Portney’s Complaint

Portneys Complaint

Portney’s Complaint

Devon Portney

As I sit and watch the television news, I can’t help but wonder: Is this really news? Everywhere I turn its either Anna Nicole Smith’s death, or Britney Spears’ shaved head. For shows like Entertainment Tonight, that is news. For CNN, it should not even make it onto their agenda.

Not only does celebrity news, which is always gossip at best and hardly ever factual, appear next to pertinent news, it actually trumps it! CNN reported on Anna Nicole Smith for hours each day, for several days after her death in February, during what was considered the bloodiest month in Iraq to date. Everyone was told in great detail about Britney’s head shaving extravaganza, yet the country is at war and we have to search diligently to find news about that.

While I thought CNN held itself to higher standards than the usual Fox-like sensationalism, the local news channels are even worse. CNN is a national news source, like ABC or MSNBC. While celebrities are hardly news, they are something of national interest. But on local channels they give preference to celebrity news as well! When watching a local Channel 7 newscast recently, I took stock as I watched of not just what the stories were, but what order they were presented in and how much time was spent on each. The opening story was about the TJMaxx credit card scandal, which was of local importance. The whole story took about 30 seconds.

Next there was a story about two shootings in Dorchester. The story was rattled off so quickly I couldn’t even tell you where in Dorchester the shootings took place, but I did hear that both shooters were still not apprehended.

Then came the meat, Britney Spears and her custody battle with now ex-husband Kevin Federline. The story discussed how Britney left rehab after one day, and shaved her head, possibly because Federline was requesting a hair sample drug test from her. This story went on for almost two minutes.

And what newscast would be complete without continuing coverage of Anna Nicole’s death, and the court battle between her mother and partner, Howard Stern, who may also be the father of her infant baby, about where to bury her body. They had to make a decision soon, it was urgent since Anna Nicole’s body would only stay “fresh” for so long and she would have wanted an open casket funeral. This story went for more than two minutes.

As a resident of Quincy, I might have liked to know more about the shootings in Dorchester, especially since the shooters had yet to be caught. Is he still armed, do the police have any leads, is there a description so we can beware? And my question to you is, shouldn’t my neighbors be concerned with this too? Yet shamefully, most viewers are actually more interested in celebrities’ lives than what is happening in the world. I hope none of these celebrity obsessed viewers runs into an armed fugitive in their backyard!

With magazines like “People,” “US Weekly” and “OK!,” television shows like “Entertainment Tonight,” and all the Internet celebrity gossip, there are already so many outlets for people to get their celebrity news. Why do those who claim to be real news sources have to jump on that bandwagon? It’s because that’s what viewers want, that’s what brings an audience. And as the audience diminishes, so does the advertising and money. And no matter how much integrity the media source has, it cannot exist without the almighty dollar.

Although local news was always slightly campy, it at least stayed local. Now there is hardly anything, except little tidbits of local news that separate the local news stations from the celebrity gossip sources. And there is only a little bit more national news than celebrity news focus on stations like Fox and CNN. All the celebrity reporting and fluff about preserving your kids’ artwork has reached ridiculous territory. If this trend continues, where will concerned people (and yes, some of us are still out there) find out what’s going on in the world?

As of now, we already have to put forth a gallant effort to retrieve comprehensive, fact based journalism. Eventually we will run out of places to look. I cannot decide which bothers me more: the fact that the news stations broadcast all this fluff, or that they’re doing it because it is the only way to retain the viewers.