Don’t you just love when CNN sends you a breaking news email, and it is about Britney Spears and her baby, or Paris Hilton entering or exiting jail? Author Jake Halpern takes a look at our growing obsession with celebrity gossip, often at the expense of reporting on more serious topics:
- “A word-count analysis of CNN transcripts for that day, Oct. 1, reveals that the network devoted almost three times as much coverage to Ms. Spears as it did to the war in Iraq. What’s more, CNN gave roughly 37 times more coverage to Ms. Spears than it did to the ongoing conflict in Darfur, which the United Nations describes as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.”
- “In 2004, for example, the nightly news shows on the three major networks spent a total of just 26 minutes covering the bloody conflict in Darfur, while they spent roughly 130 minutes on the Martha Stewart scandal.”
As more mainstream media outlets spend resources on such “popular” news, I can’t help but think of the incredible value that the web has brought to journalism. The tools to reach a worldwide audience are freely available to all with a computer and internet connection, and the playing field has been leveled to attract an audience to any topic you want to cover.
The flip side of this argument is the rise of ‘commentators’ whose reporting can be questioned for accuracy. It is not a simple issue – but becomes more clear with each “breaking news” email that comes into my inbox.