(Sent via email to Pink News by Andrew Goyvaerts)
To Whom it may concern,
Society talks about sensationalist journalism all the time, what it doesn’t talk about nearly enough is what happens when the topic at hand is something that will impact on an individual or community. While it might help along the career of a want-to-be Ann Leslie or Jeremy Paxman the industry must ask if it is principled to do so, even if editors view it as ethical.
Sensationalist journalism caught my eye again today when an article by Pink News led with “what is bareback sex and why is it dangerous”
Let it be pointed out that the general theme has truth, bareback sex carries risk and information of those risks should undoubtedly be passed on to the public, however, let it also be pointed out that abstinence from bareback sex for many of those who are interested in it does not always work out meaning countless people who have read this article could suffer untold effects to their sex life along with their mental health given the concerns it has possibly raised for them, just one reason why directing to organisations that can help anyone effected by media content is beneficial and should be mandatory.
It might be possible to oversee this as something other than blatant sensationalism if the article came across as properly balanced or of educational benefit but that is not the case, instead it came across as a 1980s piece the only purpose of which was to breed fear and perpetuate stigma surrounding sex and STIs due to key bits of information being left out, like if someone living with HIV has an undetectable viral load they cannot pass on the virus to others during unprotected sex.
It also failed to mention vaccines that are available for sexually transmitted infections like hepatitis and HPV (although they were only referred to minutely while the broad context centred around HIV).
At the same time it appears to have completely ignored the fact that even condoms are not effective 100% of the time. Credit can be given for mentioning PEP and PrEP but is that really enough? Have people living with HIV who were used as an example for an article that essentially seeks to raise site visits for Pink News truly benefited from its publication?
Inevitably a small number will say “what harm if it prevents someone from being diagnosed with an STI” yet the problem with that reasoning is it throws millions of us who are living with such an infection under the proverbial bus.
We deal with enough sensationalising from irrational individuals who still think HIV can be transmitted from kissing, we do not need a national publication sensationalising with them.
Evidently it can surely be said no writer of such an article would intend to cause harm to actual lives which is why the time has come for the journalism community to really evaluate its purpose, does it exist to help or hinder society? Given the social angle of Pink News it would be implorable to do so.
Let’s leave the 80s journalism and sensationalised stories where they belong and focus on all the up to date information that will educate people not make them afraid. They say fear comes from the unknown but much more of it and harm can come from sensationalised writing along with a lack of all the facts.