The Web site minonline.com, a marketing publication that rates successes and failures throughout the media, released their results on which magazine covers were the best and worst sellers in 2009. A year that saw continuing economic disaster, the ongoing battle of fighting two wars and relentless debate on trying to reform a major sector of our social lives, health care, magazines that were actually bought by the most people had very little to do with these issues.
Instead, a few of the most read magazines in 2009 dealt with celebrity death, a celebrity breakup and a criminal that highlighted the economic breakdown. The list included: Time, “The Talent and Tragedy: Michael Jackson 1958-2009;” People, “We Might Split Up: Kate Gosselin Talks to People;” and New York, “Bernie Madoff, Monster.” While two out of the three stories are quite newsworthy, they still deal with death and criminality, and while this might be a small sampling, it might indicate some interesting things about our society. Especially when you juxtapose them next to the worst selling covers in 2009.
That list includes: Time, “Jay Leno is the Future of Comedy. Seriously!” and Newsweek, “The Greenest Big Companies in America.” Now one of these stories is quite newsworthy, but the other still dealt with a light topic, and comedy is something that continually offers bearing for what is going on in the world.
Sure the King of Pop dying was a story that should have been covered, maybe not to the extent that the media does with every single story that involves a celebrity, but all the same, he was a transcendent musician.
Madoff’s ponzi scheme tugged at the anger in everybody’s heart during the economic crisis. Madoff’s Joker face conveniently provided a face to the corruption on Wall Street, but still did not lead people to demand to know exactly how it happened. And lastly, everybody’s favorite marriage to pry into, John and Kate Gosselin’s cover dealt with a break up.
Three topics, three very negative or inconsequential stories.
And yet when Newsweek compiles a list of the most environmentally friendly companies in America, nobody seems to care. How indicative is this of our current society and what we so earnestly devour?
Another Hollywood star has to deal with her husband cheating on her with multiple women. While I’m guessing the happiest person about the Sandra Bullock/Jesse James situation is Tiger Woods, magazines were joyous to jump on the opportunity to detail how much of a monster James is.
Not to say what he allegedly did was reprehensible, but who cares? I’m sure many people know the names of his mistresses, their biographies and how many times he slept with them.
Yet, I’m not sure how many people know the premise of what President Obama signed into law last week, that it was the eighth year anniversary of the Iraq war or that Haiti is still in a dire situation.
I’m sure a lot of people have read Woods’ alleged text messages to one of the women he had an affair with, but I’m not sure how many people have read about the situation in Darfur, that one in eight people in America go hungry or that more than 4,000 U.S. military men and women have died in Iraq.
Sobering news that some people don’t want to acknowledge is happening because then they might feel obliged to engage. But with studies like this comes more proof that the media will continually direct what is covered to what people have showed inclination to read.
News, for a majority of the mainstream, targets more and more people who are too lazy, or simpleminded to understand the world.
But because the cameras stop rolling, as they did in Haiti while many people are still suffering, or because MSNBC covers the Woods affair using TMZ as their prime source, another blow for American journalism, it must be news, or because James has a fetish with Nazi pin-up girls, which outdueled the media’s coverage of the latest Iraqi elections, it must be important.
So often people can initiate change with the power of their wallet and what they consume. People might call celebrity gossip filth, but still don’t turn off the TV and as a result less and less of the news is actually covered. But at this point, I’m not sure many people care.
Kevin Garrity, a senior journalism major, is editor in chief of the Campus Times. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.