The last chapter of Media and Social Justice, “Media Democracy in Action: Truth Emergency and the Progressive Media Reform Movement,” Mickey Huff and Peter Phillips begin their piece by discussing some of the major news stories of the few years before the publishing of the book. They bring up, among a few others, the death of Michael Jackson, Michael Phelps’ marijuana usage, Jessica Simpson’s and Tyra Banks’ bodies, and (my personal favorite) the Balloon Boy hoax. They seem disturbed, and rightfully so, with what has been and is being “mainstreamed as news” (242).
The story that Huff and Phillips focus on the most is Anna Nicole Smith’s death in 2007, calling it, however tragic, “one of the most egregious examples of an overabused news story” (241). They even liken it to CNN’s coverage of 9/11; the coverage of Smith’s death was one of the “longest uninterrupted ‘news’ broadcasts at CNN since the tragic events of September 11, 2001” (242). I hadn’t even heard of Anna Nicole Smith until her death, and then all of a sudden she and the paternity battle over her daughter were everywhere.
The thing that shocked me the most about their discussion of the news coverage that surrounded Smith’s death is that around the same time, “The US ambassador to Iraq misplaced $12 billion in shrink-wrapped one-hundred-dollar bills that were flown to Baghdad” (242) it was not getting nearly the same amount of media coverage.
What kinds of things are we missing now? All of this “tabloidized, trivialized, and outright useless information” (241) as Phillips and Huff call it, is still going on today, maybe even more so. Much of the media focuses on stories like the misbehaved teenager that appeared on Dr. Phil getting her own reality show. Even when actual newsworthy events happen, like human-rights lawyer Amal Clooney standing up against ISIS at the UN, the media is focused on other things like a woman’s baby bump or what she is wearing while trying to make a real difference in the world.
With our country in the political climate this it is in right now, this sort of arbitrary information is, in my opinion, the kind of “fake news” we need to be worried about. It’s the kind of “fake news” that is distracting us from from the important stories, like those about laws being signed into action or those about human rights being taken away, that are being swept under the rug.