Serious journalism or glorified gossip?

The event received near-nonstop, round-the-clock news coverage.

People across America watched with rapt attention as celebrities from around the country and around the world voiced their sorrow at the tragedy, learned that President Obama sent a letter of condolence and heard that the entire House of Representatives held a moment of silence upon learning the news.

What exactly happened that was significant enough to warrant more than ten weeks of nearly uninterrupted news coverage?

It wasn’t a terrorist attack or a natural disaster. A great world leader had not died, nor had war suddenly erupted. No, it was the death of Michael Jackson.

Jackson’s death was only one of several so-called news stories that the media swarmed all over this past year.

Others included the brutal divorce of Jon and Kate Gosselin of the TV reality show “Jon & Kate Plus 8,” Carrie Prejean, better known as Miss California USA, and her controversial views on gay marriage, the Balloon Boy incident and, most recently, Tiger Woods’ long series of secret affairs.

These events seem like they should have been relegated to media outlets like Entertainment Weekly or TV Guide.

Instead, they were followed with near-religious intensity by CNN, MSNBC, ABC, FOX and every other major news media network in the United States. Often, more important stories have been neglected in favor of these bits of tabloid trivia. 

For example, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, better known as the highly controversial Cap & Trade Law, was passed by the House of Representatives last June.

Don’t be surprised if you hadn’t heard. It happened the day after Michael Jackson’s death.
You probably haven’t heard about the three Navy SEAL officers who are facing a court-martial after arresting one of al-Qaeda’s top leaders in Iraq because they allegedly punched him whilst trying to subdue him during the capture.

Well, it happened during Jon and Kate’s divorce, so the media’s attention was focused elsewhere.

These kinds of stories are pop-culture trivia at best that should never see the light of day in a serious news program. Instead, they have mutated into massive front-page headlines that are shoved down our throats by major news networks twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

The force-feeding continues even when there is nothing new to report on the story. Take the recent attempted bombing of the Northwest airliner on Christmas Day.

This story should have ended for the time being after the would-be bomber pled not guilty in court several weeks ago and retained the services of a lawyer. There was no new information on the event, therefore the media should have dropped it until his trial began.

Instead, countless security “experts” were paraded in front of cameras to discuss everything from possible security implications to how the bomber could have transformed into a mujahid, or Islamic extremist. It was only the tragic earthquake in Haiti that forced the media to end their coverage of the deranged young man. 

Why does the media do this? Two-thirds of Americans polled by the Pew Research Center felt that the media coverage of Michael Jackson’s death was excessive.

The networks were flooded with countless letters expressing viewers’ displeasure–not only regarding Jackson’s death but also concerning the amount of coverage surrounding Jon and Kate’s nasty split and Tiger Woods’ marital problems, but the force-feeding of these stories continued nevertheless.

Have the big news companies simply lost touch with what Americans want to know about? Or have they just become so brainless that they can’t tell the difference between serious news and worthless gossip?

The sad truth is that American news outlets seem to be evolving–or perhaps devolving–into nothing more than glorified tabloids.

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