Forum

Britney Spears does not qualify as actual news

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

Big things have been happening in the world lately — Kosovo declared independence, Castro resigned, North Korea let American news sources into its nuclear weapons plant — and let’s not forget about domestic issues like the presidential race. Although these stories are clearly important and deserving of news coverage, one of the biggest stories infiltrating mainstream news sources like www.cnn.com is the source of all things newsworthy, Britney Spears, and her visit with her kids.

It used to be the case that these supposedly formal news media sources, like The New York Times and CNN, would cover serious and important stories, and that celebrity gossip news was limited to being written about in celebrity gossip magazines. Serious journalism — politics, social issues, and the like — has always been separate from the gossipy celebrity news version of journalism, and that’s a good thing.

Now, however, stories like Britney Spears’ custody battle and Naomi Campbell’s recent hospitalization are making front page news at sources like www.cnn.com. This is an insult to serious journalists, who write stories that actually matter. I don’t care whether Britney sees her kids or shaves her head, and people who do care should be satisfied with buying gossip magazines to read about it.

The fact that Britney Spears visited her kids is not really news, and neither is the custody battle she went through. Parents around the country and the world go through the same thing that she’s going through, and they certainly do not make the front page of a popular and respected news website. Frankly, who cares about Britney? She’s not more important or worse off than any other parent battling to see their kids, except that Britney’s highs and lows (especially lows) are caught on tape; Britney was filmed in May 2006 dropping her son, a pretty clear sign that she’s fighting a losing battle.

A search for “Britney Spears” on www.cnn.com yields over 300 results. While searching for Obama gives over 800 results by comparison, 300 is a number far too high for someone with no importance or significance to real news.

Additionally, on CNN’s website there’s a section called “Hot Topics,” and within that section, there’s a list of supposedly important individuals and groups of people. George W. Bush makes the cut, along with al Qaeda, Paris Hilton, and Britney Spears.

Something about that list is disturbing. Suddenly, being an ex-teen idol or a ditzy blond heiress is just as important in the realm of serious news as are al Qaeda and the president of the United States.

Serious news sources need to be just that — serious. Celebrity news should be pushed back to the entertainment section instead of dominating the front page, or simply left out of the publication altogether. The future of journalism looks bleak if this is where news is headed. Instead of promoting issues that matter, like the presidential race that determines who runs our country for the next four years, or raising awareness about important domestic and international news, journalists are wasting their time — and that of their readers — by writing about celebrities.

It isn’t all the fault of the publications, though. People are demanding more news about celebrities, and news publications want to increase their readerships, so they give their readers what they want. As a result, most people can’t talk about current events without fumbling over the details, but they can tell you which party Lindsay Lohan attended and what happened when Britney Spears visited her kids. Readers should expect to see real news, and not pop culture news, in these publications, and until they do, news websites will be unwilling to change their ways for fear of losing their readerships.

Online publications are becoming more popular and more widely read than print editions due to their ease of accessing the latest news. Since these websites are connected to legitimate news sources, the content should reflect this. The extra power and influence that comes with being a popular and respected news source also comes with the responsibility to inform readers about the issues that matter — and that doesn’t include Britney Spears.

Besides giving American readers more interesting and important things to read, online news publications should realize that they have an international audience as well. When Britney Spears is one of the hot topics on the front page, she is representing our country, making us appear more interested in trivial pop culture matters than issues of politics or culture. That’s something we definitely don’t want to encourage.

Britney Spears should not be a symbol of anyone’s country (or anything else, for that matter). She can’t keep her life together, and she is not a role model. If news sources insist upon putting celebrities in the mainstream news, then they should choose their subjects wisely. Celebrities can be role models, and if a celebrity must be a hot topic in the news, it can at the very least be someone worth reading about. A celebrity’s work is only important and worth reporting on if it relates to another important issue, as in the case of endorsing political candidates or promoting a charitable cause, such as actress Angelina Jolie’s work with refugees.

News sources — both online and in print — need to get back to writing about things that affect wider audiences and use their power to inform the people about more than just gossip. Journalists should report the news and return to making their profession a serious one, and leave Us Weekly and Star to deal with Britney’s visit to her kids and Paris Hilton’s latest drunken mistake. There is a place for these kinds of stories, but that place isn’t CNN.