Smith’s Death Not Big News

I can still remember the time I didn’t know who Anna Nicole Smith was as if it were just yesterday. Of course I had heard her name before, but who wants to learn more about the life of someone so involved in controversies all the time? It was only when she popped into the news a few months ago with the story of her son’s death that I stopped and thought about who she was and why she was so important in American society.
I am still trying to answer those questions today. All that has changed is that a week ago, she mysteriously died in a Florida hotel. What I can’t seem to get is what all the hype is about. For three days straight, her death was all the news talked about. Whether it was the speculation of a suicide attempt or the paternity of her baby, the media just couldn’t get enough.
The most ridiculous story I heard was a four-minute piece on CNN comparing Smith’s life to that of Marilyn Monroe. Starting from the tabloid marriage to a rich, old man, to the same blonde-girl looks, to their tragic end, the media seemed determined to prove that these ladies were one and the same.
I must say, when the media puts that much thought into something so trivial, I begin to understand why our country has become so uninvolved in major issues that face our country today. Rather than focus on what we’re doing about global warming the fact that intelligence was misconstrued to lead us into a deadly war or even the ongoing attempt by the Bush administration to send more troops to Iraq, we’d rather be distracted by gossip and celebrity.
This kind of media sensationalism is impacting the way society views what is going on in the world. If fed stories about Smith for three days after she died, what are people supposed to think? It’s this type of journalism that causes major events to be overlooked and forgiven by the American people.
The media in this country is so well-protected by the First Amendment that they can cover pretty much any story they want. They have the power to unite a country after tragic terrorist attacks, be the voice of the people in underprivileged countries and fuel debate on any number of important issues.
But what the media has become recently nullifies that great power journalism has and creates the very partisanship it is meant to mediate.
With all the power of the media in our reach, why haven’t we been able to unite against a war that 60 percent of the American people think isn’t worth fighting? Or focused on rebuilding New Orleans a year and a half after Hurricane Katrina? Or given attention to Social Security and healthcare reforms? You know something is wrong when a president’s approval rating falls into the mid-30s. What I don’t understand is how a ‘Playboy’ playmate’s personal issues and tragic death catch more airtime than any other news.
These are issues that are going to affect us, and many generations to come. And if the media in this country truly reflected the minds of the people, the debate over the paternity of Smith’s daughter would not be a headline.

Priya Arora is a first-year psychology and social behavior major. She can be reached at parora@uci.edu.