Social Darwinism focuses on the principle of “survival of the fittest.” Within the news ecosystem, this means that only news outlets which are heavily profitable will survive. Some news organisations receive public funding while others are privately run. This creates a competition environment for news organisations who are actively competing for viewers’ attention.
To compete within the news ecosystem, news organizations have to diversify their content. As a consequence of this, journalists often experience burnout as they are having to produce multiple pieces at once in order to conduct their job. Within this instance, the news is distorted because of this perspective as the news networks are promoting their economic and business obligations over the well-being of their employees. This can lead to misprints, incorrect information being reported because of a lack of fact-checking, or lead to an article being biased because of the framing of the content to attract more viewers. An example of this is clickbait articles which use strategic phrasing within the title to get viewers to read the material.
Within diversifying news organizations create pieces for “infotainment,” which are designed to focus more on entertaining the viewer rather than educating them. This distortion allows for a business to gain higher viewership and therefore increased revenue, however the information is again framed to create a specific narrative to engage the user to spend more time on a specific news platform. The Spinoff recently created a series on political youth wings; this was designed primarily for entertainment rather than to educate viewers. They attracted viewership to this series using strategic sound bites which appeared on multiple social media platforms artificially inflating their viewership and therefore their revenue.
News organizations often have multiple revenue streams, all of which rely on the ability to attract viewers to them rather than their competition. Many articles are written for a wide target audience in order to capture a high viewership and therefore more revenue whether it be from advertising, grant funding, or private sponsorship.
Furthermore, news organizations exaggerate news conflicts to increase viewership. News corporations compete with each other for the accolade of having the most graphic imagery, which attracts viewers to their content. Humans are attracted to violence and conflict and therefore news organizations are able to distort news through exaggeration, curation of imagery and creating an attractive narrative to engage viewers. The aim of journalism is to report factually correct information which has been fact-checked to be accurate, as conflict news is distorted it doesn’t fit the aim of news. News organizations fail to complete this aim, because of the nature of competition within Social Darwinism, as they have to put the economic and business needs ahead of its duty to give its viewers an accurate portrayal of both sides of news.
News organizations actively have to manipulate viewers and their behaviour in order to be able to keep operating as businesses. News organizations have to prioritise their business and economic needs first. As a result of the competitive nature of the news ecosystem and the attitude of Social Darwinism within news journalism, news organizations diversify content, use clickbait articles to attract viewers, focus on entertaining rather than producing news content, write broad pieces attractable for large audiences and exaggerate news. We must ask ourselves as a society whether we are able to accept these unethical news practices or whether we need to look differently as to how we fund news organisations.