Right now, in our country, there are millions of Americans looking to television, the internet, radio and newspaper media outlets for a glance on what's big in the world.
We get the filtered highlights brought to us in soundbites, quick quotes and fancy animations with "whooshing" sounds on the screen.
Show producers, editors and their staffs of journalists tackle different stories every day. We now live in a 24/7 news cycle that never stops despite its ramp-ups and slow-downs.
We have the recovery from a natural disaster, a presidential election, the assignation of an ambassador in a terrorist attack, an investigation of the CIA by the FBI, and I'll guarantee that the headlines – at least through today – will continue to be dominated by the breakup of Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez.
Well, there are a few reasons, and none of them reflect well on our society.
When focus groups are asked about newscasts on TV, or a mix of information on radio, they often say that they don't need all the bad news. They say, when asked, that they like to hear good news about their community and positive things people do. However, when they are observed and tracked on what they pay the most attention to, it happens to be the bad news.
Part of that is inherent in us. There's a need to be aware of our surroundings, to look out for possible harmful situations so that we may better look out for and protect our friends and family members. So, it makes sense that we would want to pay more attention to bad news. However, if there's too much, people will tune it out and find something else to occupy their minds.
This is where celebrity news comes in. It usually is mundane enough occupy our minds, most of the time it involves people we have heard of, and the latest information on a celebrity provides a nice balance with the bad news that may be in a program.
If we merge the two together, we get the perfect situation where everyone will pay attention to something bad happening to a celebrity. We are a society that likes to build people up; we enjoy hearing about good people do good things. We pay more attention to when these people we've built up start to fall. The Bieber-Gomez story fits perfectly.
It's "America's couple" – I actually saw that in a headline on Monday, even though Bieber is a Canadian. Anyway, our favorite young celebrities are having trouble communicating. It validates the trouble we each have in our relationships. These untouchable celebrities are just like us.
So, when show producers are tasked with building a show, or editors are tasked with a balanced story list, it is done with the most important factor in mind ... to keep the audience. Mass media is a money-making venture, and to keep revenues up, they have to keep up the readership/viewership/listenership.
So, today, will we see a heavy investigation into our global affairs, or closer to home, how our elected officials are handling the economy. We may get short updates, but more resources will be spent on Bieber and Gomez, the love affair of former CIA Director David Petraeus and the sexual abuse allegations against the actor behind puppet Elmo, Kevin Clash.
SPEAKING OF RATINGS: Fox News Channel won the national cable race with the largest viewership on election night. Fox, with 10.5 million viewers, was ahead of CNN with 8.8 million and MSNBC with 4.5 million. In its primetime coverage (8-11 p.m. Eastern) Fox News broke its own record with 11.5 million viewers.
In the race for business-minded viewers, Fox Business Network edged out CNBC in the adults 25-54 demographic with 138,000 compared to 136,000 for its main rival.
In the Milwaukee market, the local affiliates of NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox had the most viewers for the election. WTMJ-TV Ch. 4 was the ratings winner at 10 p.m. that evening.
Media is bombarding us everywhere.
Instead of sheltering his brain from the onslaught, Steve embraces the news stories, entertainment, billboards, blogs, talk shows and everything in between.
The former writer, editor and producer in TV, radio, Web and newspapers, will be talking about what media does in our community and how it shapes who we are and what we do.