News needs to inform, not just entertain

This past weekend I could not get away from the image of pop stars Britney Spears and Madonna locking lips at the MTV Music Awards. Everyone, from Good Morning America to CNN’s American Morning, was talking about it and replaying the by now infamous kiss. I guess we Americans love “Shock TV” because that is really all it was meant to do — grab our attention, shock us and get high ratings.

You know what grabbed my attention and shocked me? A bombing in Iraq on Friday of a Shiite holy mosque killed an estimated 75 people at prayer and injured over 100. That shocked me. One of the victims of the terrorist attack was a known Shiite cleric. He died as a result of the blast, leading to what many fear could be a civil war within Iraq.

Now if that does not constitute “Shock TV,” then what does? Obviously we find celebrities locking lips more important and worthy of airtime on our news programs then the death of innocent civilians. Oddly and sadly enough, our news dedicated an equal amount of so-called “experts” and time to the infamous kiss as it did to the horrible and tragic terrorist attack in Iraq.

American Morning brought in entertainment experts from various weekly magazines to discuss what the kiss meant, what Justin Timberlake’s reaction to it was, why the pop starts did it, etc.

But really, who cares? Does it really matter? No, the truth is the kiss is over and has no effect on our lives whatsoever.

The attack on the other hand must be looked at seriously. The news channels that we devote so much of our time and trust in must be living on Mars, coming pretty close to Earth but not quite close enough to see what our world really looks like today. The deaths of the worshippers and the cleric not only affect the victims’ families and Iraqi people but also our troops who are dedicating their lives as a police force now.

Tensions are clearly growing and Iraq has become a magnet for terrorists. The war, as many skeptics anticipated, has not prevented terrorism but expanded its scope. If Al-Qaeda could not find support in Iraq before the war, it is clear that they have gotten it now.

The attack also affects Americans in many ways. Our tax dollars, which have amounted so far to billions in war efforts in Iraq, will be increasingly used in Iraq as long as Jordanian embassies, U.N. headquarters and mosques continue to be victims of terrorism and chaos. Where was the news to tell us this? Isn’t the news supposed to inform us about our government and keep on eye on stories that actually affect us?

The truth is, as long as we give attention and importance to where Britney Spears puts her lips, the so-called news stations will do the same. Now I won’t lie to you, I watched the MTV awards and saw the kiss over and over again, too. Yes, I was shocked and talked about it with my friends, but I am also deeply concerned about our war efforts in Iraq.

I care about people’s lives and the stability of the Middle East because if the war in Iraq continues to erupt in massive deaths of innocent people, our fight on global terrorism may result in increased global terrorism.

We should take celebrity gossip and “Shock TV” with a grain of salt and instead focus our efforts and attention on the more important issues facing us. Today, as American citizens and citizens of the world, I hope we can encourage our “watchdog” news institutions to get off Mars and join the rest of us here back on Earth.

Aya Batrawy is majoring in mass communications and history.