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American media undervalue covering serious issues

American news outlets have turned to increasingly elaborate measures to grab viewer attention.

At any given point during a particular story’s lifespan, journalism can assume many forms — a television commentary, a feature in a newspaper or a radio broadcast detailing developing stories, and the intricacy of the coverage is generally a byproduct of its popularity.

This tenuous relationship between popularity and coverage creates an inherent dilemma of priorities driven by a business model of free-market journalism that favors larger audiences for the sake of revenue over notoriety for journalistic integrity.

“Around the World,” a CNN news segment, sent an American reporter halfway across the world for in-depth coverage of Kate Middleton’s developing fetus. The same channel spent approximately two to three minutes discussing a mass food poisoning in India that has so far cost the lives of 22 malnourished children. Middleton’s nursery was given a 20-minute spotlight following a lavish, world-class VIP tour while news anchors briefly discussed the inevitabilities of food contamination in third-world countries.

It’s not a difficult concept to grasp — news is to sensationalism as a fly is to a fresh piece of dung, clinging to whatever bit of information can sustain its viewership, and thus its profitability.

Most often it’s celebrity gossip, while other times it can be punditry and political contention — in any case, it’s whatever sort of flashy, raw bit of material can stir the pot.

It would seem logical that an institution nourished in such environments would produce content to fit its needs, but there is, and always has been, evidence to the contrary.

A 2007 poll by the Pew Research Center found that viewers believed media gave far too much attention to celebrity gossip and too little appeal to issues such as education, poverty, economic decline and global warming. That same study found the percentage of news coverage often underscored the percentage of individuals that followed the news. In that same year, another Pew poll indicated 87 percent of Americans polled believed news outlets spend too much time covering celebrity scandals, 54 percent of those respondents blamed news organizations for the unwanted
surplus and 32 percent imputed the American public for paying
attention.

This establishes, with a moderate degree of credibility, that news reporting isn’t always in touch with public sentiment and that Americans to a sizable extent, do crave news coverage about serious issues that are less apt to being charged or dramatized, revealing an often overlooked component of the media marketplace dynamic: A considerable chunk of viewership and revenue can be a result of broadcasting pertinent news — the type that actually has an impact on world affairs and citizens.

This trend is not only limited to television programming — global Internet traffic rankings compiled by Alexa Internet, a web information company, consistently place news organizations, such as the British Broadcasting Company , that focus on real issues above news outlets that favor spin and commentary.

A profit-driven information paradigm is compatible with coverage of legitimate events concerning issues that humanity faces on a daily basis and, based on plausible evidence, can compete with the luridness of celebrity gossip or overhyped yellow journalism.