Does anyone need any more evidence that the major media does not have our best interests in mind when selecting which stories to cover and highlight? Bush is facing (or, rather, trying to avoid) heavy public protest in London, people are protesting the FTAA in Miami, and terrorists have struck again in Istanbul, killing at least 27. And yet what is the top story on the websites for ABC, MSNBC, CBS, FOX News, and CNN? Answer: Michael Jackson. In my opinion, I hope that Mr. Jackson is given a fair trial, and I hope that if found innocent he is left alone, and if found guilty he is punished appropriately. But any more than that and I really do not care about his story. There are people arrested for child molestation all the time. That's unfortunate, but I don't think every case deserves to become front-page news. Nor do I think that this particular case deserves the attention it is getting. Michael Jackson is a freak, no doubt; I suppose it is human nature to wonder about him. But his alleged crime is all too common, and if not for Jackson's fame I doubt there would be much interest in his case. So it seems that the process used by all the major news outlets to select the top story is not one based on a rational regard for what is most important and most in need of attention, but rather is based AT BEST on a base human tendency to curiosity in the face of the strange. In other words, the gossip pages have moved up front.
Of course, there could be something much more sinister at work here than base human nature. Media consolidation has brought with it a disturbing homogeneity in the media landscape. The fact that ALL the major news outlets in this country have made the decision to highlight Jackson over the several other current stories that I believe are far more important shows at best a horribly unsettling conformity of thought among the people in the media. But it seems unlikely that this one segment of the population should just happen to be so very like-minded. Instead, I believe that it is the hierarchial structure and profit motive of corporate news that is the problem. Important stories can be blocked from being reported by editors with an agenda, and I think that most of the time, that agenda is not so much political as it is based on maximizing profit. Michael Jackson is chosen as the top story because he appeals to the lowest common denominator and what is most basic in all of us; thus his story sells. But making a profit cannot be the prime motivator for the media in a democratic society, because a democratic society requires open debate, and open debate can only exist where even unpopular ideas and facts are given their proper airing.
I completely believe that American media has let down America and, by extention, the world, by not covering the stories that are most important at this moment. On the other hand, Indymedia is a model of how the media could work to the benefit of democracy. Even a state-run news outlet can be better that the corporate-dominated model we have now. Just look at the BBC. Not perfect, but a hell of a lot better than what we have in this country.