the end of the interview pamphlet. From one time to another, the researcher may have to record the entire interview on tape to capture the entire discussion.

The recorded material will play a great role in ensuring that there is accuracy in the analysis of the respondents’ information.

The questionnaire is a very critical data collection instrument. It has to be structured in a very simple manner that will motivate the respondents to spend very little time filling it. The researcher will ensure that the questions seek the relevant information without beating around the bush.

The first information in the questionnaire will assure the respondents that the information that they give is purely for research purposes, and most importantly, no part of the questionnaire will require the respondents to give personal information.

The researcher will include both closed and open-ended questions in the questionnaire. Moreover, the respondents will have some spaces to write their general views about sensationalism, media ethics, and practices.

Data collection procedures

The first step of the data collection procedure is examining the suitability and reliability of the data collection instruments. A pilot test will be very essential in determining the weak areas of the interview pamphlets and questionnaires (Bryman, 2008).

In case the questionnaires and the interview pamphlets need some amendments, the researcher will have to prepare a new set of the data collection instruments to meet the demands of the target respondents.

It is noteworthy that the in-depth interviews are likely to have some structured questions that need interpretation.

The researcher will have to interpret the questions to the respondents to ensure that they have a clear understanding of what is required of them.

Secondly, the researcher will have to listen carefully to what the respondents have to say. It will be extremely important for the researcher to observe and interpret the body language of every respondent to have a clear outlay of every aspect discussed.

If need be, the researcher may have to record some interview conversation, however, this will be after seeking permission from the respondent.

The researcher will have to ensure that the interviewee is very comfortable with the venue of the interview. If possible, the interviewer should choose a place that is free from disruptions, and most importantly, the interviewees will have the freedom to choose their convenient time.

The researcher will have to determine the best method of ensuring that the respondents obtain their questionnaires. The researcher may opt to make a hand delivery of hard copies of the questionnaires. In that case, the researcher has to collect the duly filled questionnaires in person.

Secondly, the researcher may opt to send the questionnaires to the respondents through postal addresses. The other option would be to send soft copies of the questionnaires through a reliable email address.

To motivate the respondents to return the duly filled questionnaires, the researcher will attach paid stamps to the return envelopes. In case the last two options are the most suitable, the researcher will arrange to obtain the email addresses and physical addresses of the selected respondents.

As evident from the descriptions of the data collection procedures, the research will be too demanding and thus the researcher will have to spend quality time to achieve the required results.

However, the entire research will take approximately eight months, which is enough to walk around interviewing and obtaining first hand information. With the decisive research proposal, the researcher is likely to secure some funding from non-governmental organizations that addresses social matters.

Therefore, the researcher will have enough resources to collect reliable data that will formulate a significant research report.

Other possible methods

The researcher may opt to obtain the necessary data through observation or using second hand information from previous literature. However, observation is very unreliable as biases may arise while collecting the information.

The researcher may always depict a wrong image about the media even in cases where the media require some credit. Moreover, using information from previous researches is very unreliable, as one cannot measure the accuracy of the information in a research report.

Moreover, past research reports may not capture the information of the contemporary world that changes steadily with the evolving technologies. The researcher may have to replicate the mistakes that previous researchers have made, and thus, there would be no addition of value to the existing researches.

Data processing and analysis

Data analysis is a very critical exercise in any research and in this case, the researcher will employ the thematic analysis procedures to comprehend the responses. Thematic analysis will allow the researcher to detect the themes and subthemes in the recorded interviews.

The most important part of the procedure is coding of responses, where, the researcher will consider the age, profession, and the education level of the interviewee. Secondly, the researcher will contemplate the themes and subthemes that will arise in every section of the interview.

The Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) will be very essential in giving a statistical approach of analysing the numeric data contained in the questionnaire.

Firstly, the software will be very essential in giving a descriptive outlay of all the respondents. The software will enable the research to determine the number of males and females who took part in the study.

Further, the researcher will be able to categorize the respondents in different age groups. The SPSS software will enable the researcher to make a correlation and regression analysis of the different variables of the study.

The software will give all results at the researcher’s precision level of choice. Multivariate analysis will be very essential in making a multiple comparison of the study variables.

Validity and reliability of the collected data

Indeed, if the researcher follows the aforementioned procedures to collect the data, the entire research will give valid and reliable data.

The reliability and validity of data is dependent on the level of accuracy. The quantitative research design is more likely to produce the most reliable data than any other research design (Corbetta, 2003).

Reliability is the ability to obtain the same results if the researcher replicated the study. On the other hand, validity is attained if all the aforementioned procedures are employed in every step of the research process.

Therefore, with great planning of the events, the researcher will be able to interview the respondents in an appropriate manner to obtain accurate information. The recorded interview sessions will help greatly in retrieving the required information in case of gaps and misunderstandings.

The questionnaires will also provide accurate and reliable data as long as they are handled in a proper manner. The researcher will offer the respondents with sufficient time to fill the questionnaires.

The assurance of confidentiality will help greatly in obtaining the most reliable information. The most important factor of applying no prejudice in the data collection and analysis exercise will assure the audience that the researcher is likely to come up with the most reliable report ever.

Limitation of the chosen approach

As mentioned before, the researcher hopes to obtain funds from an NGO that deals with social matters. Therefore, if the researcher fails to secure the funds, the entire research exercise may be crippled. The researcher may have to skip some stages of the data collection exercise to cut on costs.

Moreover, the researcher may have to cut on the number of target respondents to have a small sample representation. As the small sample may not represent the entire population appropriately, the researcher may have to replicate and generalize the results.

Secondly, the fact that the researcher may have to carry out several interviews is quite challenging. The whole exercise may be too demanding, and the researcher may have to outsource some services to handle the interviewees. The outsourced researchers may not be keen on studying the facial and body language.

The entire data collection exercise is time consuming, tiresome, and the researcher may be bored at some point of the study.

The boredom and other external factors may distort the remaining exercises, which may affect the remaining part of the study. Interview biases are likely to be common if the researcher decides to outsource the research assistant services.

Lastly, non-response errors may occur in the research, where the researcher may have more spoilt questionnaires than anticipated.

Ethical issues

The main ethical considerations of the participants are the assurance of confidentiality, informed consent, and equal justice. As mentioned earlier, the interviewer will not record any conversation with the interviewees without permission.

The researcher will have to inform the respondents about the research and respond to all queries regarding the research in a calm manner. Secondly, all the questionnaires will emphasize on the important of confidentiality. Most importantly, all participants will obtain equal treatments from the researcher.

The researcher will have to protect raw data. The public will only access the research results in the form of a report. Respect, punctuality, and accuracy of speech are some of the inevitable items that the researcher will have to adhere to throughout the study. Lastly, all participants will voluntarily participate in the study.


Bryman, A. (2008). Social research methods (3rd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Corbetta, P. (2003). Social research: Theory, methods and techniques. London: Sage.

Jones, D.A. (2004). Why Americans don’t trust the media: A preliminary analysis. The Harvard International Journal of Politics, 9(2), 60-75.

Kellner, D. (2003). Media spectacle. London: Routledge.

Tsfati, Y. & Capella, J.N. (2003). Do people watch what they do not trust? Exploring the association between news media skepticism and exposure. Communication Research, 30(1), 504-529.

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