Table Topics Theme – Hot Topics

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Quote:"We are here for serious business. Our business is the encouragement of better speech, and the conservation of the great American right to freedom of speech by making speech more truly worthy of its freedom." Smedley 1947

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Hot topics show up daily in newspaper, airwaves and on the Internet. The "hotter" and more controversial the topic the better the sales. William Randolph Hearst would be proud of American media's yellow journalism.

Yellow Journalism - Fake News

Yellow journalism is an American term, coined in the late 1890s, to describe New York City newspaper magnets Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst style of news reporting. The term is applied to journalists, newspapers and news media that present little or no legitimate well-researched news and rely upon catchy headlines written specifically to increase sales. The term "fake news" is a modern expression to describe the practices of reporting news in an unprofessional, unethical hair-on-fire, sky-is-falling fashion.

Yellow journalism is minimally described to contain the following five characteristics (per American historian and journalist Frank Luther Mott):

  • Scare headlines in huge print, often of minor news
  • Lavish use of pictures, or imaginary drawings
  • Use of faked interviews, misleading headlines, pseudoscience, and a parade of false learning from so-called experts
  • Emphasis on full-color Sunday supplements, usually with comic strips
  • Dramatic sympathy with the "underdog" against the system

Varieties of Yellow, Fake Journalism

  • Tabloid journalism (aka rag newspaper) This style of journalism emphasizes:
    • Sensational crime stories
    • Gossip columns about celebrities and sports stars
    • Extreme political views
    • Opinions from one perspective
    • Junk food news
    • Astrology
  • Documentary maker Chris Atkins describes his hoax news, celebrity stories printed by newspapers
  • Checkbook journalism - The practice of news reporters paying sources for information without verifying the story's truth or accuracy.
  • Examples of Yellow Journalism:
  • Fake News of the 19th century
  • Serious consequences: Propaganda of the Spanish–American War
  • Modern day yellow journalism

Pretty Heady Stuff

Any of this seem familiar with headlines sreaming for attention today?

Hot topics are hot enough without sensationalism and hyperbole. Maybe that's why Toastmaster founder, Ralph C. Smedley, encouraged Toastmasters to be seekers of truth, protectors of free speech and guardians of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Somebody has to be the kid who says, "The King has no clothes!

Easy Hot Topics

We can't expect to learn to congenially introduce a "hot topic" all at once. Here are some hot-topic-light questions to get the motor started.

  • What does your significant other do that never fails to hit your hot button?
  • What is your personal "hot potato" that never fails gets you riled up and excited?
  • What are the hottest, most important issues politicians neglect to address?
  • Describe who is the boss in your house?
  • Is wrong is wrong even if it's "hot" and everyone is doing it?
  • Have you had your goose cooked lately?
  • How hot would you be if everyone told the truth?
  • What do you do when you're in a hot argument and realize that you are wrong?

On the Opinion Front: Things to ponder.