Britney Tops the Headlines if Not the Charts

The first portion of the front page of Google News displays the top stories in U.S. news. Below that are the World, U.S., Business, and Sci/Tech sections. The majority of the first page is dedicated to politics and current affairs. Yet, when I click on the link for "Most Popular" the first headline displayed is, "Just when you thought Britney couldn’t be more overexposed". I hit the refresh button on my browser a few times to see if there would be any change to the "most popular" story of the day. And though the headline changed, the subject was the same: Britney Spears and her pending divorce from Kevin Federline.

I admit my own guilty pleasure of voyeurism. In fact, I used to start my workdays by copying and pasting the entertainment section of into a word document so that no one in the adjoining cubicles would suspect my dereliction. It wasn't until my lunch break that I would scan the web for actual news. Yet it is still somewhat disheartening that the majority of people visiting Google News today chose to read about the downward spiral of a pop princess over the historic role of Nancy Pelosi who is to be the first female speaker of the House (the story located three headlines down, just below articles lauding the new James Bond film).

Four of the top six headlines on the most popular page are articles filed under the Entertainment section. Now that more people are getting their "news" from the Internet, it seems easier to be distracted by tabloid gossip than to spend your time learning about relevant current affairs.

The draw of celebrity gossip and tales of woe and wedlock in Hollywood has always been high on the minds of Americans. A fact validated by the magazine racks of supermarket lines. When sites like Google News make the news more accessible and convenient for the masses, is the public any more informed, or simply more entertained?

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