On Monday, I wrote:
Okay, I get it, Mr. and Mrs. News Media, Steve “Crocodile Hunter” Irwin has died. That’s sad.
You can stop telling me now.
A number of folks jumped into the comments to condemn me as a world class asshole. Maybe, maybe not, but I guess I need to explain what I meant.
Headlines and airtime are scarce, with plenty of info that can be plugged into them. When an editor chooses to put one news story on the front page, all the other stories that happened on Earth that day get lower billing. When a TV producer chooses to give one story 10 minutes of airtime, that means 10 fewer minutes for every other topic there is. Because of these limitations, I find it hard to justify giving much coverage of the death of any single individual. Maybe Steve Irwin was a great guy, but does that mean that the news media should spend 10 hours out of a 24 hour day to talk about him and only him? I mean, his death was the top story on CNN.com. Of course his story deserves some attention, but in a world of war, genocide, poverty and the like, I don’t feel that Steve Irwin’s death was the most important event of that news cycle.
And let’s not kid ourselves, Irwin didn’t get all this coverage because of his kind nature or his work on wildlife preserves*. He got all this coverage because he was a 1) celebrity who 2) died in 3) an unusual manner on a 4) slow news day (and the news media even managed to get an extra fear angle out of it by giving us somber lessons about the dangers of stingrays, although surely 70% of the audience will never come within 10 miles of one). Thousands of wonderful people who never had television shows die every day, and don’t get even a nanosecond on TV news. None of that is Irwin’s fault, of course, but I find the amount of coverage he got to be excessive nonetheless.
* I’d actually never heard anything about Irwin’s work on wildlife preserves** till one commenter sneered it at me. Had I known that, I would’ve agreed that his death deserved more coverage than your average celebrity, but still less than the media chose to give him.
** Weird that even with the wall-to-wall coverage the media failed to inform me about that.
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