I’d be lying if I said it didn’t play a role, but not anywhere as big as most people think. Most journalists I know, and I’ve worked with hundreds (maybe a thousand?) in my career are hard-working, honest people trying to do a fair and decent job every day. At the local level, they live and work in the towns they report on, pay their taxes there and send their kids to the local schools. They are more interested in getting it right than they are about sensationalizing something to get ratings. Most reporters have no real idea of the financial side of the business or care.
News Directors and managers have to worry about ratings. The people gathering the news typically worry about… gathering the news. Yes, ratings = revenue. If you produce a heavily watched newscast or heavily viewed publication, there are financial rewards. That’s the way most businesses operate. But for the vast majority of people in-the-trenches, they don’t worry about it… until they have to.