Have You Heard the Big News?

Have you heard the big news? I’m not talking about Saddam Hussein being sentenced to death by hanging or the Democrats winning the House and the Senate. I’m not even referring to Donald Rumsfeld stepping down as Secretary of Defense. No, I mean Britney Spears filing for divorce from hubby Kevin Federline. And, gasp!, Reese Witherspoon filing for divorce a day later.

News about celebrities trumps international affairs and national politics in America. It’s what we read in the check-out line at our grocery stores and guiltily turn our television channels to when we’re sure we’re alone. It’s what the water cooler conversations revolve around.

Yet according to an article published in the Los Angeles Times, the real victims in the latest spree of celebrity divorces are neither the stars nor the gossip-hungry American public.

“The real victims in all this may be the harassed filing clerks in the Los Angeles civil courthouse. They've been so overwhelmed of late by reporters from the tabloids that they've appealed to the court's public information office for help in making documents available — out of concern that otherwise, regular people will have trouble conducting their business."

The article attributes the problem to an increased demand by the public for the personal details of our favorite stars lives fueled by the explosion of celebrity web sites dominating the Internet.

”This is apparent, [said court spokesman Allan Parachini] by how often [the reporters] come in here, how desperate they are to get what they need, and, well, the degree of celebrity that is required to attain big story status is getting lower and lower. The proliferation of media attention creates much more demand for content.

As a nation, we are more enthralled with the gory break-up of couples we’ve only seen on the big screens rather than the shifting powers of the world. What does this say about the American (and to a large extent international) public? How are we going to get people to want to read about world leaders? And what does this mean for a fledgling report eager to report on the issues of the day, not including the sex lives of pop princesses?

It sounds like the chicken or the egg dilemma. Which came first? Did the media saturate the public with celebrity gossip first? Or did the public demand it? Did we, the media, in fact create the interest? And what are we going to do about it now?

Something to think about...

Tracy Bratten @ November 15, 2006 - 5:20pm

It's sad, but true. The morning after the mid-term elections, I walked out of the subway at Astor Place only to be bombarded by a man passing out one of the free New York dailies.

"Britney dumps K-Fed," he cried. That, evidently, is what mattered.

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