Priorities Reflected in Media Consumption

I’m quite confident that anyone reading this blog is aware that Michael Jackson died last week. Chances are you know more details about his life and death than you want to know — it’s hard to avoid the media coverage. And while part of me blames news outlets for choosing to give such overblown coverage to this event (my opinion, I know), I also understand that they have to pay their bills and this story is drawing enough attention to help them do that. New is, after all, also a business.

Some of you have been saying that you feel a little sorry for Farrah Fawcett, who also died on Thursday, because she has been upstaged by Jackson. When you put it into print, that sounds kind of funny really. But I do get it. Farrah may not have been on my top 20 people to look up to as a role model list, but there was something more admirable in her battle with cancer than what we are speculating about Jackson’s slow suicide (even if that was never his intent) that included long-term over-medication. (But I digress. My intent is not to speculate about how Jackson died or even how he lived. I’m really more interested in how interested we are in his life and death.)

What most of you don’t know is that on Thursday, in the northern African nation of Mauritania, Christopher Leggett, 39, was killed. Shot multiple times as he walked down a public street. Al Qaeda is claiming responsibility, saying that this aid worker who taught computer skills in a poor neighborhood of that nation’s capital was working to convert Muslims to Christianity. I found the story on line today because I went looking for it. I imagine that Leggett’s wife and four children are not paying much attention to the Jackson story.
While it would feel good for about 10 minutes to rant and rave about the horrible state our country is in morally and point fingers at the liberal media who have pushed us down that pathway to destruction, I don’t think that’s the real issue here. While it may irritate me that the media seems to be in a predictable lather over the story that is personified in Michael Jackson and while I do hold News outlets responsible for their work, I do understand that in a society that is ruled by money, the consumer is king.
My behavior — my choice to turn on and then continue to watch certain news coverage that drones on and on — I am responsible for that. I understand why outlets barely told Leggett’s story and aren’t even close to finished with telling Jackson’s story — maybe I’m irritated that I spent as much time as I have listening to the Jackson story (I’ve never been a fan) and didn’t know Leggett’s until five days later. I think I’m most irritated at me.
We do, however, as consumers, have a collective responsibility for the direction that media runs. As long as we, the people, purchase more copies of People and watch more episodes of Entertainment Weekly and Big Brother than we do of more substantial work, we can’t blame Time and ABC News and The Wall Street Journal for filling its pages with less news and more fluff.
Americans seem to love fluff.
It all started with Twinkies and that blasted filling. Yes, let’s blame Hostess. Let’s point the finger there so we can sleep better knowing that someone else is at fault for all of this.

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