The Fibromyalgia Mystery is NOT Solved: How to Identify Yellow Journalism

Does it matter whether the news you read /watch/listen to is factual and accurate? 
A friend of mine recently asked what I thought of this article,“Fibromyalgia Mystery Finally Solved!” I felt I owed her my honest response. In a long note, I explained why the title is a lie and why the article is blatant Yellow Journalism.
If truth maters to you, then you’ll want to boycott Yellow Journalism. (Scroll to the end of this post to find out how to identify it).
Yellow Journalism is a term coined more than 100 years ago to define news reporting. It describes unethical, unprofessional reporting, which uses eye-catching headlines, exaggeration, sensationalism and scandal-mongering to attract readers. The goal of Yellow Journalism is straightforward and simple. Attract more readers in order to make huge bucks selling ads. Yellow Journalism has become so ingrained in our culture, that few people today call it unethical or unprofessional.
There are people who have given up on the idea of “truth,” who believe it doesn’t exist and all of our efforts to find it are as absurd as Alice’s adventures on the other side of the looking glass.
I believe in truth.

  • I believe that wise judgement can separate truth from misinformation.
  • I believe that knowing the truth empowers us.
  • I believe that misinformation, propaganda, and lies are manipulative, disrespectful, and just plain wrong.

So, evidently, does Oprah. Otherwise, why would she have made such a big stink about James Frey’s fictionalized Memoir, A Million Little Pieces. He called it the “essential truth” of his life. She called it a lie.
Truth matters. I say that everyone who slants, misrepresents, or manipulates truth is a liar. And liars are extremely cunning.
It requires diligent, shrewd effort to ferret out truth from lies in news coverage.
In assessing the quality of the news you’re ingesting, if you want to avoid Yellow Journalism, beware of:

  • Scary, Provocative, or Sensational Headlines;
  • Misleading Headlines (the accompanying story doesn’t deliver what the headline promises);
  • Pictures/Video footage with few words or words that mean almost nothing;
  • Quotes from unnamed sources;
  • Unabashed Self-Promotion;
  • Generic, lame, and/or bad advice offered by pseudo -“experts” (look them up, who ARE they and who thinks they really are experts?);
  • Pseudoscience–claims, beliefs or practices incorrectly represented as scientific (ask a scientist to evaluate the data);
  • News presented by agencies whose primary purpose is to attract advertisers;
  • Articles written by writers who get paid for the number of “clicks” they generate. Their entire goal is to write content to attracts hoards of online viewers. Examples of this include the fibromyalgia mystery article published by Liberty Voice, and this article recently published by Elite Daily, “Optimistic People All Have One Thing in Common: They’re Always Late.”

The truth about what’s really going on in the world isn’t often entertaining. Sometimes it’s painful. But surely you don’t want to be lied to.
Where do you get your news from? And what makes you believe you’re learning the truth?  

39 thoughts on “The Fibromyalgia Mystery is NOT Solved: How to Identify Yellow Journalism”

  1. I read the full article that went with the part you show above, Tracy. And I even 2 1/2 related articles (I couldn’t get all the way through the last one; it was such mimic of an earlier one, and I was losing patience.) All of the articles contained at least some degree of yellow journalism.
    I have several dear people in my life who suffer with fibromyalgia–you included–and I’ve heard from two of them today, and they are worse than disappointed. Your post, and also excerpts from your book, shine a light on an otherwise dark topic.

    1. It is indeed a difficult journey, living with fibromyalgia.
      I’m going to start a private support group on Facebook. Only for people with FMS, only those who are want to participate in a gently-hopeful, uplifting, small group atmosphere in which we encourage one another to live our best lives, despite fibromyalgia. Would your friends be interested? If they are, you can give them my email address or invite them to friend me on Facebook, and I’ll give them more information.
      People really prey on those who have chronic pain, because they know we’re nearly desperate to find a cure. My group is going to focus on truth and wisdom.

  2. Interesting article, Tracy. I clicked through to both links as well as the definition for ‘yellow journalism’ as I hadn’t heard this term before. Sadly I think we need to be cynical when reading our media – there is always a bias or ulterior motive for what’s been written. I do tend to seek out news items from different sources as I reckon it’s a way to get a more balanced view. Now it’s so easy to do this online – years ago I scanned every daily newspaper as part of my job which I’m sure gave me a healthy dose of cynicism !
    But to prey on people who suffer on a daily basis with false information is unforgivable. I have a friend with fibromyalgia and I know how much she suffers with this chronically debilitating condition.

    1. I agree, Jenny–it is unforgivable; or at least inexcusable. But the vultures have always been circling — selling false hope to people with illness. A healthy dose of cynicism is once protection. Learning to read closely, to analyze a piece of writing for perspective, motive, and accuracy is another protection. And that involves getting multiple views from multiple (opposing) sources on the same subject/topic.
      Thanks for stopping over! I always appreciate your words!

    1. Definitely! I think it’s safe to say that there are people, who are always looking to take advantage of anyone who is vulnerable, which is why it’s so scary to be vulnerable. Learning to know whom to trust is part of learning to live with wisdom, isn’t it?

    1. Yes, it’s sad. But I hope it’s also empowering to know that we don’t have to, and shouldn’t, trust everything we read/hear. We can be smart enough to be discerning, and to search for the truth, even when the truth might not be as entertaining or upbeat as we hoped. Truth is always better than misdirection and manipulation. 🙂

  3. I have never heard the term Yellow Journalism before but love that your article puts a name to something I’ve been noticing more and more. It seems that a lot of news has become sensationalized to the point of simply being untrue these days. I almost feel like you have to frequent several different new sources to get a full picture of an issue. Even more popular sources like Fox News, CNN, NYT all have a slant to them.

    1. They sure do have a slant, Heather — and I’m with you. I think it’s getting worse.
      Honestly–I hadn’t heard the term Yellow Journalism until I started doing some research, to put a name to what I was noticing. They called it that, because back in the early 1900’s, when the NYC newspaper wars were happening, they resorted to Yellow Headlines to grab attention (in a black and white era), and some wag of a critic named it.

  4. It’s such a shame that journalistic standards are, in some cases, so low. It seems particularly unfair that when articles offer false hopes to those who are coping with illness. Tracy some time ago you asked me via a comment about a possible meet up in Paris next Spring and I am so sorry that I didn’t reply. Maybe nearer the date, if you decide to go to Europe, we could talk about a meet-up. B 😉

    1. I think the standards really are slipping, but only relative to a brief time, when the standards were so very high, when it was a matter of honor to be a man or woman of letters. (Roughly between the late 1800’s and the 1960’s). I’m not well-enough versed in the history and culture of the times to say why, for a while, there was a noble sense of duty to journalistic truth. But I do feel that’s changed. It’s all about making sales now, and/or spreading a particular propaganda, to gain political clout.
      If we decide to go to Europe, I’ll be sure and let you know. I had been feeling really great for a while, and envisioned it as possible. But things took a turn, and now it doesn’t look like the wisest of ideas. We’ll see.
      One thing I’ve learned, is that it isn’t possible to predict the future.
      Maybe I’ll just have to be satisfied with seeing your great photos of a trip to Paris. 😉

  5. One of my first thoughts had to do with politics. Wouldn’t it be nice if people told the truth about themselves and about each other? We would know what each candidate actually stood for and could vote for the person we believed would do the best job. When it comes to health issues, I see so many articles that I am sure are written by people who simply write articles for money, whether or not they know anything about the subject. As for headlines, sometimes I wonder if they have put them all into a basket and attach them randomly, perhaps to fit the space, since it seems to be okay if they have nothing to do with the actual article.

    1. Thanks for the introduction, Andrea. I’ll stop over there.
      When it comes to news on Fibromyalgia, I rely on informed doctors and researchers (not those who are into trying the latest drug fad, but those who are really knowledgeable about the condition, and make it their business to stay up-to-date). They tend to see past the media hype.

  6. Yellow journalism seems to be more accepted these days, which is extremely unacceptable. I remember when I learned about it in history class in high school, thinking naively that our media couldn’t get away with that now. HA. I’m very careful about everything I read, and I don’t believe everything I read; in fact, I believe little of what I read even in our mainstream media, and look for many sources before I decide on what I think is the truth. Great post educating us all on yellow journalism.

    1. You’re wise, Joan. I think it goes against the grain for a kind-hearted person to be suspicious that one is likely being lied to or misled, but if more people questioned and challenged the reports and reporters, perhaps they would play more fairly. HA! Now I’m thinking naively….

  7. There I was thinking that the pay per click was the origin of this type of journalism, not realising how far back it goes. I guess human nature doesn’t change that much – the low life, self interested hacks who don’t care about the real lives they are impacting have always existed.

  8. Tracy … You’ve presented some great tips here. The site also is good to check if you’re unsure about information. Sometimes, sites use tactics like you describe here to lure people to their site with the intention of hacking into their Facebook page.
    The same is true for photoshopped. I’ve seen photos that I thought were real and they turned out to be manipulated to pull people into their site. It’s sad that it’s getting harder to separate truth from fiction. It makes me even more wary.

    1. Wariness is my default mode, whenever i’m online. Trying to not go over the edge of realistic, into cynical personal–but that’s not so easy these days. I don’t know if it’s my age, or the times, that have conspired to make me more wary.

  9. I think it’s getting more difficult to identify sensationalistic journalism because we’re even more exposed to it now on all facets of social media. I think the bombardment dulls the sense. For instance, there are so many articles that talk about one trait as something that defines a whole personality (like being late is a sign of optimism; have to say, I read that article and it made me feel better about my tendency to run late, lol).
    On another note, I’ve just caught up on your blog and unfortunately this is the only post for which comments were not closed. So sorry I didn’t get to your posts sooner (I’m going to subscribe by email so I stop missing them). I just want to say that your ‘living well’ series was terrific. Each and every post was so insightful and made me think. And thank you again for using my photo of my tiny granddaughter’s hand in mine for ‘R Is for Relate.’

  10. Sadly, news budgets are not what they should be and much of what gets reported is just (1) the “if it bleeds it leads” variety or (2) just crap based on secondary sources, none of which of fact-checked. As far as sensational reporting goes, I have a feeling that things like Fibromyalgia are far, far from understood and will remain so for a long time yet.

    1. You’re right on both counts, Maurice. But that’s no surprise, as I almost always agree with you.
      Especially about the Fibromyalgia, and similar disorders. pharmaceutical companies and alternative medicine people are all offering “cures” or “effective treatments” which is totally hogwash. You can’t cure or effectively treat something you are far, far from understanding.

  11. It’s 2017 and this is still a timely post, in this age of faux news, alternative facts, and overt attacks on a free press. I’m working on a future post about just these things and will be sure to quote you and link back. I love your list. Thank you.

  12. Pingback: How To Stay Informed in This Age of Fake News – Janet Givens

  13. Today Janet Givens referred me to your blog post with this link. I know when I read your posts I will learn something new culturally, discover something personal about you, and be asked provocative questions. Thank you!
    See, blog posts keep on giving – as long as these electrons and pixels hang together – ha!

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