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Claims of sensationalism, which is the use and presentation of content designed to cause interest or excitement, have been levelled at journalists since at least the 1880s during which decade W.T. Stead distinguished it from untrue or exaggerated journalism and described it as ‘justifiable up to the point that it is necessary to arrest the eye of the public and compel them to admit the necessity of action’ (Stead, cited in Bromley, 1998b: 29–30).

Closely linked to the dumbing down debate, sensationalism has increasingly been associated almost exclusively with the tabloid press (Bromley 1998b: 84) and the creed of the Daily Mirror, printed as a front-page manifesto by Silvester Bolam, editor from 1948 to 1953, might apply to all tabloids:

The Mirror is a sensational newspaper. ...

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