The New York Yankees Are More Harmful To The Commonweal Than Lindsay Lohan

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:

Sports coverage.

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?

Reader Comments

DCer

May 24, 2007 10:21 AM

Sports coverage is most often in a "ghetto" that is easily avoided (either by channel, by pull-out news section, or by time slot- ie, turn off the news at 11:20pm). I find that Britney, Paris or other celebrity-watching has infiltrated both serious media coverage (such as entertainment business reporting) as well as regular news. In other words, if I wanted to get more coverage of the Fox ownership of MySpace, I often see Britney wig coverage. While I will be the first person to suggest that people for whom Sports IS news are some of the dreariest people to work with, but I don't see how sports coverage impinges upon other news coverage like Paris Hilton going to jail did.

Alec

May 24, 2007 4:14 PM

The odd thing about the opinions of Gore and Friedman is that they assume the media is pushing this on an unwilling public. What's more likely is that the media has taken notice of what sells/gets the ratings. And judging by the dozens of different celebrity mags people want access to this information. And who among us doesn't know several men who buy the paper only for the sports sections?

Celebrity gossip and sports coverage are money makers and attention grabbers. They shouldn't be viewed as taking away from "hard" news, but rather as drawing people in and helping to finance publication of serious journalism.

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