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Where does the news end and the profiteering begin?

Almost a week has passed since the tragic death of Caroline Flack. In that time, the word “blame” has been thrown about all over the shop. The debates continue on Twitter while the media simultaneously deletes certain stories and publishes more about the late TV personality, it got me thinking about the title of this piece: where does the news end and the profiteering begin?

As the general public, we want to know everything. We turn to the news for information about current events, politics, the climate, sports and more. But who profits from the news? I won’t open that Pandora’s Box in detail, but I do hope to start turning the cogs on the topic of why outlets publish certain things and why they ignore others. 

The subject of Caroline Flack’s death is a particularly prickly one. For many years, the former-Love Island presenter was the victim of numerous smear campaigns, from mainstream media to glossy mags and even this particularly nasty One Direction fanzine. The more sceptical amongst us would suggest that this media frenzy had nothing to do with Caroline’s passing, but sadly I don’t think that’s the case. 

Even the most empathetic among us would struggle to ever know what it’s like to be subject to torrents of abuse from both the traditional and social media networks. So, for people to say that the media had no part in Caroline’s death is truly abhorrent.

Despite the spread of #BeKind, it’s clear that the media, in particular the red top tabloids, are yet to change their ways. Earlier in the week, The Sun and The Mirror published stories Caroline’s cause of death among many other horrible details. This is what sparked the stream of consciousness, which eventually led to this ramble… While the story of a celebrity’s untimely death is considered “news”, is it necessary for Joe Public to be faced with the minutia of the events? I think not. 

So, why do they publish this stuff? Traditionally, the media made huge money from the sales of newspapers. An eye-catching front-page headline sitting behind a scantily clad woman would incite men to spend their hard-earned silver change on a copy of today’s paper. As more and more people get their news online, we turn to the like of Twitter and Facebook for the latest stories. The tabloids have to get their money somewhere, so display advertising, promoted content and sponsored stories all replace newspaper sales as the media’s biggest drivers of revenue.

Since they need thousands of clicks to make a small amount of money, these outlets often separate stories into several articles to keep you clicking. Where a story like Caroline’s would be told over the course of a couple of days in a few articles, The Sun, Mail Online and The Mirror have published dozens of pieces about Caroline, including deep-dives into her relationships, past and present, as well as interviews with family members and “sources close to the star.” 

In a desperate effort to squeeze every last penny out of the advertisers, the tabloids resort to “click-bait” headlines… even leading with Caroline’s cause of death this week on many sites. 

Was Caroline’s sad passing news? Yes, but was it necessary to publish a deluge of articles about every element of the star’s life and death, likely exposing thousands of people to triggering images and statements just to make more ad revenue? No. 

In many other cases, it’s not as easy to draw the line… so, next time you find yourself down the rabbit hole that is Mail Online’s Femail section, ask yourself: do I really need to know this information and is it affecting me directly? Or is this published purely to encourage voyeurism and, therefore, likely harming the story’s subject? 

I’ll leave you with these lyrics from Sam Fender’s Poundshop Kardashians:

We love them we hate them
We want to see them fall from grace
We laugh at them disheveled
On the front page of The Mail
Then grab ourselves a pitchfork and go in for the kill
Together light vigils
Eulogize them on the Internet when they top themselves
When they couldn’t take it no more