SENSATIONALISM—news or blues?

A journalist gets off the "bad news" treadmill.

EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT JOURNALISM I learned from The Christian Science Monitor. My first real job was as a copy kid, which is an arcane and rather archaic job that has gone the way of the eight-track tape and the pet rock. Basically I was a gopher, as in Go for this and go for that. Copy kids learned how to be journalists by working for every page and every editor. Nowadays you'd call it an internship. Back then I called it a blast. And I stayed on staff for three years, long enough to be a full-time arts and entertainment writer. With that kind of background, I never had to worry about being told to write with sensationalism, either in the foreground or the background of my stories. I was working for a paper that was literally founded to combat the sensationalism of the times.

Back then, when Mary Baker Eddy started the Monitor in 1908, sensationalism had another name: "yellow journalism." Now it's called the tabloid press, but it extends way beyond those weekly rags found in the checkout aisles of grocery stores —papers that scream headlines about UFOs abducting Britney Spears to sing on Mars.

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June 17, 2002

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