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media blitzed
a rant
by robert a. melos
pop culture

Tonight I saw a preview for tomorrow night's Larry King Live with guest Colin Powell, and my first thought was, "what does Colin Powell have to do with Michael Jackson's death?"

Of course I immediately amended that thought. Naturally Colin Powell has nothing to do with the death of the pop star. He must just be on to discuss his opinion of Michael Jackson's death, and its impact on the political and economic world climate. Perhaps, I mused to myself, he will share his feelings on the possible abdication of Paula Abdul from American Idol. What more important issues could Colin Powell discuss than Jon and Kate? Maybe Colin Powell will have an opinion on the arrest of Professor Gates?

It seems what passes for news has changed dramatically, and the change occurred long before the death of Walter Cronkite. In some fleeting moments in my mind I think Cronkite is spinning in his grave. I had one of those moments when Lou Dobbs, a former hard news anchor, interrupted his broadcast on a discussion of the nomination of Judge Sotomayor to update the general public on the latest development in the ongoing death of Michael Jackson.

You could see from the look on Dobbs face he was silently praying to the ghost of Walter Cronkite. "Why Walter, why? What happened to real news? Oh Walter, in your ethereal form, can't you haunt the media moguls who have run the news business into the ground and make them see the error of their way?"

I just know that was what Lou Dobbs was praying for; that, and tickets to a Blondie reunion tour.

Now I don't want to give the impression I am callous and unfeeling. I was moved by the death of Michael Jackson. I grew up listening to his music. He was only four years older than I, and part of my life in an entertainment form from as far back as I can remember, so it stands to reason I felt sadness at his death. I'm moved by the death of anyone, famous or not, and I'm sure everyone deserves a fitting memorial, but some "breaking news" should be relegated to the entertainment portion of the news.

Maybe I'm just old fashioned in my thinking. Maybe I'm just media saturated with so much useless information on celebrities and celebrity wannabes that I long for the days of yore when news anchors like Cronkite, or Chet Huntley and David Brinkley reported the news of the day in an orderly fashion leading off with the world news, then local news, weather, and finally sports. If there was time at the end of a news broadcast a bright tidbit, a happy uplifting story would be reported. The death of a celebrity might be a lead story, but the ongoing investigation into that death would not top political or world or economic news; unless it was a slow news day.

Perhaps that's it? Perhaps with the 24 hour media coverage we are treated to the media is forced to scrounge for every tidbit, every tender morsel and then every dried out chewed up and spit out morsel of a news story to the point of such overkill the public feels they know more than the media. Maybe the news has become a form of escapism. If we care more about Michael Jackson, and Jon and Kate, and Paula Abdul, then we won't focus on the failing economy, the stress of foreclosures and bankruptcies, high prices and higher unemployment. The media has become a jester of mass distraction. If we don't focus on the iceberg ahead we can switch deck chairs and give importance to that which holds no real importance in the fabric of our lives. We can pretend, for a few moments more, that dead celebrities, and reality show stars are among the most pressing issues of the day.

Maybe escapism is the answer. If I concern myself more with what Sarah Palin will do now that she's unemployed, or with who will actually raise Michael Jackson's children, rather than my own problems and person struggles, everything will really be all right. Well see.


Robert is the author of the novels Cool Mint Blue, Melba Ridge, and the recently released The Adventures of Homosexual Man and Lesbian Lad; and the creator of the on-line comix Impure Thoughts found at his web site Inside R.A. Melos, as well as having been an on-line staff writer for QBliss where he had a monthly humor column, Maybe A Yip, Maybe A Yap. In his non-writing time, when he's not studying the metaphysical or creating a tarot deck, he sells real estate in Middlesex County New Jersey, hangs out with his dog Zeus, and spends time at the Pride Center of New Jersey in Highland Park, NJ, where he is on the Board of Trustees.

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