This I Believe

Caitlin - Cedarburg, Wisconsin
Entered on February 9, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

Lounging on my couch, my eyes scan the TV Guide for programs discussing North Korea’s latest issues. To my dismay both the local and national news boast the latest results of a DNA test clarifying the real father of Anna Nicole Smith’s baby. Surprised, I flip to another highly popular news channel to once again find Miss Smith gracing the ticker on the bottom of the screen. Yet, still no North Korea. How, one might ask, did Anna Nicole Smith, former Playmate®, secure spots on two of the most coveted channels on cable television? After ruling out insanity, I decide this is no mere mistake. Intelligent men in cushy board room chairs strategically placed her there, not for a laugh, but for ratings. Tinsel town talk, the must hear news of the 21st Century, has taken a dominant role in daily press coverage, displacing political and social bulletins as a prominent source of material.

The blame for this Hollywood fueled phenomenon belongs to both the media and sofa spuds nationwide. After watching 3 World News Tonight broadcasts, two of the three featured an entertainment piece as their cover story, while only one mentioned the North Korean crisis. The staffs of nationally renowned press associations directly affect both the reputable and atrocious articles; however, an obsession over ratings and the masses’ approval also weigh in, greatly influencing news coverage. For Americans beleaguered by vandalism, long work hours, unemployment, and impending terrorist threats, prime-time television is invariably considered a relaxation period, void of assignments, threats, and consequences. This escape from the daily grind correlates directly with programming content, rewarding comedy/ dramas and punishing fact-based broadcasts. The fact is, when pressed to choose between a one-hour special on Darfur’s precarious situation versus fashion fresh from Vogue’s after-party, the lion’s share of viewers will choose Valentino over genocide. Clearly, media moguls understand this. In a desperate attempt to boost ratings and popularity, broadcasts push aside harsh reality, making way for comfortable babble.

Continuously declining in substance, the news media’s profit driven business asserts a strong influence upon the country’s awareness of global conflict and competency among other nations. Important issues moved to the back burner by Hollywood gossip will eventually take their toll, immersing the public in a fluff based atmosphere. Following recent trends, this inadequate knowledge of political and social happenings leaves a void, prompting current and future generations to base their political decisions and beliefs on barren sources. The American people, yearning for security through consoling news programs, influence ratings, thus altering content and ultimately spelling their intellectual doom. However, it must be remembered that the networks are businesses, employing fathers and mothers and issuing salaries. They are money driven, like the rest of the world. The media’s continuous search for top-notch ratings, paired with the public’s pursuit of relief has created a diminution of subject matter, leaving viewers poorly informed.

The blurred line between news and entertainment is a much overlooked issue. Viewers, typically content with news coverage, do not question the writers behind the scenes. Instead they respect them as reliable sources of national and world news. The snowball effect of Tinsel Town gossip on the substance of television journalism has lured Playmates®, singers, hotel heiresses, and silver screen giants into living rooms disguised as hard news. Corruption, genocide, political and social injustices, values American lives have been readily given to protect, no longer reign as chief issues to be debated and discussed, but mere second rate topics. The business of reporting business has become the business of Hollywood’s business, garnering repercussions. Alas, time has passed, and I would elaborate more, however, ABC’s compelling docu-drama on Brittany Spears and Kevin Federline’s dreadfully difficult life of Versaci and Mercedes is scheduled to air in 10 minutes. It’s a must see event, dare I say, a matter of national security.