There is an old saying that goes says that, if a dog bit a man today, it would not provoke any extraordinary reaction from the public. However, if the man bit the dog back, it would certainly create a buzz in society. The essence of this analogy is to illustrate that there are qualities that make something qualify to be in the news. These qualities give an event, or whatever piece of information newsworthiness. Today, one would possibly think that if a celebrity face or story does not appear on the front pages of a newspaper or magazine, it won’t sell at all (Kimberly 71). It has become a norm for our media houses to give the celebrities unwarranted attention and more so when it comes to the private lives of the celebrities. This paper endeavors to challenge the decisions by the media to give too much of the precious broadcast time and resources to the coverage of the private lives of the celebrities.
Grounds for the Claim
The grounds for this claim are rooted in the fact that, clearly, the television, online media, magazines and virtually all forms of media are obsessed with celebrity news. It is important to mention at this juncture that the ethical issues do not relate to celebrity news about music, movies and all. On the contrary, the point of contention on which this argumentative paper is based is the coverage of private lives of the celebrities. There is a lot of evidence backing my claim. Currently, there are so many shows that concern themselves with digging deep into the private life of the celebrity. Speaking of television shows, e-talk, the Oprah Winfrey show, and Access Hollywood are the most notable shows. The USA has well over 60 channels. Most of these have shows that are dedicated solely to private lives of the celebrities (Hong 298). One cannot help but wonder what happened to newsworthiness and ethics. Apparently, there are so many important issues worth of coverage. Still, the media houses prefer telling the world about every spouse a celebrity breaks up with and every hamburger they eat.
With such events as the Oscar awards, the Emmy awards and the Gold Globe, the world wonders what the role of the media houses is – broadcasting the private lives of the celebrities or informing the world about current happenings? A break up between Rihanna and Jay Z made the headlines for well over one month, with different media organizations competing to bring out the latest on the ensuing melodrama. Similarly, when Chris Brown, a popular RNB singer allegedly assaulted his girlfriend, Rihanna, the story was all over the news – both offline and online media. While this was the case, little was broadcasted concerning the war-torn countries of the Middle East. Very little was covered in regards to the civil war in the horn of Africa. Larry King Live Show is better off interviewing politicians than scientists that are in the search for something that will wipe HIV out of the face of the earth. The nosiness of the media – this business of poking into the private lives of celebrities killed Princess Diana (Brown and Black 34). The paparazzi following up the celebrity caused the couple to panic, ending up in an accident.
Warrant and Principles
According to gurus in media and journalism argue that for an item to be considered newsworthy, it must bear certain qualities. Foremost, the item must be current. News is just that – news. This means that something must fall within a reasonably current bracket so as to qualify for a slot in the news. It makes little sense when the media organizations spend a lot of time and resources explaining to the current audience about the death of Princess Diana, for instance. The death took place in the 1990s, more than a decade ago. Today, the media – both online and offline – continue to tell such stories as the life and history of Michael Jackson. This raises newsworthiness-related questions.
Secondly, something has to be sufficiently significant so as to qualify to be referred to as news. In point of fact, the life of a celebrity is not significance because in media studies, the significance of an item is judged by the number of people it affects (Lule 176). This explains why the media coverage of Hurricane Sandy is an example of perfect news. Notably, hurricane sandy affected virtually all Americans and people from other parts of the world. For instance, many died and property was lost. The people that had friends and family in New Jersey, as at that time, went through traumatizing moments. In a nutshell, the thing was catastrophic as it affected a significant number of people. On the contrary, the breakup between a celebrity and their spouse is not significant. This is primarily because it does not affect a notable number of people. Perhaps a perfect example would be the royal wedding that took place a couple of years ago. The event was given tremendous attention by the media despite its insignificance. If an ordinary person was to wed today, the media would do nothing about it.
The third principle of newsworthiness is proximity. Proximity refers to the closeness, in distance, between the subject of the news and the recipient or observer of such news. Airing deep details about Britney Spears makes little sense, if any, to a child in rural Africa. Apparently, such a kid will never see the American celebrity in person. Hence it makes little sense to know the person. Speaking from the local spectrum, not many Americans get to meet the celebrities (McLaughlin 112). As such, it makes little sense trying to explain the positive traits of a celebrity, especially in such sectors as music. The forth principle of newsworthiness is prominence or importance. As a matter of fact, something that should be in the news should be sufficiently important. For instance, when a media organization reports about the weather forecast, it makes a lot of sense because it allows people to get ready for such seasons as winter. Clearly, knowing about the private life of a celebrity does not add any value as it rarely affects the decisions made by the people watching.
The last principle of news worthiness is novelty. Going by the analogy mentioned in the introduction, there is nothing extraordinary about a dog biting a human being. On the contrary, people will see all the odds in a man biting a dog. The difference between these two acts is what is referred to as novelty. Novelty is a quality associated with extraordinary happenings (Brown and Black 84). A rational human being will see nothing extraordinary about a breakup between a celebrity and an ordinary person. Basically, all people are human first. The decisions people make are rooted in their own prejudices and subjective thoughts. As such, it makes sense to air an event where a dog saved a drowning baby than telling the watchers or readers about the life of a public figure.
All the above explained principles are rooted in one key factor – human interest. In justification of my claim, it is true that celebrity lives are not anywhere near the center of human interest. Anything associated with human interest must in one way or another affect the decisions of the populace (Schwarz 57). As mentioned earlier a news broadcast that seeks to inform the population about an impending winter is critical as it is the best interest of the humans to prepare for the cold season. It also makes sense to cover such matters as war, hunger and social strife as they affect human beings in many ways. It goes without say that human interest is a quality that lacks in all celebrity private series. Secondly, the coverage of a celebrity’s private life is a violation for ethics and personal liberty. It is a matter of common knowledge that celebrity life should only be covered to the extent of their profession, because that is what marks the difference between them and the ordinary people. Going into the deep private affairs violates the privacy of the individual.
In refutation of this paper’s thesis, opponents argue that the celebrities’ private lives should be sufficiently aired because they are role models. Such opponents argue that through covering the private lives prominently, the ordinary person will learn various skills from the role model, such as problem solving, healthy living and the like (Shoemaker 109). Secondly, the opponents to this thesis argue that being a celebrity is all about being in the limelight. They argue that fame is the essence of being a celebrity, and that it is through such coverage that the people will become popular and famous. Further, the critics would argue that since the essence of media is to make profits, they are justified to go for whatever story will make such news worth watching, reading or listening to. While this is the case, they are left with few choices, the most lucrative being to cover celebrity news. This is arguably one of the heaviest arguments fronted by the opponents.
While the above counterargument bears some sense, it is clear that the arguments in favor of the thesis are stronger in real terms. While it is a fact that the celebrities are role models, it is also worth mentioning that they, just like all other human beings, have weaknesses. The assumption that people will learn good traits from the celebrity is fallacious because, going by the statistics, a majority of the celebrities use drugs, and observes questionable spiritual practices that no one would want to be associated with. It therefore makes sense that the news on celebrities be limited to the extent of their career. Secondly, while the essence of being a celebrity is being famous, such fame should be sought through individual efforts, and legitimate ways such as singing, but not necessarily through unjustified media coverage. Finally, the counterargument talking about profit motives of the news agencies is rather pedestrian because it raises ethical concerns. For instance, one has to weigh between profits and the welfare of both the celebrity and the public. Overall, the interests of the public must prevail.
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