Friday, February 19, 2010

The Tragedy of News as Entertainment

Hours after discussing the idiocy of how the news media is covering The Golfer’s Statement, I ran into these two tragic stories:

A Vanderbilt recruit, Raajan Bennett, was killed last night in a murder-suicide committed by an ex-boyfriend of his mother. All three were found dead in the family home in Powder Springs, an Atlanta suburb.

Earlier today at Ole Miss (University of Mississippi), walk-on safety Bennie Abram collapsed at the school’s training facility and died hours later. The football team was partaking conditioning drills when trainers noticed that he had endured some difficulties minutes into those drills.

In a day where sports fans may have preferred to hear about some PED/steroid-use admission or a contract squabble, we are still enduring wall-to-wall Ï‹beranalysis of a seemingly fruitless public statement.

In a day where we should be discussing these tragedies in a greater scale in sports media, we had to actually sift through to find the few details that already exist on these stories.

A day like this is the epitome of news as entertainment.

News as entertainment isn’t a new phenomenon, contrary to popular belief. It’s just grown exponentially over the past two decades. We can blame the trials of the Menendez brothers or O.J. Simpson. We can shout at the top of our lungs about Monica Lewinski (who these ladies that The Golfer had dalliances should learn from). We can grow angry about the sensationalism from Elian Gonzalez to Paris & Britney to Kobe Bryant to Chris Benoit to Balloon Boy.

Yet, there are too many sports outlets, too many voices, too many reasons for important stories like this to be overlooked.

We don’t know anything about Abram’s situation. Considering how many in-training deaths of football players we’ve heard about since the Korey Stringer tragedy in 2001, you’d think that there would be a greater discussion.

We know slightly more details about Bennett. Maybe because he was a victim and not the culprit, we won’t learn anything more about his family’s life and events that led up to this senseless loss of life.

The sad thing about this is that as soon as the news and sports networks decide to shift gears, these two tragedies will be forgotten on the national scale.

Maybe the American priorities are screwed up, though any nation that criticizes our media needs to take a serious look at itself before pointing and laughing at us. Maybe times like this can make localized outlets all the more important: home area newspapers such as The Tennessean and the Clarion-Ledger still have the wherewithal and influence to keep these tragedies at the forefront of media coverage for days and weeks. Maybe for some of us, coverage of The Golfer will turn the tide in our media consumption.

All I can hope is that at some point in the next few days, CNN, MSNBC and FOX News will go back to their political agendas as they’re supposed to. More so, I hope that ESPN will dispatch a few of its most heralded reporters to give these stories a bit more national prominence beyond bottom line crawls on our TV screens.


Mia Jackson said...

Good Post. I read the story about the young man in the murder-suicide. It was such a sad case. I'm not expecting much change, however, as the media moves more and more towards full T M Z-zone. I was telling a friend that I miss the days of Walter Cronkite's stoic approach to the facts. But we have you! So there's hope.

Jason Clinkscales said...

In class, we're discussing these issues more and more as we talk about the money side of news.

Last week, we talked about how after Cronkite's passing this Time poll came out and despite the small sample, much ballyhoo was made about Jon Stewart being considered The Most Trusted Person in America.

My youth withstanding, I grew up on and admired Peter Jennings. I'd imagine he's spinning in his grave about that.