Pop Culture Invades the Public Media

Written by Caitlyn Buckley

I am an information junkie.

I have a strange desire to know everything that I can possibly know, preferably immediately. I watch news on the television, I read online news, and I read newspapers whenever I can come by them. My family makes fun of me, saying that one of the first full and coherent sentences I said in my life were “I want to know, and I want to know now!” I also get teased for asking “who-what-when-where-why-how” in the rapid-fire fashion of a reporter. This is why it frustrates me to find news about pop culture on mainstream news channels.

When I want to find news about entertainment or celebrities (which admittedly I do), I know where to find it. There are websites, magazines and television channels dedicated solely to the pursuit of entertainment news. If I want to read about Lindsay Lohan’s latest escapade, I can.

In fact, I do, and more often than I’m willing to admit. The thing is, though, when I want to catch up on the latest goings on in Iraq, or who the current forerunners in the presidential race are, or to see what else is going on in our world, the very last thing I want to see is the latest on Britney’s custody hearings.

An incredibly maddening example of this was over the summer, when Paris was released and subsequently returned to jail. CNN was covering the drama outside the courtroom, reporting on every minute detail of the case. They interrupted with a 30-second blurb about a change of leadership in Iraq. It’s almost laughable that the broadcasters think the people watching CNN care more about Paris Hilton and her jail term than Iraq’s leadership.

Just as an experiment, this weekend, I turned my television on MSNBC for an hour. 13 minutes of the allotted hour were focused on celebrities, movies, television shows, and other tidbits of pop culture.

Why is it so hard, with so much going on in the world, to fill up a “World News Hour” with world news? People tuning in to watch world news might be interested in policy changes by the British Parliament, but could care less about Prince William’s girlfriend and when they might get engaged.

I’m sure that I could have learned much more about current events and more about the state of the world had the broadcasting organization not been so interested in telling the viewers about pop culture news.

Another annoying case of pop culture news being forced down our throats can be found at any given time on ABCnews.com (my current news source of choice). On the main page, out of 28 main featured stories, 12 are about pop culture, and another three are news related but incorporate an entertainment news angle. This bothers me because the web page has a section especially dedicated to entertainment news, yet these stories are considered even higher priority than the featured stories on the entertainment page. This is supposed to be a reputable news source, yet it chooses to focus on petty information that could easily be located in the entertainment section.

It’s a little depressing to see how much pop culture has infiltrated society. Most people can’t point to Iraq, or even the United States, on a map but they know every detail about Britney’s custody battle or who is currently in rehab or which washed-up celebrity is the current frontrunner in “Dancing with the Stars”.

So for the people who would rather learn about which famous people have run marathons, what Senator Obama did on Saturday Night Live, or how many awards Avril Lavigne at the MTV European Music Awards, they should just have to click on the “Entertainment” section or go to a specialized website.

I find it a bit unfair for people who are seeking only news to have to sort through information they find uninteresting or irrelevant. It’s also something of a pain for someone (like me) who is interested in entertainment news, but is already informed on that and seeking news only. When a reader goes to a source that proclaims itself to be news, that should be exactly the content of the source, nothing more and nothing less.

Those seeking something else can suck it up and check another website.

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