When is News Not News?

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I thought we were going to leave Lindsay Lohan alone.  Oh wait. I almost forgot. Nowadays, if it’s not salacious, if it doesn’t expose the dark and ugly underbelly of something, it won’t sell. Right?

That said, how does one filter it all and separate the wheat of news from the chaff of not-entirely- news? When I took a cursory check to the entertainment headlines yesterday morning, I was struck by the three that popped out at me first. Plus, each was just as bold and bright as the next, loaded with all the full-color sensationalism they have nowadays:

“Lohan To Be Charged With Felony”

“ Is Miley Cyrus Getting Inked For Attention?”

“John Paul Getty III dies, age 54”

First of all, what struck me most empathically was the fact that two of the headlines probably wouldn’t be headlines if we hadn’t things like the Internet in the first place. I’m continually stunned by how many headlines are devoted to people who thrive on headlines to survive (or at least keep going/amount to something in their own minds). I’m pretty sure that twenty years ago society’s instinct with someone like Lindsay Lohan would have been more along the lines of “This is a bad situation. Here’s a kid with an enormous problem; let’s keep her out of the spotlight and devote our attention to getting her some help” (okay maybe thirty years ago that would have been the sentiment).  Perhaps I’m even more naïve than I think, but the tendency would not have been to blast it everywhere so that we could get hits on our website or readers for our magazine. I’m not suggesting that we’ve become less kind and more sensationalized (even though we have,) I’m just saying that a good-looking kid who’s gotten a lot of attention and who’s maybe now lost her way wouldn’t be quite so newsworthy because she pilfered a chain in a shop somewhere. Til now. Similarly, Miley Cyrus getting a tattoo—why is this newsworthy? Well, the answer is it isn’t, until you read the whole headline.  Is she doing it to get attention? Apparently that’s the only reason anyone in Hollywood does anything now. (In a tail-wagging-the- dog-way, the headline is actually doing the work it says the tattoo is doing.) The fact that J.P.Getty III has died is very sad indeed, and this spans both general obit news as well as “entertainment”. For two reasons. One, he’s Balthazar Getty’s (now late) father. And two, when he was in the headlines in the 1970s, his was a sensationalist story that captured everyone’s attention – only then there were relatively few of them so they had far greater impact. There was no internet. We didn’t dig around and Google things, the journalists who told us what was going on did that.

Nowadays, we are so awash in tabloid ink that we’ve no idea how to discern what’s news and what isn’t. When I was very young newspapers didn’t closely follow child stars’ bouts with alleged kleptomania. Something like that might have been lumped into a People Magazine feature about how troubled someone had become, but it wasn’t the kind of daily, up-to-the minute dirt that we have and require now. Plus, we’ve also been inundated with speculation that this felony charge was coming for days – what did anyone do before speculation equaled content? Nor would another young actress/singer’s quest for further adoration via subcutaneously injected ink make it to the front page, either. The fact that the Getty boy was kidnapped and treated in a grisly fashion was, on the other hand, very newsworthy when it happened. People were absolutely gripped by it (it was a horrible event ) and to see it brought up again in the context of why someone’s getting a tattoo seems just a little askew to me. The only point I am trying to make is that we are now so submerged in that which is considered “newsworthy” – and through so many mediums, that we may be losing our capacity to recognize real things. I’m getting that way. How does anyone know what’s news and what isn’t? I don’t know the answer, and I’m just as curious as anyone else about what’s trending and what the day’s “top” stories are. I just wonder if there’s ever going to be a time when our appetite for the inane/salacious/dicey becomes so huge that we are unable to see the news forest for the relevant trees.

Then again, maybe it was just a slow news day.

Today’s poll:

Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never premiered this week. Which other contemporary performer would you like to see profiled in a documentary like Bieber?

1)   Usher

2)   Katy Perry

3)   Eminem

4)   Taylor Swift

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