Turning the Century: Essays in Media and Cultural Studies

By Carol A. Stabile | Go to book overview

ented in this chapter. If one wishes to apply the analysis delineated in this paper to a current context, then one must necessarily reconceptualize the analysis to account for these major shifts of the past century. There is one constant, however: Concepts can never be utterly removed from the historical context of their emergence and still be fully comprehended. Normative terms must always be examined in the context of reigning dominant and emergent class sensibilities, for it is from this nexus that such terms draw their meaning.


Notes
1
Leder 1999.
2
Although this analysis does account for broad historical trends, its primary purpose is to situate the relationship between "objectivity" and "sensationalism" conceptually.
3
Stevens 1991.
4
I should make clear from the outset that my attempt to gain some understanding of the ways in which the charge of sensationalism was used at this time makes no claim to exhaustiveness. Not included in my analysis are two types of content that have frequently drawn the sensationalist label: coverage of the lives and doings of the wealthy, and tales of anomalous creatures, events, and other phenomena. The sensationalism I attempt to account for in this paper deals largely with deviant behavior -- crime, illicit sex, violence, madness, and the like.
5
Quoted in Dicken-Garcia 1989, 124.
6
Godkin ( 1831-1902) was the founder and editor of the Nation and later of the New York Evening Post.
7
Dicken-Garcia 1989, 202.
10
Quoted in Schudson 1978, 72.
11
George Ade, quoted in Schudson 1978, 73.
12
Schudson 1978, 75.
13
Schudson 1978, 72.
14
Quoted in Ireland 1914, 115.
15
Dicken-Garcia 1989, 203.
16
In a suggestive parallel, sensationalism, in its philosophical, or more precisely, epistemological, sense is simply a form of empiricism. The use of the term in a philosophical context far predates its use in media criticism. I would not suggest that the word as used in these two different contexts is identical; however, an understanding of its philosophical implications complicates and enriches our understanding of its uses in a media context. Sensationalism as a philosophical doctrine holds that all knowledge is fundamentally based on sensorial apprehension. It is through our senses that we come to know the world, and it is through our senses that we must seek verification of any extrasensorial speculations that we might pursue. This conception of sensationalism reflects a long-standing philosophical endeavor-the struggle to apprehend the origins of knowledge and the locus of truth. Here, knowledge begins in the world, in concrete, physical being. Through our bodily experience of the world, we may arrive at certain generalizations, certain ideas, but these will always function as abstractions of the real. This conception of knowledge and of the world runs

-71-

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