When Emma was in Ireland, she made an interesting comment to me on the phone. She said that she couldn’t believe how much was going on in the world, with major situations happening in Iran and North Korea, and scandals in Great Britain (not that scandals in Great Britain really qualify as news anymore.) And I told her that from where I sat in Chicago, it didn’t really feel like there was more going on in the world than usual. Rather, it was likely her perspective that was different. In the U.S., it seems that about 80% of our news coverage (maybe more) is on things happening in the U.S., and about 20% of it is about what’s happening in the rest of the world. In Europe, it feels like those percentages are reversed. And not only is our news U.S.-focused, it feels like it’s increasingly celebrity-focused. She was used to getting wall-to-wall coverage of Jon & Kate Plus 8, and in Ireland she was getting real news.
Of course, the frenzy got worse last week with the deaths of Farrah Fawcett and especially Michael Jackson. We now have wall-to-wall coverage of Michael’s funeral arrangements, the paternity of his children, his doctor, multiple autopsies, and the list goes on and on. I’m guilty – I read some of it. But I’m getting tired of it. We’re still fighting a war in Iraq, we’re still in a recession, North Korea is still screwing around with missiles, there was a fixed election in Iran, and the list goes on and on. But that seems to be drowned out by wall-to-wall celebrity news, and “baby falls in a well” stories.
I guess we enjoy reading about the problems of celebrities because it’s nice to know they have the same problems we do. (I’m reminded of the SNL “Cowbell” skit, where Christopher Walken, playing record producer Bruce Dickinson says, “I put my pants on just like the rest of you…one leg at a time. Except that once my pants are on, I make gold records.” And yes, I had to look at the video again, since I’m a woman and therefore, can’t quote TV or movie dialogue.) Or maybe because focusing on the problems of celebrities takes our minds off our own problems.
But when is enough enough? I find that CNN.com has become the worst of the mainstream media in this regard. I’ve stopped visiting the site. As of now. Ok, maybe I’ll look at it once a day. But I’m switching my home page to the New York Times online. Maybe they still recognize that it’s a great big world out there.