My corner of Florida has been over run by college students on Spring break. While Daytona Beach, Miami and Fort Lauderdale have lost market share over the past 40-years to Texas, Mexico and points South, there are still enough kids in town this week to make the merchants smile and locals complain about “those kids” and their sex, drugs and rock and roll.
Sounds like a story pitch for a 60′s beach film — Frankie and Annette, Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue — maybe Ann-Margret and Elvis? The stories wrote themselves back then. Sex continues to sell. Where would the tabloids or MTV be with out the Page 3 girls, the Kardashians and the denizens of the Jersey Shore? And where would the New York Times be without homosexuality? While it is harder and harder to sell religion news stories to the trade — a “naughty vicar” story will always find a buyer.
But sex isn’t what it once was. Its omnipresence has robbed it of its marketing value, mystique (and romance). “Sexed-up” no longer refers solely to hormone drenched teens or blue movies, but in journalism it refers to improving a story to make it more palatable (more salable) to editors who in turn want to attract more readers with stronger stories.
The phrase settled into the media psyche during the second Gulf War. It is commonly believed that a 29 May 2003 report by BBC defense correspondent Andrew Gilligan broadcast on Radio 4′s Today program originated the phrase. Gilligan reported that a senior British official told him a dossier prepared by the Blair government to support the war against Saddam Hussein had been “sexed up”. Specifically the government’s “September Dossier” had made the exaggerated claim that weapons of mass destruction could be deployed by the Iraqis within 45 minutes of Saddam Hussein’s order. [Read more...]