Leave Britney Alone!
I think Chris Crocker, in his infamous You Tube video defending Britney Spears, was onto something. (I’m not going to post it. If you haven’t seen it yet, I suggest you sell the rock you’re living under. But here’s the Trance remix:)
Spears’ three-hour stand off with police, prompted by her refusal to release her children to her ex-husband as court-ordered, and her subsequent hospitalization, have been staples on the TV news this week. Let me repeat that: this was presented as news. But while I expect the tabloid shows to be all over the personal tragedies of celebrities, I admit I was disappointed to see Spears’ ordeal given headline treatment.
I felt the same way back in December when, while cooking dinner and watching the six o’clock news, I was suddenly advised of Jamie Lynn Spears’ teenage pregnancy. It may be factual, but it isn’t news; it’s gossip, and should be left to Showbiz Tonight.
I prefer independent media sources. As an example why, here’s a list of headlines taken from Democracy Now!’s website on December 18, 2007, the same day Jamie Lynn’s pregnancy was revealed:
♦ Senate Postpones Vote on Domestic Spying Bill
♦ U.S. Military Sharing Intelligence on Iraq With Turkey
♦ 300 Turkish Troops Enter Northern Iraq
♦ Ron Paul Raises Record $6 Million in a Single Day
♦ Huckabee Equates Environmentalism With Pornography
♦ New Jersey Abolishes the Death Penalty
♦ International Donors Pledge $7.4 Billion to the Palestinians
♦ Israeli Air Strikes Kill 12 in Gaza
♦ Fidel Castro Suggests He Might Retire
♦ New York Couple Convicted of Enslaving Immigrants
And, a list of headlines from Democracy Now! on January 4, 2008, the same day I saw Britney being taken to hospital:
♦ Obama, Huckabee Win Iowa Caucuses
♦ Admin Limiting State Efforts to Expand Medicaid
♦ No Murder Charges for Marines in Haditha Massacre
♦ U.S. Lagging on Admitting Iraqi Refugees
♦ Rep. Warned CIA on Destroying Interrogation Tapes in 2003
♦ Kenya Police Block Opposition Rally for Consecutive Day
♦ 9 Palestinians Killed in Israeli Attack on Gaza
♦ 4 Killed and 50 Injured in Turkish Bombing
♦ French Farmer-Activist Launches Hunger Strike Against GMOs
♦ Texas Prisoner Freed by DNA Evidence
It’s quite a contrast. I recognize it’s up to us to watch and listen to news programs that meet our needs rather than expecting the media to cater to them. But are most of us up to that? Can the “average” person even name a source of independent journalism? Can he or she define the difference between mainstream and independent media?
To find out, I canvassed a handful of my co-workers, from various lives and backgrounds: high school drop out, single mother, immigrant, PhD holder, university student, self-defined average joe, college graduate, and blue-collar employee. I asked people of varying age, ethnicity, and socio-economic position.
Two were able to draw a distinction between corporate and independent media, one of whom defined the latter as “news that isn’t bought, censored, or altered by corporations.” Another was familiar with Democracy Now! None had heard about Huckabee comparing environmentalism to pornography. On the other hand, they had all heard about Jamie Lynn’s pregnancy, with most noting that they heard about it “right away.”
I understand why people eat up celebrity news and gossip. I sometimes find myself caught up in it and discussing the lives of celebrities with friends. However, real news ought to be real news, and leave the tragic and unstable life of Britney Spears alone.
Meanwhile, for news that matters, news that is in-depth, accurate, and engaging (rather than entertaining), you know where to go.