Saturday, October 24, 2009

Can Stop Once You Get Enough

While there is a population of people in this country who read a newspaper cover to cover daily, or who feel compelled to know as much as possible about every significant event that has taken place recently, they're the definite minority. Most people don't have time for that--rather, they just want enough coverage to feel as though they've been informed about the world around them, so there's a level of awareness about their place in society. For this majority, headlines usually suffice, which is why the half hour evening news shows are optimal. In one hour, viewers can get updated on all the significant national and local topics of the day. There's not enough time to speak to the missing components mentioned in Matt Thompson's article, such as reporting methods or lengthy supplementary information, but viewers typically assume that reporters have done their research and know what they're talking about. For everyone else, there are numerous 24 hour news networks. Even to people he had never met, Walker Cronkite was the most trusted man in America--he didn't need to justify his methods or detail his research. It was assumed that anything he said on air was reasonable. That kind of support is what networks still aim for today.

In the new reading, Surette says: "The electronic news would give a topic saturation coverage for a short time, then would slack off and turn to something new" [Surrette 56 (Altheide and Snow, 1979)]. I can think of no better current example than the death of Michael Jackson. For days and days, there was practically nothing covered other than every single angle of that story. Once the networks had run out of things to say about his death, they started airing tributes and retrospectives about his life, and interviewing random people with loose connections to him about their thoughts and perspectives. The memorial service is an excellent example: networks had commentators who had to admit to being on the air with no new stories to share, and who had to kill time during the hearse's drive from the funeral to the service, all of which was televised. This is the job of a lesser reporter, yet Anderson Cooper on CNN still managed to draw the proverbial short straw.

It's not as though other things weren't happening in the world while Michael Jackson's death was still a hot topic. Politically, the conflict in Iran was much more important, but wasn't as attractive as having an excuse to play "Can't Stop Till You Get Enough" on the air. Now, Michael Jackson's death has gotten enough coverage to be safe for parody, and I have no doubt that I'll see at least a few at upcoming "dead celebrity" Halloween parties. When a new fact is revealed about the story now, it's just a piece of the puzzle, and isn't usually even a headline anymore--America has moved on to the "enough already" mentality.

1 comment:

  1. As much as I love the media and I love the entertainment industry...I think it's incredible that some of the stories about for instance Britney Spears appear on CNN. At times, I feel it is inappropriate and not the right platform to be delivering this type of news.