Posted by: Jon Fine on May 24, 2007
In a brilliant and arch bit of debunkery, Slate’s Jack Shafer rightly pish-poshes Al Gore’s and Thomas Friedman’s handwringing over how news outlets are Britney-izing themselves (and us) away from Important Issues, and points the finger instead at a much more legitimate “threat” to the space and financial resources of a daily news operation:
I’m serious, or at least sort of serious. (I trust Shafer is too.) If you accept Gore’s and Friedman’s schoolmarmish stance, it’s hard to refute Shafer’s logic:
In condemning Britney-obsessed reporters and readers, Gore takes the easy route. If he possessed any real courage in his conviction that news coverage of the frivolous blocks the discussion of serious “issues,” he’d attack sports coverage. Sports capture a billion times the attention that celebrities do and probably swallow 20 percent of the news budget of dailies.
On a more macro, attention-span level, the notion that Us Weekly somehow threatens the influence of the Economist or the New Yorker is, really, quite silly. I happen to like Us Weekly, partly because you can “read” it in about six minutes.
Six or ten minutes spent with Us Weekly every week is not going to make or break your schedule to the point that you no longer have time to read the New Yorker.
(Hell, you can probably read Us Weekly while you read the New Yorker. Us Weekly doesn’t demand all that much from you!)
It’s 2007. We’re a nation of multitaskers. Shouldn’t everyone understand by now that we are all a melange of low- and high-brow tastes, and that most individuals have sufficient mindspace for both?