Celebrity-based news leads us down a dangerous path

by Paige Gilliard | Collegian

It seems obvious that we should be more concerned about relief efforts in the Philippines than Miley Cyrus supposedly smoking a blunt on stage, but if some popular homepages have anything to tell us, it’s that trivial news stories are more appealing to readers than serious ones.

While most homepages offer a variety of news stories on their front pages, a good portion of these stories seem to be celebrity or lifestyle driven. In fact, readers interested in hard news will probably find themselves having to shift through layers of lifestyle and celebrity news to find the more serious stories.

Just three days after one of the worst typhoons on record devastated the Philippines, a good number of the highlighted stories on Yahoo had to do with celebrities (as if we haven’t had enough of Miley Cyrus’s antics and pictures of what Kate Middleton decided to wear out). In a similar fashion, the story about Alec Baldwin’s stalker got front-page placement next to a story about Obamacare sign-ups on the ABC homepage. Homepages serve as convenient news sources for people who want their news quickly, but their substance has been lacking.

The amount of news covering pop culture today on homepages is alarming. These stories attract readers like a moth to a bright light. While it’s true that the nature of what qualifies as news is constantly evolving, the amount of pop culture news inundating news sources is shocking. As consumers, we should be more concerned with what’s happening in our nation and world than the latest celebrity gossip, but this doesn’t seem to be the reality anymore.

I recently saw a video where Mark Dice got Americans in San Diego to sign a fake petition supporting an Orwellian police state modeled after Nazi Germany. Standing on a boardwalk, Dice stopped people and asked them to sign the petition while constantly repeating to them that they are helping to endorse an Orwellian police state. I watched the video in shock as many individuals signed without a second thought.

After watching this video, I couldn’t help but think that the people signing this petition were probably tuning into “Honey Boo Boo” and “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” It was surprising to see people endorsing something so ridiculous, but the reality is that what qualifies as news has taken the form of ridiculousness.

If the latest celebrity gossip is marketed as more interesting than the truly important news, we shouldn’t be surprised if people think like those who signed the petition in San Diego. When stories about Miley Cyrus become more memorable than stories about what is really happening in our nation, then we are very quickly heading for trouble.

If news outlets continue to give pop culture stories prominent billing, then they are promoting their own ignorance of truly important news. When Alec Baldwin’s stalker becomes just as important as the imploding of Obamacare, it is time to reassess our priorities.

Even after President Obama addressed the public about the problems with Obamacare on Thursday, a story about Leonardo DiCaprio’s new home purchase appeared before a story about the president’s speech on Yahoo. I’m not quite sure if we should feel happy that the Obamacare story was featured on Yahoo at all or concerned with the fact that it came after the story on Leonardo DiCaprio, but either way, it shows that what is now considered to be priority news isn’t really a priority.

Homepages should be more balanced with their news coverage and, more importantly, there needs to be a questioning of values about what we consider to be the important news.

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