Sensationalism, a type of news reporting that emphasizes shock value over facts, is a key ingredient of what in the United States became known in the late 19th century as “yellow” journalism (after a cartoon character). Yellow or sensational journalism is noted for stories that exploit, distort, or exaggerate the news. Sensationalism triumphs over factual reporting as stories are twisted into forms designed to attract readers and (more recently) viewers. The same style of sensationalized news reappeared in the muckraking journalism of the early 20th century, in the tabloid newspapers of the 1920s, and in print and electronic media in the years since.

Sensational news, however, dates back at least to the news sheets of the 17th century. Critics complained about an overemphasis on crime ...

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