November 28, 2007

Coverage

In many ways I am an enigma, shrouded in a mystery, bound tightly in conundrum wrapped in a nice warm flour tortilla (inside joke, hopefully still somewhat amusing). One of my popular pet peeves is the media. I like to bitch about the incompetence of the media in general, sensationalism and the placement of importance in stories and people that really aren't all that important. Yet ever evening I visit The Superficial, TMZ and, if I really want to overload my brain, Perez. And in my mind, celebrities just aren't all that important.

My hometown - Washington DC - is obsessed with politics and football. And despite the fact that the seat of government for the free world is really right here, the political aspect is usually vastly overshadowed by football. And I know what you're thinking. My hometown is just as football obsessed. But you're wrong. People get killed around here for voicing dissenting opinions. Our 90,000-seat stadium erupts in violence every weekend because some poor, brainless sap decided to wear a Cowboys jersey to the game. In my mind, such importance is misplaced.

The coverage of Sean Taylor's death has, therefore, blown my mind. It's all this town - and seemingly the country - can talk about. And I won't deny the tragedy here. But what, besides the fact that this guy was a young football star, makes this one event so notable when


  • Somewhere around 1,417,745 violent crimes happened in 2006.
  • 473 violent crimes occurred per 100,000 people.
  • Firearms were used in 68% of murders, 42% of robberies and 22% of aggravated assaults.
  • 447,403 robberies were committed in 2006.
  • 14.3% of robberies targeted residences.
  • An estimated 17,034 persons were murdered nationwide in 2006.
  • Murder comprised 1.2 percent of the overall estimated number of violent crimes in 2006.
  • There were an estimated 5.7 murders per 100,000 inhabitants.
  • Only a very small percentage of the victims of these crimes were professional athletes, rock stars, celebutantes, and pop culture icons. The rest were like you and me.

So where, exactly, is the outrage for the other victims of violent crime, robberies and murder? The ones who don't get their faces splashed across the papers and morning news shows. The ones who don't have multi-million dollar contracts with their employers. Where are the vigils at 90,000 seat football stadiums and tributes from civic leaders? Where is the wall-to-wall coverage? These are not rhetorical questions; I'm really asking.

* facts and figures courtesy of the FBI.

Posted by Chris at November 28, 2007 7:08 AM
Comments

I think the reason these people get plastered all over the news comes down to one thing, really...

People now, more than ever, need someone to look up to. Most people don't feel as though they can look up to the president. The super heros that are out there, summon animals with the name like Pikachu to fight by their side, they aren't real super heros. So to them, the next best thing is the althletes, and the actors and actress'. Which is sad, when you look at the little girls looking up to Brittany Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and Paris Hilton. People feel as though they need someone special, and big, and mighty, to be their "hero". When said "hero" suddenly disappears, they want to know what happened. And if the news didn't cover it, the people would move onto another station, or somewhere else to find their coverage. It's all about the numbers.

It's sad that Taylor died, yes. But I don't want to be hearing about it for the next 2 months on the news. There are so many other things that they could be covering right now. What about the Mid-East Peace Conferance being held in Annapolis right now? I haven't heard anything about that, other than on my local radio station. The Palestinian Prime Minister and a Jewish guy shook hands, and almost hugged! That's big news. But you won't hear it anywhere.

That's just my 2 cents... And sorry for writing a book. It's always been a pet peeve of mine. ^^;

Posted by: Secha at November 28, 2007 7:27 AM

Oh wait, I thought I was at the Drudge report for a minute there!

Seriously though, I am with you. While what happened is tragic, I think there should be equal coverage for all. This nation is going to hell in a handbasket and we have ourselves to blame. We are a nation of wussies. We don't stand up for ourselves and we don't stand up to our government.

Posted by: Jeff A at November 28, 2007 7:52 AM

Although it's tragic that anybody dies, he was a thug, and probably into alot of stuff that was illegal.. That's a hero I want to look up to. But that's how skewed our society really is.

Posted by: jojo at November 28, 2007 8:46 AM

I have to agree with you about Redskins fans. The only pro game I've been to was a Skins/Giants game a couple of Christmases ago, and I was really frightened for a few Giants fans we ran into. I'm used to generally friendly and good-hearted college football fans (if you discount the drunk students), and the Skins fans were just *mean*.

Posted by: jaime at November 28, 2007 8:46 AM

Long time lurker and fan of you and the Fish. I live in DC and I was just saying the same thing this morning watching the news. I had to turn it off because it really bothered me. Why was he such a hero to these people?

Posted by: Amy at November 28, 2007 8:57 AM

Speak it brother.

And here is the thing. The news media should be about the NEWS. I stopped watching it and reading it online a long time ago (also partially because we canceled cable to afford a cleaning service and rabbit ears suck)... because I cannot STAND IT when the news spends more time on stories about Britney than what's happening in Iraq, the disastrous state of our health are system, etc etc.

But not to sound like I don't enjoy celebrity gossip... I do. It just has it's own place, E!, People magazine - The Superficial.. although I *cannot* bring myself to read Perez. That dude is nasty.

Posted by: Aimee Greeblemonkey at November 28, 2007 9:27 AM

In the words of Homer Simpson, "It's funny because I don't know him."

Tragedy grabs your attention... that's why the murders and gun violence open the evening news and rest above the fold in the paper.

But tragedy alone cannot retain your attention. In order to do that, the individual has to feel involved with the story. Celebrities, whether the feeling is real or not, are involved in our lives. So, the people feel compelled to learn more about the celebrity tragedies than the nameless/faceless victims.

(Note that I am not saying this is OK. I'm just answering your question.)

Posted by: SciFi Dad at November 28, 2007 9:30 AM

Oh, and re: football fans, we obviously have some crazed ones here in Denver too. We have been to one Broncos game in the 15 years we have lived here and it was SCEERY. We won't be taking Declan for a long, long time - if ever.

It's a totally different vibe for all the other sporting events too... lacrosse, hockey, baseball... all of which we *would* take him too, or have already. He loves lacrosse by the way - must be in the Maryland/DC genes.

Posted by: Aimee Greeblemonkey at November 28, 2007 9:31 AM

I believe that whatever shows up in the media is just a method to distract the citizens from whatever is really happening out there. The government uses many methods in order to keep people from finding out what is really going on out there or better yet from wanting to question what is going on out there.

Do we need better proof that all the crap printed about Britney Spears? Give me a break! I want real news and there is no onw out there to trust perhaps I should just move to France. LOL

Posted by: Katherine at November 28, 2007 9:33 AM

I believe that whatever shows up in the media is just a method to distract the citizens from whatever is really happening out there. The government uses many methods in order to keep people from finding out what is really going on out there or better yet from wanting to question what is going on out there.

Do we need better proof that all the crap printed about Britney Spears? Give me a break! I want real news and there is no onw out there to trust perhaps I should just move to France. LOL

Posted by: Katherine at November 28, 2007 9:33 AM

I believe that whatever shows up in the media is just a method to distract the citizens from whatever is really happening out there. The government uses many methods in order to keep people from finding out what is really going on out there or better yet from wanting to question what is going on out there.

Do we need better proof that all the crap printed about Britney Spears? Give me a break! I want real news and there is no onw out there to trust perhaps I should just move to France. LOL

Posted by: Katherine at November 28, 2007 9:33 AM

We are a bizarre society, no? I think it all began with the Puritans and their, errr, sensitivity to witches - that was all about hype & publicity and it has been a part of the American consciousness since that time, I swear to you!

Posted by: Christina at November 28, 2007 9:42 AM

SciFi Dad said what I wanted to say, only he said it much better than I could.

Posted by: Alissa at November 28, 2007 9:50 AM

You make an interesting point. Several, in fact. Why is it that murder is a bigger tragedy/loss when it's someone well known? That poor little baby girl they found floating in a storage bin in Galveston Bay last month? The one they finally identified and figure out that it was her parents who killed her? What could she have offered the world...had she been allowed to grow up? Also...let's not forget that Sean Taylor was...um...not exactly living the cleanest life ever. To some people's minds he was straight up gangster and there are repercussions for that as well.

Posted by: wordgirl at November 28, 2007 10:27 AM

You make an interesting point. Several, in fact. Why is it that murder is a bigger tragedy/loss when it's someone well known? That poor little baby girl they found floating in a storage bin in Galveston Bay last month? The one they finally identified and figured out that it was her parents who killed her? What could she have offered the world...had she been allowed to grow up? Also...let's not forget that Sean Taylor was...um...not exactly living the cleanest life ever. To some people's minds he was straight up gangster and there are repercussions for that as well.

Posted by: wordgirl at November 28, 2007 10:27 AM

I was reading in Oprah magazine a couple of months ago (shut up, you read Perez) about why people can't summon the outrage for the thousands on thousands of tragedies in the Darfur region but will donate money, time, and goods to an individual or family undergoing difficult circumstances. The idea was that humans aren't meant to know so many people, that the circle of people a human would have been concerned about back in the day would have numbered in the dozens but now we're bombarded with news about so many more -- our brains aren't wired for compassion to encompass so many. This helps explain why we focus on a few celebrities/sports figures. I've always believed that people identify with them so that they can identify with success that may be absent from their own lives, too. That's a whole different vein.

Posted by: Laura GF at November 28, 2007 10:40 AM

No one staged a candlelight vigil when my iPod was stolen out of my car. I'm just sayin'.

Posted by: GreenCanary at November 28, 2007 10:44 AM

Wow! Well stated.

I am Canadian and live in Calgary. Here is what I found...

Number of Offences
Year-to-Date
2005 2006 2007

HOMICIDE 26 33 26
ASSAULT 4562 4449 3810
STREET ROBBERY 476 558 651
COMMERCIAL ROBBERY 236 234 194
BREAK AND ENTER - HOUSE 1886 2034 1679
BREAK AND ENTER - SHOP 2603 2390 2243
THEFT OF VEHICLE 2474 3799 4266
THEFT FROM VEHICLE 5247 6120 6525
MISCHIEF OFFENCES 6469 7131 6968

(Updated: Wednesday, September 19, 2007 14:53)
Statistics courtsey of Calgary Police Service

Calgary is a city of 1 million people.

I Just want to say I care!

Posted by: kari at November 28, 2007 10:48 AM

I'm mostly with you on this. You're absolutely right that tragedies that happen to celebrities get are made out to be of cataclysmic proportions, analyzed and re-evaluated over and over again while most other murders go virtually unnoticed. I recall an excellent Onion article on the topic during the days of the Jon Benet Ramsey case: "Ugly Girl Killed. Nation Unshaken By Not-So-Tragic Death"

On the other hand, it's not like 1.4 MM violent crimes can get equal coverage. The sad fact (and the real tragedy of this story) is that there's an absurd amount of the media specifically focused on the non-tragic side of sports and celebrities, all voraciously swallowed and consumed by people who apparently have enough free-time to value it. Who's more at fault: the media business that whips itself up into a frenzy, or the enablers among us who let them.

In this case (and only in this case, probably because I'm a bit partial to and forgiving of football...if this was Nicole Ritchie I'd have a different opinion) I think this may allow people to snap out of their lives for a second by highlighting the violence in our society, and may even move a few people to do something about it. For all his faults, Taylor was a part of people's lives as a force on and off the field, and his death is moving them in a way the death of a stranger cannot. Perhaps the media machine that feeds on sports can take a few days to focus on crime, the price of fame, and the costs of violence on a community. It's pathetic that it takes a death to do it, but a brief sobering effect is better than none.

Posted by: croutonboy at November 28, 2007 10:49 AM

I think it has to do with the shattering of the perception that if you have enough money, you're safe from such things. American dream and all that. I think for a lot of people it's shocking to realize that someone so successful, in such good condition physically, financially, career-wise could still be subject to the same tragedies that those in poor neighborhoods face every day. As though success in itself should provide some element of protection from harm.

Posted by: Amy at November 28, 2007 11:19 AM

Hear hear! People think I'm strange because I don't follow the lives of celebrities. The only time I pay attention is when something tragic or outrageous percolates to the top of the news. And while Sean Taylor's death is sad, I just don't think the general lives of celebrities are important or newsworthy. There is a LOT MORE going on in the world. People need to get some perspective.

Posted by: the weirdgirl at November 28, 2007 11:20 AM

Chris, I totally agree with you here. In fact, every time I watch the local NYC news, and hear about this gun shot victim, and that random killing, or this act of domestic violence, I wonder why they choose to tell me about that one. When, I'm sure, 100 other people suffered similar crimes that night.

I guess the ones they choose to report on are more sensational, and thus garner better viewing results. But it's hard to care about one victim, when so many others go nameless.

Posted by: Candy at November 28, 2007 11:25 AM

I am now convinced I should move to Calgary.

Posted by: Poppy at November 28, 2007 1:16 PM

I think it is exactly because this stuff happens so often, to so many people not known by millions, that there's so much outrage when it happens to a well-known person. People, I think, are generally overwhelmed and sad about all the violence and bad stuff that goes on and don't have the energy to care about every single person who passes...so they're extra-alert when tragedy hits someone famous.

Posted by: sandra at November 28, 2007 1:50 PM

See, and I'm crass I guess, because it was less of a big deal to me because he was a celeb. My only reaction to his death (because I'm apparently all dead on the inside) was, "Honey? Was he on your fantasty football team?"

Ah. But that's just me.

You raise a good question, and I wish I had an answer. I admit, I love a good celebrity news story - hell, I even love the bad ones - but, I think the reason to ME that they catch my interest is that they are SO UNLIKE ME. Vs your stats about normal people. Who the hell wants to think about how often bad things happen to people LIKE US? Celebrities seem so other-worldly sometimes (take that as you will) - but the reallife stats are what keeps you up at night.

Posted by: Sarah at November 28, 2007 1:58 PM

I agree with you! And it's not as if Tony Romo was killed. Of course if, God forbid, that were to happen we would need to have a national day of mourning. Everyone would stay home from work, we'd lower the flags to half mast and there would be rememberance concerts on TV. It would be 9/11 all over again! I can't even think about it. It's too horrifying to imagine.

Posted by: snakeepoo at November 28, 2007 2:04 PM

It fascinates me how many people die violently. That's amazing. It saddens me because I know all of them were someone's kid. I blame the media for pushing the importance of the blonde cheerleader dying and not the hispanic male or the black female. People die and it's sad no matter who they are.

~Jef

Posted by: Edge at November 28, 2007 3:20 PM

I think it's an assignment of personal importance. A world leader is assassinated, and I know and have full realization of the outcome in future years but how does that really affect me and my life today? Sad but true. We are a 'now' generation. We should be up in arms about a devout conservative election to the supreme court, but we won't be upset until that person actually makes a judicial decision that affects us personally. It's a weird reactionary thing.

So this football player dying is something we can all relate to. We knew him so well! I mean, we WATCHED him play on our own TVs. That's more than most people do when it comes to relating to the world outside of their path to work and home again.

Posted by: Brad at November 28, 2007 3:35 PM

Go Back To Sleep Chris... Your Government and the media are in control. Don't worry your pretty little head about such nonsense. Sean Taylor's death is important. Why did Donda West have to die? This is Hobbit Town and I'm Bilbo Boggins. Shhhhsh... shhhsh. The Revolution won't be televised because there'll be no Revolution. Ignore stinky ol' Pakistan and other worldly nusiances.

Posted by: Johnny "Jaded" Smoke at November 28, 2007 3:42 PM

I had never heard of this young man before this happened. So I am with you. I do agree it is tragic and senseless, but there is no need to have constant coverage when it happens to normal people more often than celebrities.

Posted by: slinger at November 28, 2007 4:02 PM

I hear you. I get People magazine every week (I know, I know, but it's a step up from Us Weekly, so I can sleep at night) and nothing pisses me off more than when a celeb gets on the cover for INFERTILITY or ADOPTION talking about the long and hard road they have been on.

WTF man? Where is the regular woman on the cover who is going through the same exact thing, with 90% less money and resources? Where is the couple who are now broke because they have tried all available options? Nope. That's not a story--that's just life. And I think it's so unfair and hurtful to the regular Joe and Jane.

So yes. His death is sad. But you're right: where are the vigils for everyone ELSE who has died?

I don't have answers because I'm asking the same damn questions.

Good thought-provoking post.

Posted by: samantha jo campen at November 28, 2007 5:07 PM

Because most of those people are poor, and as Americans in the Land of Plenty, we care not for poor folks?

Just a theory. A theory I think is true, but still. :)

It annoys me that it's news when Jessica Alba grocery shops or Paris Hilton goes to the dentist. I even see this stuff on CNN now. I don't think I could find real news if I tried.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 28, 2007 9:14 PM

Dood. Stuck in an airport with nothing but CNN to watch because they were charging for the internets.

Every fifteen minutes that kid was plastered on the screen. Never any new news, just that there were vigils and such. And that he was was still dead.

The only redeeming item CNN brought forth was that there were adds for a segment (that I would miss due to hurtling through the way-up-high skys at unthinkable speeds), on how someone has created a formula to figure out which celebrities were useless.

I'm damn sorry I missed that one.

Posted by: rai at November 28, 2007 9:15 PM

Way back during the O.J. thing, polls said the media was over playing the whole thing. But the mags and papers that featured O.J. sold the best, so the media kept reporting the (cuss, cuss, cuss) whole thing. The same still holds true. Only on the internet. Those sites that are "hit' the most are the people that are reported on the most. I stopped hitting, except those I thought ought to be popular. (did that make sense?) So Chris, you ought to make a colum about hitting those "Brittnay, Lindsay, Paris et. al." sites.

Posted by: joss is boss at November 28, 2007 11:48 PM

*nodding head*

Posted by: sue at November 29, 2007 1:44 PM

Another Denver-ite here--we know all too well the coverage that abounds when a professional football player dies and/or is murdered (we lost two players last year). I'm a HUGE Broncos fan, so it was definitely sad, but not more tragic than other deaths that occur.

For instance--my husband's best friend from high school was tragically murdered in OR in January 2006. They're barely still investigating the case almost two years later. They even have a prime suspect, supposedly, but it's just not a priority. Maybe if he had played football.

Posted by: Liz at November 29, 2007 3:15 PM

I thought the same thing during the Scott Peterson fiasco. Obviously it was tragic and sad and heartbreaking, but how many nameless/faceless mothers/wives/daughters are killed by people they loved without the news (the country) ever taking notice.

Posted by: She Likes Purple at December 5, 2007 12:26 AM


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