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Are Britney and Anna Nicolle news?

by LConners

KMOV.com

Posted on February 22, 2007 at 12:32 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 4 at 3:00 PM

WISE MEN TALK BECAUSE THEY HAVE
SOMETHING TO SAY ... FOOLS BECAUSE
THEY HAVE TO SAY SOMETHING.
(PLATO)


Plato's quote is a guide for these blogs. I leave it to the reader to decide which applies.


Why so much coverage on Anna Nicolle Smith?
Why so much coverage on Britney Spears?
Are these stories ... really news?

I've been asked those and similar questions repeatedly ... and often the questions are in coated in a thick layer of disgust.

First of all ... what is news?

The simple answer can be found on Dictionary.com: A person, thing or event considered as a choice subject for journalistic treatment; newsworthy material.

As I said this is the simple answer but the full answer is much more complex and sometimes (if not often) includes a bias from the news source (TV/radio/paper/magazine) and from the news viewer/listener/reader.

Yes, it is much akin to that trite phrase: What is one man's junk is another man's treasure.

So, with that base understanding, back to the questions: Are Anna Nicole Smith and Britney Spears ... Paris Hilton and such others news?

First, it is accepted that they are celebrities, even if they are created by the "news" process.

Are they Lead Story, Headline, Breaking News type stories? For some news reporting sources, yes. For others, sometimes.

Consider People Magazine. The first issue was released in 1974 as a growth of the People section in Time Magazine. It's not only been a survivor all these years it's flourished. Still, editors claim it has morphed from the original concept featuring gossip and flashy pictures to a 50/50 blend of celebrity and human interest stories. Regardless of the evolution, there's no doubt that People Magazine considers Anna Nicole Smith and Britney Spears news.

Now, to TV coverage.

The cable network news operations get slammed the hardest because every 30 minutes they are repeating stories. They do so because of the constant tune-in of a new audience. So, watching the same cable network news for a couple of hours can make you think there's nothing bigger in the world than Anna Nicole or Britney.

Also on cable news, you have extended programs featuring such subjects: long interviews with celebrity companions, insiders ... lengthy video clips .. live "trial/hearing" events.

When it comes to local news we don't repeat numerous stories and when we do there is a time separation between newscasts. Still, we also are criticized for: too much Anna Nicole and Britney.

Another big point, if national/local news outlets don't cover such cases.. The audience goes to outlets that do. So, even if we truly believe it's not such a big story and could be ignored from time to time ... we have to bend to "competition". You'll see that's most apparent when you read the closing lines of this blog.

Now, consider the "news value" of Anna Nicole and Britney.

Anna Nicole is a true developing story. There are legitimate (if ad naseuam) legal issues over her death, DNA testing, her baby, her burial desires, her 500 million dollar inheritance.

These are news worthy issues ... but of course, there's always the question.. of how much ... and how much is too much?

Britney shaving her head and going in and out of rehab as quickly as going into a fast food restaurant ... has little "news" value .. unless you consider .. "celebrity news" .. as "legitimate news".

At Channel 4/KMOV .. we strive for a balance of such coverage. Depending on the issue surrounding the celebrity ... it might be a big story .. it might be worth repeating .. it might only be a quick 15 second read in just one newscast. Once those decisions are made .. then, we decide if they will be stories worth teasing .. and often, the publicity power of the celebrity (read: the ability of that name to draw an audience) will be part of that equation.

So, in summation ... we can make a case for claiming: Anna Nicole and/or Britney are .. news. Those fed up with even hearing their names .. can make a case for denying they are news. (The same can be applied to other celebrities that come up repeatedly: Paris Hilton, Brad Pitt, Oprah, George Clooney .. and so forth.)

Is one side RIGHT and the other side WRONG?

Let me close with a case history: Tonya Harding.

Twice she won the U.S. Figure Skating Championship. In 1991, Tonya won 2nd place in the World Championship.

In 1994, she was part of the conspiracy against skating rival Nancy Kerrigan.

On one hand, it was a "tabloid" type story.. celebrity caught in a crime scandal.
On the other hand, it was a story carried by "legitimate" news outlets as a celebrity caught in a crime scandal.

For several days, we aired stories about Tonya Harding. Then, one day, we didn't run any story.

I got a call from a viewer ... complaining: Why didn't you tell us any news about Tonya Harding today?

Well, mam, there was nothing new to report today.

The viewer (in a tone that smacked of saying: what kind of news reporter are you?) said, “Well, why didn't you tell us there wasn't any news.”

If you have a question or complaint about how/why certain news stories are covered ... please contact me.

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