As you no doubt have heard, if you were paying attention to almost any news media in America yesterday, Canadian pop star Justin Bieber was arrested early Thursday morning for drag racing and DUI in Miami, Florida. In fact, if you were watching CNN, it became almost impossible to avoid the story.
We generally have CNN playing on the television set in the student area right outside my office here at UNK, and all morning yesterday everything on CNN was BieberGate. And while their coverage of the story wasn’t that interesting, the response to it was.
My college friend Larry is a television news producer in central Iowa, and he announced proudly on Facebook, “No, I will not include Justin Bieber in my midday newscast.”
This led to an extended discussion of the merits of the Bieber story among a group of news professionals and academics. Larry’s explanation was that they didn’t try to cover every drunk driving arrest.
My friend Chris, an academic and broadcast news producer had this to say:
Depending on other news of the morning, I probably would have run it. I do have questions about celebrity news, and I understand Larry’s point. The thing about Bieber is that he is a train wreck in slow motion, and we do show the occasional train wreck (usually only when someone is harmed, though). Bieber has become a story of self-destruction, not necessarily of celebrity anymore. I think there is a strong pull of human interest in that story, and it might be interesting to see the frame changed.
Al Jazeera America is trying to build its reputation as a serious news source that doesn’t give much attention to celebrity news, and other than a brief mention, they ignored the story.
Over at MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell was forced to end discussion about the National Security Agancy to have an update about Bieber’s arrest.
CNN’s media reporter Brian Stelter had a lively conversation going on yesterday via Twitter as to the appropriateness of the network’s level of coverage of Bieber. Stelter responded to a lot of the Tweets, and retweeted a number of them that were critical of the network
For me, Bieber was a story that deserves coverage, if for no other reason than it gets people talking. But I don’t think it should be the story of the day. When Anna Nicole Smith died, a very serious editor friend of mine defended giving space to the story, asking which new value, other than perhaps consequence, didn’t the story meet? Omitting the story in a noon Iowa newscast is certainly a reasonable call, but I do think it’s news, even if CNN did go nuts over the story yesterday morning.