It’s not quite clear when the Michael Jackson coverage became simply ridiculous — probably when Uri Geller, calling in from what Python called his Institute of Advanced Spoon Bending, was appearing simultaneously on multiple global cable news networks.
It’s easy to point out the contrast between the depth afforded the simple fact of one entertainer’s death and issues of actual real-world consequence — but much harder to explain. Despite the media cycle now being so rapid there is little chance of any complex and significant issue being adequately addressed by the mainstream media, occasionally it slips a gear into a frenetic but motionless consumption and regurgitation of the same banal and unchanging facts. All perspective and sense of the relative newsworthiness of the event is abandoned in favour of ill-informed, irrelevant opinion, and opinions about that opinion.
The media would doubtless argue that it is merely reflecting the needs of its consumers, like any business. But unlike other industries, the media is in the privileged position of having a critical role in shaping the perceived needs of its audience.
It does not have to slavishly follow the flawed mindset of some of its consumers, and indeed frequently makes a judgement not to do so. Why here? An appropriate relegation of Jackson’s death to the celebrity section while meaningful events — say, the slaughter in Iran — are given more detailed coverage might be too much to ask, but a re-balancing of news values toward issues that actually affect us would not go astray. And that includes political journalism in a country that has spent much of the last week chasing an old ute and a forged email round in circles.
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