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Don't Confuse What's News

4 Oct, 2005 By: Holly J. Wagner

It's really lucky for this industry that American consumers are so obsessed with celebrities.

Personally, I couldn't care less about Renee Zellweger's biological clock or her divorce from Kenny Chesney or Pamela Anderson getting a restraining order against a stalker or even Nicolas Cage naming his baby after an alien who became Superman or any of the other dreck that crowds the covers of the tabloids. OK, I admit I read the headlines as I'm putting my groceries on the conveyor belt like everyone else, but that's more than enough for me.

But does it stop there? Nope. With media conglomerates running the news as well as the movie and music companies, they have a pretty free hand to set priorities for their TV outlets. That is more evident every day.

Monday I was getting ready for work, which for me entails flipping between a local news program and a cable news network, usually CNN or MSNBC. Sometimes really important things happen before I get to work.

But alas, on this Monday, the local station was teasing “big news from 'Desperate Housewives' that has some fans hopping mad!" The story was about a cable company accidentally unleashing the Spanish-language feed to English-speaking customers. Boo hooty-hoo-hoo. And in case anyone from KTLA is reading, definitely not news. We have whole shows about what's going on in Hollywood. Every night of the week. Let them cover it.

The other night I was waiting for an out-of-state friend to call, so I looked for a show to divert me until that call came in. I had already seen the news feeds, so I surfed around and all that was on were “Extra,” “Entertainment Tonight” and a handful of other shows all about the movies and the people in them. Not the worst thing in the world; it was surely a comfort that I could pick up a book without missing anything.

The sad thing is that on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I woke up and saw a plane crashing into one of the World Trade Center towers. Because of the way these channels hype entertainment, I thought at first it was a segment about some spectacular movie special effect. Then I turned up the sound and learned the unbelievable spectacle was real. That day I really wished it was just more vapid entertainment coverage.

I have one more desperate plea for all the film and TV producers out there: Please don't make a movie about the hurricanes. Nothing you can dream up could compare to the drama that unfolded on live TV, so please don't trivialize the destruction. The line is blurred enough already.

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