In what I hope isn’t much of a shocker to people who watch mass media news programs, Pew Research has recently released a study entitled, Public Blames Media for Too Much Celebrity Coverage. It’s good to see that 87% of believe that celebrity scandals receive too much news coverage. However, this raises an interesting question about who is to blame. The standard argument from media outlets is that they’ll give people what they want; these “people” on the other hand, state that they’re just eating whatever garbage the press serves up. From the article:
When asked who is most to blame for the amount of coverage these kinds of stories receive, a majority of the public point to the media. Fully 54% of those who say celebrity news is over-covered also believe news organizations are to blame for giving these stories so much coverage. Roughly a third (32%) say the public is to blame for paying so much attention to them, and another 12% say the media and the public are both equally to blame.
Going back to simple supply-and-demand theories, this is somewhat hard to justify. My own (admittedly unscientific) research shows that the overwhelming majority of televisions sold in the United States have channel changing devices and even on/off switches. Wouldn’t any of these mechanisms help solve the problem?
Perhaps there’s hope for a more responsible and believable explanation:
One noteworthy difference in opinion on the question of who is to blame for tabloid news coverage can be seen across age groups. Young people blame the public more than the news media. Nearly half of those under age 30 say it’s the public’s appetite for scandal news that spurs the amount of coverage, 31% say news organizations are to blame. Among those over age 30, large majorities blame the media, while less than 30% blame the public.
Personally, I think the point is that people have a choice in what to watch, and time after time they choose to watch trash rather than anything of substance (speculation on why will be the subject of a future post). It seems that watching celebrity scandals is a lot like rubber-necking on the freeway – the information provided in either case is hardly useful to anyone. Yet, watching a drugged-out Lindsay Lohan in arrest-related photos seems to trump far more important scientific, social, and political news. So, what will it take to truly stem the tide of celebrity scandal coverage?