The public always relate social ills or social problems with teenagers from the age of 13 to 20 years old. Unfortunately, social problems have occurred in every corner around the world including Malaysia. It is one of the most serious problems that are growing worldwide. Most of the teenagers around the world are facing the similar social ills, such as, drug abuse, bully, abortion, alcohol problems, free sex and other social problems.

Nowadays, newspapers in Malaysia especially are filled with stories or news pertaining the undesirable social problems involving teenagers.

The news about the issues of social ills among the teenagers sometime seems to be written more exaggerate and sometimes more directly. In this way it will grab the attention of the readers. Apart from that, it will also ensure that the readers especially the public becoming more alert on what happen to the teenagers today.

The main reason for this study is that the researchers want to collect the information pertaining to this topic which is the coverage of social ills among teenagers in Malaysian newspaper either objective of sensational.

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Therefore, in the following discussion, the researchers will discuss about the objective of the study on the coverage of social ills among teenagers in Malaysian newspaper: objective or sensational.

The study also aims to:

i) To study on the significance of Malaysian newspaper coverage on social ills among teenagers.

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ii) To gather the information on the positive and the negative effects caused by the Malaysian newspaper coverage of social ills among teenagers.

Read more: Social Problem Essays

Literature Review

Today, the newspaper plays a vital role and people nowadays are more relying on the newspaper to know what happen in their society, country and also around the world. In this situation, the newspaper can be said as a part of mankind life. For instance, by reading a newspaper, people will know what crisis do the country face, what are the problems that involving the youngsters today and some other news. Technologies today make it easier for us to get the latest news. Therefore, in this paper, researchers mainly focus on the coverage of social problems among teenagers in Malaysian newspaper.

According to sociologists, Coleman and Cressey (1999), people usually think of a social problem as any condition that is harmful to the society. However, social problem might be harmful to some segment of the society but are beneficial to the people who involved in. Therefore, Coleman & Cressey (1999) have defined a social problem as “a social problem exists when there is a sizeable difference between the ideals of a society and its actual achievements” (p. 3). In addition to that, social problems also exist when there are a number of people believe in that particular problem.

Social problem exists because of the members in the society at a given point in time have become conscious of a condition in which it is undesirable and subjected to be improved. According to Baltimore (1966), social problem happens when an organized society’s ability to order a relationship between the people in the society are seen to be failing. Besides that, social problem also are created due to the failure to close the gap between the way people want thing to be and the way things really are. The term “mat rempit” is one of the examples of the social problem in which involve the youth today.

Law and ethics in journalism

According to Keeble (2005) states that ethic are based upon the universal values such as, accuracy, honesty, fairness, respect for privacy and the avoidance of discrimination and conflicts of interest. Journalism according to Frost is,“ presenting facts that have been properly researched and checked and put together in an attempt to present readers or viewers with a coherent factual story about an issue or event that will be of interest ”( p. 55).

Objectivity in journalism cannot be separated from the concept of ‘truth’ and ‘reality’. Thakurta ( 2009), stated that, ‘ objectivity’ is not the same as being ‘objective’. He added that, being objective requires a person to see the world as it really is and shedding the restraints of the subjective interpretation. Apart from that, according to Shaw;

“When writing a story, journalists often balance the opposing sides of an issue as if their story is the only one that the public will see. Journalists do this because they want to be objective, or if that seems impossible, to be fair and balanced. This is true even though most journalists and editors have concluded that objectivity is impossible and, like magazine magnate Henry Luce, know they can only aim for fairness. Fairness and objectivity go together. Scholar Jay Rosen writes:”Objectivity is about informing the public; it tells us to worry about things like accuracy, balance and fairness” (1997, p.303).

Apart from that, according to Wilkins & Christians (2008), they stated that, the modern journalism ethics was build based on the two pillars which is the pillar of truth and also objectivity. Beside that, the objectivism in the journalism is a hold toward the belief or the statement is true and if the belief or the statement is true then it will accurately describe some object, facts or the state of affair in the real world. Brucker stated that;

“A report is objective if and only if it is a factual and accurate recording of an event. It reports only the facts, and eliminates comment, interpretation, and speculation by the reporter. The report is neutral between rival views on an issue”. (1949, p. 21)

Wilkins & Christians said that, there are six ideals that help to distinguish type of story and to organize the content of the news products. The ideals according to Wilkins and Christians can be analyzed into six standard;

“ (1) standard of factuality: reports are based on verified facts; (2) standard of balance and fairness: reports balance and fairly represent the main viewpoints on an issue; (3) standard of non-bias: the report’s prejudices and interest do not distort reports; (4) standard of independence: journalists are free report without fear or favor; (5) standard of non-interpretation: reporters do not put their interpretations into reports; (6) standard of neutrality: reporters do not take sides in disputes”. (2008, p. 74)

Baker, Anderson and Dorn (1993), said that, journalists sometimes have a special interest in particular social problems. Those social problems include corruption in government, street crimes or the evil in bureaucracy. Besides that, the researchers found that the journalist will always search for a new way to write news or stories it can be sensed or objectively. In some cases, the mass media especially the presses often exaggerate this tense situation and present them as a chaotic scene. Journalists will report it as news when the public defines a social problem that occurs during that particular time as a problematic.

Newspaper and their impact on the reader

The media especially the presses have the power that it collectively acts as a provider to the audiences with a “ windows on the world” or in the other words ‘ definition of social reality”. It’s been stated by O’Sullivan, et al., (1998), the media play a role as a powerful agency in which it’s capable of shaping and direct the public and private understanding of the world awareness in term of the social, economic, technologies and political affairs. Besides that, the media also are an agent the provide images , interpretation and explanation of what happen around the world. For instance, the social problems that happen in Malaysia which the media especially the newspaper cover the stories might influence the readers based on what the reporters write the story either they being objective in writing the stories of being sensational in writing the new

According to Agee (1994), newspaper exist to inform and influence the society in which they are publish and the men and women who produced them sharing the same urge to the news. For instance, in the social problems among the teenagers, the newspaper will cover the issues or the news by making the stories more interesting in order to influence the society. In addition to that, the journalists who write the news might support the idea of the story. Therefore, the newspaper has played a major role in forming public opinion and affecting national and international efforts forward the progressing of the economy and global understanding.

Apart from that, the researchers also noticed that the news coverage by the Malaysian newspaper on the issue of social problems can be easily accessed by the readers nowadays. In this situation, the local journalist will use the framing technique to influence the reader about the matters.

Framing technique refers to how to think about the issue. Framing according to Tartar, framing is a process in which it refers to the possibility of perceiving and presenting the social reality in such organized manners. Apart from that, frame also can be referred as a concept in organizing the event so that its can make sense. Framing have been used in both presents the news and information by the media and receiving and interpreting the information from the audience. Here, the media used the framing to structure their news to represent a work routine of journalists apart from help to identify and classify the information so that it can become intelligible for their target audiences. Besides that, in the journalistic practice, framing have been in influencing the news structure.

In addition to that, the newspaper will cover at least three stories in one newspaper in order to get the attention of the readers. In all these stories, the reporters will put some pictures of the stories and left it the readers interpretation. However, the reporters might be biased to the news so that they can influence the readers in the particular news especially in the news of the social problem that involving the teenagers today. For some, they might exaggerate the news on where the problem somehow is not that big whereby the journalist will do a follow up about the particular stories.

Research Methodology

Data analysis

a) Thematic analysis

According to Braun and Clarke (2006), thematic analysis is a method for identifying, analyzing, and reporting patterns (themes) within the data. By using qualitative methods, researchers can describe the relationship between the themes that has been developed from the literature review. So, according to Ryan and Bernard (2000) which cited in Braun and Clarke (2006), it is stated that thematic analysis locate thematic coding as a process performed within ‘major’ analytic traditions (such as grounded theory), rather than a specific approach in its own right.

Thus, by using thematic analysis, researchers know what they want to analyze and with the method that has been selected match with what researchers wants to know, therefore, it will lead to result either it is relevant to the previous study or vice versa. This method will be used throughout the study wherever verbal qualitative data is involved and will be done by grouping all words or even the whole phrases into common themes so that a broad picture of study will be made clearer for analysis.

b) Descriptive statistics

Certain data will be organized into a set of figures on which we could based on our analysis. Because of this study is largely on qualitative one, we will only use this method to estimate information that can be calculated objectivity and thus be classified into clear-cut categories. The informations that we have in the newspaper which is in The Star and New Straits Times regarding the coverage on the social ills among teenagers will then be compared to help us form a fair judgement of the newspaper itself.

Data collection

a) Document analysis

Based on the analysis, researchers found that The Star newspaper cover more news on the issues compare to the New Straits Times. Information in a newspaper is conveyed in the contents of the newspaper in which the contents will be examined to find any direct or indirect hint to the concept of the coverage of social ills among teenagers in Malaysian newspaper whether it is objective or sense.

b) Face-to-face interviews

Ten respondents, both male and female, which are the undergraduate students of International Islamic University Malaysia but from different kulliyyah, were interviewed for an average duration of 5-15 minutes each. To maintain an even analysis of their responses, we give the same set of questions to every respondent. In this study, researchers have used the qualitative method which is an in-depth interview, whereby the respondents will be asked regarding their perception on certain topics.

According to Taylor and Bogdan, (1998) they define in-depth interview as “repeated face to face encounters between the researcher and informants directed toward understanding informants’ perspectives on their lives, experiences or situations as expressed in their own words”(p. 88).

In-depth interview is used to enable the researchers to gain access in order to provide both a deep and broad view of situations, people or settings. Not only that, it also enables participants to describe what is meaningful or important to them using their own words rather than being restricted to predetermined categories, thus participants may feel more relaxed and candid. Qualitative research was chosen rather than quantitative research in this study because it is more flexible. Most importantly, the respondents must have the experience of reading the newspaper whether The Star or New Straits Times in order be respondents for this study.

Findings and Discussion

Document analysis

Based on the analysis, researchers found that The Star newspaper cover more news on the issues compare to the New Straits Times. The percentage of both newspaper – The Star and New Straits Times – on the coverage of social ills among teenagers.


Based on the pie chart, 65% shown that The Star newspaper cover more on the issues on social ills among the teenagers compare to the New Straits Times only cover 35% of the issues related to the social ills among the teenagers.

A fair discussion on the scope of the stories that being covered by the Malaysian newspaper on the issue of the social problems among the teenagers because although both newspapers – The Star and New Strait Times- reported on the same issue which is social problems but, both newspapers show a different headline and the headlines might carry slightly different content of the news. Besides that, from the headlines of the news, it offers the readers a glance of what the news is all about.

The Star for example, has the headlines saying that “Popping desingner pills”, in where from the headlines itself it does not totally tell the readers on what the story is about. Instead, in order to know more details the readers need to read the whole news . Apart from that, New Strait Times the headlines of the news however more direct and the news are more compact compared to The Star . In other words, when the readers read the news they already have an idea on what the news are all about. For instance, the news of “Teenager held over drug trafficking”, whereby in this particular headline, the readers can predict on what the news is all about and the writer has written the news to be more compact so that the readers can understand.

The headlines of the news from both newspaper-The Star and New Strait Times- sometimes might be objective sometimes sensational. At this point of view, for The Star headline “ Girl drawn into weird world of masochism”, for the researchers it sounded too sensational. This is because, the headline was to exaggerate by saying “ weird world” and “ masochism”. In addition to that, the article also stated that “ KUANTAN- A 16-year-old girl was drawn into a bizarre world of sadomasochism by a ‘ Datuk’ and a so-called sultan after she fell in love with

another teenager over the phone”. Based on the writing of the article is seem to sensational due to the word “ bizarre”. Apart from that, for the researchers also found that the word “ masochism” are too bombastic and the readers sometimes might not able to guess what are the meaning of the word.

However, compared to the New Strait Times for instance in the news of “ Teen flushes newborn baby down the toilet” the headlines seem to be simple for the researchers point of view. In addition to that, from the headlines also, the researchers can get a glimpse of what are the news are all about.

In addition to the coverage of the Malaysian newspaper on the issue of social problems involving the teenagers, the other theme that the researchers choose to use is in in term of the information of the news that’s been covered by both newspaper- The Star and New Strait Times. In this research, the researchers found that, The Star has given more information on the issue of social ills among the teenagers compared to New Strait Times which sometime they might give a full story of the issue and sometimes they might just give a brief story of that particular issue.

The Star for instance “ Baby was alive when trown”. Even though the headline of the news seems quite sensation but the information is comprehensive to the readers. Moreover, in spite the news are comprehensive but the information that’s been presented in the news might be sensational according to the researchers. This is because, the “flung” is referring to the acts of violence. However, in the New Strait Times, they have provided the information completely such as in the news of “ Master’s student held over derogatory Facebook posting” . In this the writer being objective in writing this news according to the researchers point of view. Here, the researchers found that, the New Strait Times covered this particular news is objective in which the writer wrote exactly what happen. And this is what the reporters or the writer should do.

Ethical is another theme that the researchers choose in this research. Being ethical in writing is a very important aspect for the journalists. In this research, the researchers found that, both newspaper- The Star and New Strait Times- sometimes being ethical in writing the news on the issue of the social problems among the teenagers.

For instance, on the issue of raping the teenagers in which both newspapers have different writing for the input of the story. The Star wrote that “ 50 years for raping a teenage girl”. Meanwhile for New Strait Times wrote something else “ 25 year’s jail raping minor”. In this situation the researchers found it unethical because both newspapers reported in the same issue but different information for the readers. Here, for the researchers, the news must be similar and what made the news differently either its been written in the human interest news or the hard news.

Furthermore, both newspapers stir the information in order to influence the readers. For The Star it stated that, “ Court also sentences ‘cruel person’ to 18 strokes of the rotan”, and for New Strait Times, “ NO MERCY: Father of two also ordered to receive 18 strokes of the rotan”. Here, from what’s been written in both articles researchers can see how the media try to frame for the news which for the The Star they used the term ‘ cruel person’ and New Strait Times they used the term ‘ father of two’. Both terms seem to be the way how the newspapers want to attract the readers and to set the mindset of the readers toward the particular person that involve in this case. Therefore, researchers found that, these terms seem to sensational to use in the news.

Face-to-face interviews

The interview questions are structured around six main issues: (1) how the news coverage on social ills among teenagers; (2) does the news attract the readers on that particular issue; (3) the believe on the readers on the news that they read; (4) their opinion whether the news have hidden agenda on the issue related to social ills; (5) how the newspaper report the issue; and (6) their opinion on how to improve the writing about social ills. The full summary of findings from the interviews can be seen in Appendix 22.

Most of the respondents have agreed that the Malaysian newspaper covers the issue on social ills among teenagers were comprehensive since they regularly read the newspaper. They also know what are the informations that the journalist should write in the news in order to make the readers understand and also they want to know what is actually happening in our society. When it comes to how the news covers by the newspaper in Malaysia, two of them (Syura and Saiful) said that the news covers the issues is not that comprehend because somehow the journalist tend to exaggerate more than the real story but it rather sufficient.

When questioned about whether the news covers by the newspaper really attract them or not, all of them clearly assert their opinion that the news do attract them to read on that particular issue, since the title or the headline of the news related to social ills among teenagers is really eye catching and also the words that the writers have been used in reporting the news itself were attractive so that the readers can easily understand what are the main points that the reporters want to delivered on that particular issues. Only one of the respondents (Asilah) said that the news coverage of the newspaper in Malaysia does not attract her to read on that issue at all. It is because most of the time this particular newspaper which is the headline, the one that we see on the front cover is not about social issues while there was a time before but lately, it’s more on political issues and what is going on outside the country like the big issues happening in this world.

Besides that, the only way to get to know about social issues through newspaper is that the readers have to look into it and also have to read from one page to another or else they won’t find it. There is also one of the respondents (Saiful) said that, when refer to certain newspaper like Metro and Kosmo, the headline is basically more to tabloid which is cannot gain interest because he would prefer to read about things like economics, social which is not social issues but current issues or what happen in this world and what happen to our economy and so on. So, for him if the journalist keeps on having such headline it would really be something which is for a person who need an intellectual stimulus to read this kind of news. All in all, he said that the news in the newspaper not really attractive and prefers anything else.

In the believe of the readers regarding the social ills among teenagers in Malaysian newspaper, most of them said that they believe on such informations because the journalists being objective when reporting the issues and also they have provided some materials like photos or pictures related to that issue in order to make the readers more confident and believe in the issues that has been reported. However there are also respondents (Saiful, Fazman and Syura) said that the news sometimes being reported by the journalists in somehow tend to exaggerate on that particular issue. When it comes to tabloids, since the mission is to sell their newspaper, they will simply sensationalize things more than giving the true facts to the readers in order to make the readers buy their newspaper. The journalists will create the story so that the readers will be attracted to know more about that particular issues that have been reported. Besides that, there is also a newspaper which is not reliable and authentic like Sinar and Harakah which is not under the governments.

Whereas, the news that is reported in The Star, New Straits Times, Berita Harian and Utusan Malaysia will be basically given the true facts rather than exaggerate on things and the contents are reliable. There is one respondents (Asilah) said that she will just believe on some of the informations that is true but not all of them. She also said that the news cannot be trusted 100% because sometimes the sources are not coming from one source but from lots of sources. So, in this case, when the informations come from lots of sources, then the sources will be not so accurate and somehow the journalists will add more on some issues that have occurred. All in all, the readers would believe on certain news that they think is rational but not the news that is not serious enough to be discussed in the newspaper itself. To believe in the news that has been reported in the Malaysian newspaper actually depends on the newspaper itself and also the readers to believe in that particular news.

On the issue of hidden agenda by the newspaper, only one of the respondents ( Hidayah) said that the news on the issue of social problems involving the teenager seem quiet controversial. This because, from her point of view she sees that the news sometimes want to portray a negative image on certain matters especially when it come to Islam. Two of the respondents ( Asilah and Hanis) saying that sometimes there are certain hidden agenda on certain social problems. Both of them also stated that, the hidden agenda is related to the political aspect especially and it also depends on the source. Three of the respondents ( Syura, Azmi and Hazneeda ) agree that there is a hidden agenda on the news article that being reported by both newspaper- The Star and New Strait Times- on the issue of social problems among the teenagers.

One of the respondents, Syura, states that the cases of social problems portray how the government govern the country. She says that the government govern the country are based on the opinion of the hidden agenda and base on that they try to manipulate the mind of the people. This hidden agenda usually being used by the opposition party. The rest of the interviewees agree that there is no hidden agenda of the news article that been reported by both newspapers-The Star and New Strait Times. The respondent, Saiful, he says there is no hidden agenda on the issue of social problems but rather the issue of social problems was sensationalized to attract the readers and not present the way on how to prevent the problems.

When being asked about does the newspaper in Malaysian covered the news of social problems among teenager, most of the respondents said that the newspapers do a good job in reporting the issue because they report on what exactly happen in the society involving the teenagers. One of the respondents, Syura, she says the newspaper does a good job in reporting the issue because the journalists know their rules and ethics when it come to write the news on this particular issue.

However, one respondent (Saiful), states the coverage of Malaysian newspapers was not that comprehensive because the scope for the newspaper to cover on the issue of social problems are limited. Adding to that, he also states that, the coverage of the news seems sufficient to create and awareness towards that public on the issue old social problems. The other two respondents prone to say that the newspapers in Malaysia have not done a good job in reporting the issue. Hanis says that, what’s been reported by the newspaper about the issue of social ills seem to be encouraging people to do those behaviors and for some newspaper, they attempt to ignore the sensitivity of the public. This act is totally unethical.

All of the respondents seem to be agreed that the newspaper in Malaysia need to improve their way on writing mainly when it come to write the report on the social problems among teenagers so that the news won’t be too objective of sensational. They agree that the journalists should be ethically in writing the news about the issue of social problems. This means that, they want journalists to write what happen precisely about the issue and not exaggerate the issues. One of the respondents (Syura) states, the headlines of the news on the issue can be exaggerated to attract the readers but the contents must be objective enough. Asilah says that to improve, the journalists have to be more ethical when it come to reporting the news.


As a conclusion, the journalists have to be objective when writing the news on any issues especially in the issue of social problems. However, when the journalists being sensational on the news it will go against the ethical aspect of journalism. This is because, to be a journalist, he or she must be ethically enough when cover a news on any issues either that issues happen in or outside the country.

There are legal and ethical implication toward the journalists when it comes to cover the news. In reporting the issue especially the issue of social problems involving the teenagers, it is fundamental for the journalists to report the news correctly and respect the public right to fair and the accuracy of the news. Therefore, the editors of the news should be critical in checking the news to ensure the accuracy of the news. Apart from that, the journalists need to ensure the editorial material in the news pertaining to the issue of social problems is clear and unambiguously represent the real story.

From the Islamic perspective, as a journalist he or she will use the method of observation of what happen in the society for instance, social problems among the teenagers. In using the faculty of observation, the journalists need to understand that it is the Amanah from Allah to tell the society the truth. Apart from that, it is important for the journalists not to hurt any human soul just for the sake of making the newspaper famous. Hamid Mowlana states the responsibilities of the Muslim journalist as;

“To destroy myths. In our contemporary world these myths may include power, progress, science, development, modernization, democracy, achievement, and success. Personalities as they represent these must not be superhumanized and superdefined… Under the principle of Tawhid another fundamental consideration in communication [another important duty of Muslim journalists] becomes clear: the destruction of thought structures based on dualism, racialism, tribalism, and familial superiority… One of the dualisms according to this principle, is the secular notion of the separation of religion and politics” ( p. 141-142).


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