My last semester of high school pointed me in the direction I wanted to go in immediately afterward. By the end I was only going to school in the afternoon for Comm Tech. The class was taught in tandem by a couple of English teachers who also coached sports teams: Mr. McGee, the man responsible for changing my opinion of Margaret Laurence, and Mr. Harris, who I remember forming a bond with over a Princess Bride reference. In class one day, Mr. Harris asked about the most important thing that should be considered when a news story is printed. I answered that it should be entertaining. He told me that it should be true.
I think of that principle whenever I see a news story about another person’s life. The tabloids are one thing, and while I have a special contempt for them, they report on stories for their entertainment value, shallow as it might be. But when journalists who are supposed to be accredited report on conjecture simply to kill time, I find it both puzzling and unfortunate. Puzzling, because I can’t imagine guys like Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer continuing an off-camera interest in the circumstances surrounding Michael Jackson’s death and where his kids are going to end up. These are details I can go to bed at night without knowing and it must eat away at them.
The media has a sick fascination with people in the spotlight that goes beyond covering their impact on the culture. We are inundated with every conspiracy theory, viewpoint and new development. Michael Jackson is dead. That’s news. Michael Jackson was murdered. That’s conjecture and doesn’t require a sit-down interview with Larry King.
I respect Blitzer and Cooper and look for reasons to feel sorry for them as they navigate from panelist to panelist in an effort to beat every possible dent into a non-story. I feel less sorry for those who sit at home absorbing all of this useless information while paying more attention to Jackson’s list of prescriptions than the lives of the people around them. I know our society loves a figure that it can attach its opinions to, but there has to be a point where we realize that we deserve to have opinions about far more significant things. All of this coverage of Jackson is just journalistic laziness. It’s not yet true, and it’s not entertaining.