PAINTER: Celebrity news just part of the package

Apr 18, 2012

I can’t argue with their reasoning. There is a market for those kinds of stories. Celebrity news and crime news increase the ratings of TV shows and circulation of newspapers such as the National Enquirer.

But mainstream newspapers can also be guilty of devoting too much space to celebrity news, and other less-than-earth-shattering news.

Take Whitney Houston, for example. Her death dominated the front pages of major daily newspapers.

Let’s face it, many of us would rather read the sports pages than digest a lengthy story on our struggles in Afghanistan. We’d rather read about crime news than stories about politicians.

Even mainstream journalists such as me have been guilty of catering to celebrity journalism.

When I worked on the weekend desk at the Marquette Mining Journal, I created a package on the entertainment page featuring stories about celebrities. I would include several stories on national celebrities with their photos. The editor loved what I did. So I continued the package at newspapers in Del Rio, Texas; and Flagstaff, Ariz.

I even added it at the Tribune for a while. I remember one day, though, when a Tribune reporter took me to task for focusing too much attention on celebrity news. He was right.

We are in the business of selling newspapers, and TV stations are in the business of increasing audiences. So the focus on news that is celebrity and crime-orientated will have a place in our society.

When we first moved to Del Rio in 1977, I was amazed at how crime stories dominated the TV news in San Antonio. I first thought it had something to do with the culture in Texas.
But as I moved to other communities, I found TV stations there also placed a lot of emphasis on crime news. Crime news boosted their ratings. It seems time after time, TV stations lead off their newscasts with a crime story.

I’ve always felt, however, that newspapers, such as the Grand Haven Tribune, have offered readers a well-balanced dose of news.

Yes, the Tribune offers crime news, too. Readers need to know about crimes being committed in their neighborhoods. But the Tribune also offers readers a wide range of stories. From weddings to school news, you can find it in the Tribune. Where else can you find better coverage of high school sports than in the Tribune?

When I was sports editor of the Tribune, there were far fewer sports to cover. Now, there are as many girls' sports as there are boys' sports. The coverage has improved accordingly.

Yes, celebrity news will continue to be a factor in news coverage. But newspaper readers are fortunate to have a responsible media in the Grand Haven Tribune.

 

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