Iwan Awaluddin Yusuf, S.IP, M.Si[1]


The occurrence of Press Laws No. 40 of 1999 that marked the new era of press freedom post authoritarianism of the New Order, has brought tremendous changes towards the dynamics of media life in Indonesia. The spirits to take advantage of that momentum of freedom in practices, however, have often turned out causing various paradoxes that are opposing the basic spirits and philosophy of journalism. One of which are evident in the many indifferences towards journalistic standards in news writing. Thus, the freedom—be it “free from” or “free to” that once attached to the press world, is now going on without equal escalations of professional efforts to stand true towards community’s trusts, and in the end causing media that provide bombastic, melodramatic, mystical and sexual exploitation contents, and keen on the level of conflict disclosures merely to satisfy the low taste of their readers. This form of coverage is evident from the rise of sensational news stories that often appear in yellow newspapers.

One strategy that is often implemented by the yellow newspapers to maintain their readers’ interest is by exploiting the sensational element of an event (Conboy, 2003, p. 56; Hatchen, 2005, p. 43). An event that is actually mediocre in reality is turned into something “extraordinary” by means of various techniques, verbally and visually. The main goal of this sensationalism is to attract attentions, using modus operandi of hyperbolizing real facts. Even though sensationalisms are sometimes justified in marketing or product packaging to attract potential consumers, sensationalism cannot be justified in journalistic spheres that emphasize objectivity.

The simplest form of sensationalism news can be seen in the writings of headline titles. In the efforts of winning vast readers, many newspapers apply bombastic, appalling and provocative ways of presenting headlines (McQuail, 1992, p. 233; Press Council Research Team, 2006, p. 2). These techniques produce headlines called Scare Headlines (Simaremare, 2001, p. 100-101). In addition, often sensational news is written by ignoring news writing standards, such as presenting short but incomplete reports (meager reports), relying only on one source (one-sided information), twisting the words (spinning of words), and the efforts to exaggerate events (exaggerations). For example, the followings are observations made on page 1 of yellow newspapers headlines bearing sensational nuances in several regions in Indonesia, as seen in Table 1.

Table 1.

Sensationalism of Headline Titles

No Newspaper Edition Headline
1 Meteor Monday, 13 June 2005 ”Step son Chopped-up with Machete”
2 Meteor Monday, 13 June 2005 ”Rammed by Truck Mr. Carik’s Legs Crushed”
3 Pos Kota Friday, 20 May 2005 ”A Master Raped His Maid 6 Times”
4 Pos Kota Friday, 20 May 2005 ”Father-Son Died Rammed by Truck”
5 Merapi Tuesday, 17 May 2005 ”Pretty Woman Filched Clothes”
6 Merapi Tuesday, 17 May 2005 ”Green Underpants Thief Roams”
7 Memorandum Tuesday, 10 May 2005 ”Horse Nurse Bit by Horse”
8 Memorandum Tuesday, 10 May 2005 ”Keeping Hostess, Smacking Wife”
9 Lampu Merah Monday, 4 April 2005 ”Woman Introduced Woman to Her Friend, The Woman’s Husband Furious, The Man’s Head Was Split With Machete”
10 Lampu Merah Wednesday, 20 April 2005 ”7 Year Old Boy Sodomized by His Teacher, Said So He’d Be Good in English”
11 Posko Manado Thursday, 21 April 2005 ”This the most hootie, dude…!!”
12 Posko Manado Thursday, 21 April 2005 ”Shot by A Friend From 1 Meter Distance, The Head Was Holed, Wargariri Man Dropped Dead by Hot Lead”
13 Pos Metro Tuesday, 31 August 2004 “2 Girls Were Forcedly Touched ”
14 Pos Metro Monday, 26 July 2004 ”Mother Burnt Baby”

Headlines shown in Table 1 clearly show visible efforts of exaggerating facts by means of language plays (read: word games). Charnley and Charnley in their book called “Reporting” (1979) mentioned that the newspapers actual sin lies not in the actions of reporting sensational events, but by making the stories to be more imposing than reality. In this regard, Kusumaningrat and Kusumaningrat (2005, p. 69) provided an example of creating such news, for instance, by calling an easily breakable fight between two groups as a riot. Or by saying it in a sensational manner by mentioning “a truck hit utility pole,” when in reality the truck was only just grazing the pole.

In Indonesia, since the beginning, these kinds of news can be seen from the reform euphoria that excites joy of being free from power shackles that lasted for more than three decades, which is then followed by a wave of news about the evils of government leaders and the past regime. Society demands bold and detailed reports about these evils. News will not be read if they are not followed by public’s expectations to present “hot news” (Kusumaningrat, 2005, p. 69). After the political conversations subside, the next commodities are light news about rapes, murders, accidents, robberies, celebrity gossips and other frivolous events, but are packed with sensational word games. Former Chairman of PWI, Sofyan Lubis (in Susilastuti, 2000, p. 232) lamented that in the reform era, the press tend to make news that are unnecessarily heating off the atmosphere. According to him, “Headline titles are deliberately made spooky-creepy, providing super free contents written without regards to journalistic ethics.”

Addressing the phenomenon of yellow journalism in Indonesia is not about right or wrong judgments on the existence of yellow newspapers because this phenomenon is a media reality, as part of the dynamics and history of the newspaper industry itself. Also, do bear in mind that early developments of journalism in its forbear countries (United States and Britain) cannot deny the contributions of yellow paper in maintaining readers’ interest to buy newspapers, especially when the print media business suffered major depression in those countries. Thus, what needed is an effort to address the presence of yellow journalism in a proportional manner, as a logical consequence of freedom of information that is synergized with democracy system and free market mechanism.

Starting from the existence of yellow newspapers that are allegedly featuring sensational language plays through dramatization style, emotionalism and personalization in delivering their news, hence the attempts to examine sensationalism presented in yellow newspapers and how journalistic ethics overviewed needs to be done. Professional journalism, or often referred to as the ideal journalism, demands the existence of objectivity in news writing. The principle of objectivity must be met for a message to be accounted for. Among the requirements of an objective news are factual, accurate, complete, relevant, balanced, and neutral (McQuail, 1992, p. 196-204). McQuail argued further that the standard of objectivity of information would be obtained, among other things, by not presenting it in sensational manner (McQuail, 1992, p. 42).

Historical Study of Yellow Journalism

The term “yellow journalism” came from the name of a colored comic character named Hogan’s Alley that was appeared in Sunday World newspapers. Richard F. Outcault, the cartoonist, depicted the life of tenement dwellers in New York with a central figure of a toothless-rabbit teeth kid that was always grinning. When the child images appeared wearing long yellow dress which later became his trademark, he was nicknamed “The Yellow Kid.” The comic was so popular that every newspaper used the comic strip to draw the readers and was then eventually labeled as “Yellow Journalism” (Conboy, 2003, p. 60; Vivian, 2002, p. 255; Baran, 1999, p. 100).

The social setting that birthed the presence of yellow journalism was economic depression that hit the United States in 1893 until the end of 19th century. This economic depression forced newspapers owners to evaluate their newspapers performance in order to maintain the readers’ interest purchasing power of the consumers, in addition to offset tough competitions from magazine industry. Thence, they sought a way to maintain the numbers of newspapers readers. The strategies pursued by the largest newspapers owner at the time, Joseph Pulitzer (New York World) and William Randolph Hearst (New York Journal) often did not adhere to journalistic principles and code of ethics. Both were depicted as engaging in “competitions to present news that generate sensations.”

The most prominent negative excesses that came of from the fierce competition between Pulitzer and Herst were their contributions to “sharpen” the American-Spanish conflict. Both newspapers were competing to present news (which is doubtfully accurate) about the Spanish army exploits in Cuba. Under the leadership of General Valeriano Weyler, Spanish soldiers were described to conduct in killing, raping, and torturing the people of Cuba. The presented news were previously been spiced for dramatizations. Add to the element of sensationalism, the two newspapers also used fictitious illustrations depicting atrocities of Spanish army in Cuba. The goal was nothing but to raise national empathy and rejection towards foreign nations (Conboy, 2003, p. 58; Hatchen, 2005, p. 43).

Different occurrences happened in England. The history of yellow newspapers in Britain was confirmed by The Daily Mirror, founded by Alfred Harmsworth (later known as Lord Northcliffe) in 1903. Initially, this paper came with a differentiation strategy, by having it written solely by women and aimed specifically for women segments. This segmentation experiment was not successful and Northcliffe then fired all of his female reporters. The following year, Mirror was converted into a popular newspaper for general readers by presenting sensational news and features format gossips (Anwar, 2000, p. 22-24).

In Asia, yellow newspapers were first popularly developed in Japan, in early 20th century until the end of World War I in 1918. Japanese people who suffered from the renewal or Meiji Restoration since 1857 were introduced with various forms of political education, especially the teachings of western democracy. One of the most effective ways to convey this mission was by means of popular newspapers (Anwar, 2000, p. 30). Meanwhile, in Indonesia, since the 1998 reforms introduced the freedom of media, yellow newspapers were popping up in various forms, from bulletins, tabloids, magazines, to stencils whose in previous decades were already popular through pornography exposures.

The practices of yellow newspapers, when seen from the characteristics and traits inherent in yellow journalism, had actually started a long time ago, even before Indonesia’s independence. However, the main milestone of Indonesian yellow newspapers journey in modern era began with the birth of Pos Kota in 1970. Pos Kota led Harmoko and his friends existed as the popular newspaper that went “against the current” of mainstream media and mass culture at that time. The courage to be different made Pos Kota successful in the competitions of newspaper business.

When first published, Pos Kota circulation was only 3500 copies. But it turned out that readers in Jakarta could slowly accept the presence of this newspaper. This admission was perceived as major capital so that in a relatively short time, the circulations increased up to 30-60 thousand copies. Within months, Pos Kota was able to pay for paper and printing costs (Ghazali and Nasution, 2000, p. 8). A week after its publication, there were many comments from the press community questioning, “What kind of journalism is this?” Even the Minister of Information (back then) Budiarjo also commented the same. To which Harmoko replied, “Well, unless you are from middle-lower class, don’t read it.” (Ghazali and Nasution, 2000, p. 8). In the beginning of its operation, people were generally cynical about of Pos Kota appearance. There was a strong tendency to include this newspaper as akin to daily porn, pedicab, and obscene newspaper. Even in the press community itself, this daily newspaper was considered to be less intellectual (Ghazali and Nasution, 2000, p. 8).

Statistically, the success of yellow newspapers are evidenced by Pos Kota that managed to capture the interest Jakarta dwellers to access criminal news every morning as their basic needs before moving about with their activities. Pos Kota was also very popular among the lower-middle class society. In 1983 for example, its circulation reached 200,000 copies (Rahzen et al., 2007: 300). Truly a fantastic circulation numbers at the time. According to SPS data, in 2005, amid the competitions from other sensationalist media, Pos Kota‘s circulation was still showing its teeth, ranked second (200,000 copies) below Kompas, with circulation of 509,000 copies (Wikan, 2005).

In terms of the numbers of readers, according to SPS Media survey in 2000, Pos Kota readers in Greater Jakarta reached 2,304 million people, far superior to Kompas that reached 1,521 million people for Greater Jakarta (SPS Media Survey, Edition 02/First Year, November-December 2000). Likewise in 2007, based on Nielsen Media Research data, the number of Pos Kota readers in Greater Jakarta until November 2007 still ranked second, with 1,199 million readers, beating Kompas that reached 1,337 million readers.

During the New Order, Pos Kota triumphed as a sole player who filled the niche market for criminal newspaper in capital city. Some of the yellow newspapers in the area who stood and tried their luck and brought the genre ala Pos Kota were then followed suit. The most popular one was, say, Memorandum, circulating in Surabaya and East Java in general. The newspaper that was initially said to be a quality newspaper founded by the press activist students in campuses before turning into yellow newspaper was printed daily until it reached circulations above 100,000 copies.

Besides Pos Kota and Memorandum, in the article called “metamorphosis of Indonesian Press” written by Agus Sopiann (http://pwirjabar.4t.com/metapers.html), it was mentioned that during the New Order (without specifically mentioning the year) there were two pretty large print media called as “yellow newspaper”, namely Gala and Bandung Pos. Gala, a newspaper brought by Media Indonesia that was published in Bandung, was originally classified as yellow newspaper, but slowly turned into a quality newspaper, or at least popular newspaper, while Bandung Pos, which is a “child” of Pikiran Rakyat, was the first daily tabloid in Indonesia back then, with circulation reaching 60,000 copies per day. Sopian rated that perhaps Bandung Pos‘s key to success lied in its editorial policies to sharply erode the brand image of “local government bulletin.” Another strategy performed by Bandung Pos was by featuring two middle pages in full color, decorated with photographs of beautiful women considered as “staggering” at that moment (Sopiann, http://pwirjabar.4t.com/metapers.html).

In subsequent developments, the reform climate that gave birth towards many new newspapers which can be categorized as yellow newspapers, among others, are Non-Stop and Lampu Merah, which are published in Jakarta. Meteor, which is published in Semarang, Posko in Manado, Pos Metro is published in three cities at once (Bogor, Medan, Batam), and Merapi in Yogyakarta. These names are some examples of yellow newspapers which are published recently but able to attract public attentions due to their sensational news presented within.

Lampu Merah is a phenomenon of yellow newspaper success in Indonesia, which was published after the reform era. In a relatively short time after its establishment in November 26, 2001, the newspaper managed to capture readers as many as 1,3 million in 2004 and reached BEP (Break Even Point) in less than one year (http://forum.kafegaul.com/showthread.php?t=135908). In 2005, Lampu Merah entered its fourth year and had been through a fantastic circulation of 225 thousand copies. But after several times of fuel charge peaks, circulation dropped to around 125 thousand copies (http://forum.kafegaul.com/showthread.php?t=135908).

Characteristics of Yellow Journalism

Briefly, it can be formulated that the yellow newspaper is a newspaper which is less or tend to not heeding the general rules of applied journalism (Conboy, 2003, p. 56). Yellow newspapers coverage that is based on illusion, imagination and fantasy are what made it known as journalism that sells sensations. So strong is element of sensationalism reside their news, making this element known as the characteristic of yellow journalism (Conboy, 2003, p. 56; Yusuf, 2006, p. 8; 2007, p. 8; 2008, p. 8; Adhiyasasti & Riyanto, 2006, p. 118; Sumadiria, 2005, p. 40).

Besides the elements of sensationalisms and dramatizations in their news writing, another main characteristic of yellow newspaper is the use of visual aspects that tend to exaggerate, even keen on more dominant than the news texts itself. Examples of visual aspects used by yellow newspapers are: (1) Scare-heads; headlines that give the effect of fear, written in a very large font size, printed in black or red. Often contains frivolous news, (2) excessive uses of photographs and images, and (3) Sunday supplements, containing colored comics and trivial articles (Conboy, 2003, p. 57). Conboy (2003, p. 57) also added the verbal techniques inherent in yellow newspapers, bearing various types of impersonations and frauds, such as false stories and interviews, misleading titles, pseudo-science, even titles full of lies.

In addition to using the above techniques, yellow newspapers also focus their preaching on controversial issues to provoke debates and gossips. Controversial issues are deliberately raised to attract as many readers as possible, especially those of middle-lower class in urban areas. Among the issues that often provoked controversies those related to the elements of sex, conflict and crime or some people call it as HVS-9G (read as Nine Grams HVS)—a word games for Horror, Violence, Sex, Ghost and Glamorous, or HVSGG (Hamad, 2007, p. 202). In America these newspapers also bear various nicknames, including jazz papers (rah-rah newspapers), boulevard newspapers (roadside newspapers) and Gutter newspapers (gutter newspaper).

According to Adhiyasasti & Rianto (2006, p. 116-117), the characteristics of yellow newspapers in Indonesia are focused on the first page. Related to this page, there are at least four prominent features. First, the installations of criminal events photos and pictures of women emphasizing on sexuality of the female body. Second, large headlines with striking colors such as red, blue, yellow, and green. Third, the number of news items on the homepage. If a newspaper usually bears a general set of 5 to 8 items of news, the number of news displayed on the front page of yellow newspapers are ranging from 10 to 25 news items. The news format is very brief, often evens just the title and lead and then continued on pages inside. Oddly enough, there are quite a few titles printed so large that the size exceeds the news content itself. Fourth, judging from the loaded ads, yellow newspapers in Indonesia are typically featuring a variety of forms of advertising that are considered vulgar, sometimes equipped with photos, drawings, or sensational words. The ads are generally sexual and the supernatural (occult) in nature. For example, advertising for penis enlargement for males or breasts for female, phone sex services, message, sex toys, paranormal, and alternative healings.

Meanwhile, Sumadiria (2005, p. 40) states, one of the characteristics of yellow newspapers are the use of journalistic approach that emphasizes the elements of sex, conflict and crime. These three themes frequently appear gracing the pages of yellow newspapers. Sumadiria added that this kind of media only raised low-taste issues and images. In addition, yellow press is also not credible since their opinions and facts are often merged, assimilated, obscured or even distorted. Standard rules of journalism is not required; news are not necessarily grounded in facts but could be based on illusion, imagination and fantasy. Sumadiria mentioned some layout criteria that are commonly implemented by yellow newspapers, among other things: presentation by exploiting many colors–all kinds of colors are displayed to attract attentions; irregular arrangements and overlapping titles; choices of words are not needed since yellow press does not adopt proper writing titles patterns and word usages; anything can be used and tested (Sumadiria, 2005, p. 40).

Identifying Sensationalism in Yellow Newspapers

The word “sensation” is English language in origin. The root of the word sensation–the “sense“, is actually already enough to describe what we called as sensation news, that is, the news which contains and especially methods of presentation that are aimed to attract attentions, evoke feelings and human emotions. Thus, sensational news is supposed to be great, astonishing, made people struck with admiration and amazement, or horror. In short, it should be able to excite a variety of feelings (Kusumaningrat and Kusumaningrat, 2005, p. 66-67).

To identify patterns of news sensationalisms, we can use sensationalism concept which was elaborated from Denis McQuail as outlined in the book titled Media Performance (1992, p. 233). McQuail (1992, p. 233) gave three dimensions to assess the presence or absence of sensationalism in reporting, that is personalization, emotionalism, and dramatization. McQuail formulation was then made operational by the Press Council Research Team (2006, p. 24-25) as a frame of reference for research on the objectivity of news in Indonesian newspapers.

To complete formulations from McQuail (1992) and Press Council Research Team (2006) about sensationalism in news writing, this paper adds a new relevant dimension to observe the patterns of yellow newspapers’ headline sensationalisms, namely opining. Discussion about opining in researches regarding sensationalism becomes critical because in practice, presentation of sensational news always tinged with opinions from the involved reporters, or at least the efforts of mixing facts and opinions rather than the actual reality in an objective manner (Adhiyasasti and Rianto, 2006, p. 123). In other contexts, news of the yellow newspapers also led to systemic opining practices, namely the conscious formation of opinions, tendentiousness and pretentiousness, which are directly written using various narratives.

Complete comprehension regarding the four dimensions that can be used to identify patterns of news sensationalisms are explained as follows. First, sensationalism is seen by the presence or absence of dramatization. Dramatization can be understood as a form of presentation or news writing that is dramatic in nature and exaggerating facts with the intention of causing dramatic effects to his readers (Press Council Research Team, 2006, p. 25). This dramatic effect is believed to help the readers to be more “lively experienced” the live events being presented. Dramatization is indicated from the existence of hyperboles—that is, a language style intentionally used to overstate or exaggerate an actual event. For instance: “Bank Interest Skyrockets“, can actually be said as “Bank Rates Rise.” “Poverty Surges“, can be written simply as, “Poverty Rates Increase.” Another example, “Hundreds of Millions of BLT Fund is circumcised.” The hundreds of millions in this case are clearly exaggerated because it is not clear whether that hundreds of millions mean 100 million, 200 million, 500 million, or 900 million. In addition, the use of the word “Circumcised” should also be wrote simply as “Cut” or “Corrupted“.

Secondly, sensationalism is seen by the presence or absence of emotionalism. Emotionalism can be defined as the efforts of protruding aspects of emotion (love, hate, sadness, joy, anger, despair, and so forth) rather than rational and logical aspects in presenting a story (Press Council Research Team, 2006, p. 25). Although the use of emotionalism may be able to “live-up” a story, aspects of neutrality and objectivity in news reporting demand a presentation spoken with control and rational logic. Protrusion of emotions in the news reduces news neutrality (Press Council Research Team, 2006, p. 25). For instance: “Indonesia Cries over the Defeats of Taufik Hidayat” or “Preserve Ambalat, Crush Malaysia!” The titles in these stories are using the emotional sides associated with the sense of nationalism and patriotism instead of clear reasons and rational thinking.

Third, sensationalism is seen by the presence or absence of personalization. Personalization can be defined as a view to see a particular individual as the main actor or the single most influential person in an event. In other words, personalization can be interpreted as a view that reduces an event to an individual (person). Grammatically, it is also called pars pro toto. Personalization built through the mass media can also led to individual occultism, namely the assumption that a person has certain supernatural advantages (Press Council Research Team, 2006, p. 25). For instance: “SBY Raised Fuel Prices.” The use of “SBY” persona here is considered excessive because it obscures the real persons that it might be a teamwork doing, not just President Yudhoyono himself. It would be more accurate to say that it is “the Government” who raised fuel prices, rather than SBY per se.

Fourth, sensationalism is seen by the presence or absence of opining. It can be interpreted as reporter’s opinions in the news. Opining is also interpreted as mixing between facts and opinions that obscures the real facts. In standard conception of journalism, providing opinion is forbidden because the task of a journalist is solely to report facts. But most journalists cannot help but doing so, due to many factors, starting from the spirit of dedication to defend public interests, to simply baseless opinion to embellish a story and make it sensational. An example of opining in yellow newspapers can be seen from the quote: “O, how poor is the fate of this old widow. While boiling the noodles in her house…she fell and knocked the stove off until her body was on fire, etc.” (Pos Kota, July 27, 2004). The first sentence is clearly an opinion of the journalist. New facts presented in the second sentence and so on and so forth. Similar examples are also shown in Meteor news on August 1, 2008, entitled “It’s Time for Parliament Members to Perform Junub Bath, Their Wealth are filth, Their Life As Well” with the lead as follows. “Corruption scandal involving the entire congregation members of the House of Representatives Commission IX 1994-2004 periods is really disgusting. Parliament members are smeared with corruptions, womanizing out of corruption money. Their body is filth. Hence, it’s time for their junub bath.”

The use of sensational language on yellow newspapers showed that their main strategy to attract and retain readers’ interest, as revealed by Conboy (2003, p. 56) and Hatchen (2005, p. 43) is by exploiting sensational elements of an event. Pretty often yellow newspapers reported certain issues which were only limited to the extent of conflict disclosure without facts and relevant supporting evidences. As noted by Ghimire (http://english.ohmynews.com/), the tendency of such negative news is allegedly an instant way to satisfy the desires of the media consumers (readers and advertisers). This view is also consistent with Fung’s (2006, p. 190) who theorized that sensational languages are often written not based on sound reasoning or logic, as solely intended to ignite curiosity, emotion, empathy, even sensual pleasure for the readers.

As an illustration, the following is a quote that accentuates vulgarism written by Lampu Merah: “The woman’s ass was bleeding, and sperm fluids were seen surrounding her vagina…” (Lampu Merah, August 30, 2008), or in the following excerpt: “Arriving at home, Fera complained to have just been forcedly raped by Rusmin. And her vagina is smeared by Rusmin’s sperm.” (Lampu Merah, August 29, 2008) is actually not much different in terms of vulgar words usages as depicted by Shaw (1984, as quoted by Adhiyasasti and Rianto, 2006, p. 114) to model the dramatization techniques accompanied by vulgarisms on news writing regarding crime stories in yellow newspapers in United States, such as: (1) “Park then inserted a bar of soap into her pussy…” (Nashville Banner newspaper, published without time stamp) (2) “[They] … sodomized her and forced her to commit oral copulation [and he]…urinated on her…”

Judging from the technical aspects of news writing, yellow newspapers are often violate the rules of news writing that—in theory—demands an efficient use of journalistic language, which is simple, concise, dense, and clear (Fink, 1998; Salzman, 1998; Mencher, 2000; Cappon, 2000; Burns, 2004; Newsom & Wollert, 1985; and Dale & Pilgrim, 2005). In practice, though, the sensationalism are shown by yellow newspapers through the use of syntax patterns at the level of words, phrases, and sentences that in the end creates the sensational language, by highlighting the dramatization, emotionalism, personalization and opining. This condition is consistent with the views of DeFleur and Ball-Rokeach (1989, p. 267), which states that for the mass media, the existence of language is no longer solely means as a tool to describe an event, but could actually shape the image that will appear in the minds of audiences, including to attract attentions, evoke feelings and human emotions as the purpose of sensationalism itself, which according to Kusumaningrat and Kusumaningrat (2005, p. 66-67) is called as “must be able to excite a variety of feelings.”


In the working procedures of journalism, journalists must avoid sensational presentation of a news, as the Fink’s views (1995, p. 63-64) that states that since the beginning, the ethics of writing news are closely related to the selection of news sources and how the quotes are selected. News sources are very influential in the formation of public opinions, while the selection of quotations by journalists in pursuit of sensation could be a “trap” in itself and has the potential to hide certain opinions of a specific resource (the sin of disguised opinion).

Seeing the “danger” that can be generated by the selection of quotations loaded with journalism sensationalisms, yellow newspapers are supposedly able to maintain objectivity. Objectivity relates to media neutrality in reporting an issue. However, it must be admitted that there is no way any media coverage could be one hundred percent pure objective and neutral. Nevertheless, the media could attempt to optimally approach that particular objective attitude. Moreover, in general, yellow newspapers still have to go back to their root functions as the mass media. As said by Robert F. Kennedy (in Rivers, Jensen, & Peterson, 2003, p. 99), “Newspaper is proportional to the courts, sometimes even more so, in protecting the fundamental rights of the people.” Robert Kennedy’s opinion is closely tight with media responsibilities in the life of a free society.

[1] Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Iwan Awaluddin Yusuf, S.IP, M.Si,  Communication Department, Islamic University of Indonesia. Jl. Kaliurang Km. 14,4 Yogyakarta 55584. E-mail: iwan.awaluddin@gmail.com