The almost instantaneous shift in coverage away from Iran to Michael Jackson’s death raises two concerns for me: one is about the merits of the two stories, and the other is about the ease of covering the two stories.
Concerning the merits of what gets covered, did you notice how quickly the media stopped covering Farrah Fawcett’s death from cancer when Michael Jackson died suddenly and mysteriously? I guess you can attribute that to relative star power. Michael Jackson is viewed as the bigger celebrity. Subsequently, Farrah got bumped.
It was not only entertainment reporters who covered Michael Jackson’s death, but serious news reporters and anchors did so as well. Coverage was 24/7 for days in most every news outlet, including business cable channels. And it continues today, but to a lesser degree. Farrah Fawcett barely received a mention after Jackson’s death.
Compared to events in Iran, does the death of a troubled pop star merit the wall-to-wall coverge it is receiving?
Second, I wonder if the difficulty in covering events in Iran has anything to do with it. For example, the Iranian government exiles or arrests journalists and TV reporters when they try to cover the post-election demonstrations. Admittedly, it is almost impossible to cover an event when the country’s government works so hard to prevent it.
But social media stepped in to fill the void. Citizen journalists continue to provide a steady flow of information and images to the outside world, often at great personal risk. I tweeted earlier that I had watched in amazement as a major TV news organization “covered” the unfolding events in Iran by showing TweetDeck, Facebook pages, YouTube, and blog postings on air. Like others, the news organization has no reporters on the ground in Iran. It merely reports what the citizen journalists provide.
While it remains extremely difficult to cover events in Iran, it is relatively easy to cover Michael Jackson’s death. Is the media merely picking the low-hanging fruit? Or, does the media view the death of the pop star as more compelling than the grassroots battle for freedom and justice in Iran?
I report; you decide.