Whatever happened to truth? Did it go out of style?
During the 1980s, the proliferation of popular television shows focusing on sex, crime, and gossip, such as A Current Affair, Hard Copy, and Inside Edition, led some media critics to fear that the lines between responsible journalism and sensationalism were being blurred. These “tabloid television” shows, so designated because of their resemblance to supermarket tabloid newspapers, relied for their content on gossip, barely credible sources, an appeal to emotion, and the use of checkbook journalism. These practices have had an impact on mainstream broadcast journalism, which has been charged with downplaying more serious news in order to compete for viewers and advertising revenue.
The practical reality is that the mere mention of Michael Jackson, the most famous entertainer in the world, in any newspaper would increase that newspaper’s daily sales. It is for this reason that no matter what was written about Michael—slimy innuendo, unsupported gossip, outrageous exaggeration and outright lies—would fatten newspapers’ coffers that day.
Michael’s meteoric rise in the annals of pop culture crashed violently with the abandonment of responsible journalism. Michael reflects on the deterioration of media ethics in his song, Tabloid Junkie: