Monday, May 2, 2011

Celebritiy Coverage in News: Worth It?

Matt Wagner

"The thing is, Bell and others say, anyone who realizes the status celebrities have in today's world can hardly deny their place in a newscast or above the fold or in any legitimate news position."

This quote comes from the reading that we have to do for May 3's ethics class from "Et tu, Nightline," by Jill Rosen. Stephanie Bell, a former ABC News correspondent, was paraphrased in this instance, saying that it is legitimate to have celebrity news such as the Kobe Bryant rape and the Michael Jackson child molestation cases.

Sure, the local news follows murders, rapes and other such cases with average people involved, but the coverage given to celebrities tends to go above and beyond that.

Call me an "elitist" if you will, but for the most part, this media sensationalism surrounding celebrities is overblown.

William and Kate: Why does it matter?

Anyone following the news in recent weeks must know about the wedding of Prince William and his bride Kate. Of course, the marriage of a royal is huge in Great Britain, where the citizens seem to have a fascination with a group of people who have no political power (anymore). It's a British tradition. Every country has at least one.

Prince William kisses his wife Kate, Duchess of Cambridge on the balcony of Buckingham Palace Photo: PA. Taken from The Telegraph Web site.

However, for weeks, major news shows and articles analyzed miniscule details about the wedding, such as the amount of security and the number of flowers taken from in front of Buckingham Palace. Yeah, I saw that on CBS the Sunday before while flipping through channels.

I would not expect hard news sources like CBS, CNN, ABC and major print media putting so much effort into learning so much about a single wedding. I would expect E! Channel and some of the style networks to go all out on it- This is their forte.

I believe that The Daily Show (although being a fake news show) managed to point out the ridiculousness of the coverage of this wedding. The piece by John Oliver mentioned that 1.6 million people are going to lose their jobs because of austerity cuts, including 600,000 public sector jobs. Alarming.

Yet, people do not seem perplexed that the money from the government that paid for this wedding-extravaganza. I received the numbers from a piece on PBS. The British government shelled out 30 million British pounds (about $45-50 million) for this wedding. Coupled with the 40 million pounds ($60 and $70 million) per year expenses of the royal family, this seems more like the story to me than the actual wedding itself.

Instead, we find ourselves learning about the best and worst dressed of the wedding and having stories on every moment before, during and after the wedding on one of the many Web sites dedicated to William and Kate.

Hard News Should Always Win

Bell made the argument that people are fascinated by celebrities, no matter how much they deny any interest. I will give her credence on this fact. However, I would argue that this doesn't necessarily mean that "hard news" should have celebrity news like the William-Kate and Chelsea Clinton weddings.

For example, when reports surfaced Sunday night that Osama bin Laden was killed, I flipped to CNN Headline News, only to see the analysis of the William-Kate wedding. I was flabbergasted by this. A team of U.S. Navy SEALs brought to justice the man who masterminded one of the worst tragedies in the history of the U.S., yet these people were still discussing a wedding that occurred two days prior.

ESPN, however, realized the importance of this event. Although continuing the broadcast of the Mets-Phillies, the broadcasters mentioned the news when they found out, and the station flashed the news across the bottom of the screen, as well as where to find more information. Plus, on the following day's Sportscenter, they opened with opinions from athletes and coaches concerning bin Laden's death.

This, to me, points in the right direction of news.

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