30 June 2009

Attention Deficit

Before Michael Jackson died, the only story running on major television stations was the political unrest in Iran. As soon as the entertainer died, Iran dropped completely out of the public conscience. Youtube, which before had displayed a link to watch the latest videos from the country, became overloaded with videos about Michael Jackson. I haven't seen any more news concerning Iran and the elections, though if you browse on Youtube, you can find videos uploaded just hours ago.

Now, don't get me wrong - entertainment serves a good role in any society. But when news stations drop coverage of a very important event in the international politics to cover the death of one man, it sends the wrong message to the next generation of leaders.

It's a message that says politics in other countries don't affect us, so we shouldn't care about them. That a popular musician is more sensational and more worthwhile to pay attention too. In the end, it's all about this country, the USA. That current events in the world don't matter a month, even a few weeks after they occur.

In 2007, a bridge for I-35 W collapsed over the Mississippi river in Minnesota. At the time, the news was fresh, and most stations covered the disaster. Although 13 people died and 98 were treated in various hospitals for sustained injuries, the press quickly grew tired of covering the story, and it was soon forgotten. Unless one looked up the aftermath, the last one heard about the collapse was that people had died and everyone was rescued.

On June 1st, 2009, Air France jet flight 447 crashed into the sea from unknown causes. News outlets jumped at the story, and covered it in-depth for several days. The device known as a 'black box,' which contains information about the flight was talked about for several days as many nations searched for wreckage and survivors. About a week later, with no great news discovered, stations stopped covering the search. It has been 29 days since the crash, and while many bodies have been discovered, no major television stations have delivered the news about that tragedy. The public has moved on to more pressing matters, the death of a single entertainer.

I understand the need for news agencies to find fresh material, but ignoring important events - tragedies, revolutions and riots - and substituting something trivial like the life of one man is a petty way to increase a stations listeners. Even if the general public is not concerned, there are people who will not forget so easily the loss of family or friends. And it is dishonorable to those people to ignore them in favor of something more sensational, more new, more exciting.

Keep thinking,


  1. What people will watch, sells.

    PS- post on Quillt.