The title of this blog probably clued you into the fact that I’m not a fan of the Kardashians. As I try to keep abreast of any phenomenon that draws such attention, I actually tried watching their realty show once. I had to turn it off after about 30 seconds as my fear for humanity became too intense.
Despite that, I’m quite fascinated by the Kardashian phenomenon because I don’t understand why they’re famous. It seems there’s no particular reason other than a concept developed by Altheide & Snow that the more you appear on TV, or in this case all forms of media, the more your social status grows. These women are living proof that theory is accurate.
Over the past few weeks, it’s not just the entertainment airwaves that have been abuzz with news of the Kardashians. Kim Kardashian’s wedding was a massive media event covered by most major news sources in the western world.
Not to suggest this is the first celebrity wedding to cross over to news. I remember when I was a newsroom rookie and Celine Dion was getting married. That day, the station I worked at led the show with a major report about homelessness; the competitors led with Dion’s wedding. I didn’t see the numbers, but I know who won the ratings war.
The idea of drawing news audiences at the expense of editorial content is old hat. But at any school of journalism or newsroom the debate rages on—as does the balancing act of trying to retain credibility.
I’ve written before about CBC’s promotion of Battle of the Blades during The National, and in a privately run newsroom an entire series I once produced designed to cross-promote a reality show.
Now you could make the argument it’s all about drawing in more viewers to make more money, so more solid news content can be created.
Or you could argue that to make way for shameless promotion newsworthy stories are dropped—and even at a public broadcaster, ratings trump editorial content.
I don’t see how any traditional agency can knock citizen journalists given the now acceptable norms of our industry.
Perhaps I’m turning into a dinosaur, and taking this all too seriously. But news is meant to inform, to engage, to spark action, and, yes, even change the world. News as entertainment may be a reality, but the fact “reality” shows are now news is truly disturbing—and a bit too far down the slippery slope for me.