Death of Anna Nicole Smith: Should Vox Populi Rule the Media?

An analysis over the weekend in the Los Angeles Times lamented the reality that demand for stories about [tag]Anna Nicole Smith[/tag]’s death on its Web site prompted print edition editors to give the story front-page treatment the next day. James Rainey, the writer, saw a similar feeding frenzy across the media spectrum–from print to radio to TV and certain to Web–and with people rushing to sell items on eBay.

The writer attributed all of this to demand for information about her death as evidenced in the increase in Web hits, or visits, when articles and pictures were posted about Anna Nicole Smith following her Thursday demise.  Celebrity death sells, evidently, even and especially with the often-troubled Ms. Smith.

But should writers and editors care about what people want to read as opposed to what they feel people should read in terms of importance and social value?

Rainey seems to think not, though he never comes out and says so.  He does quote Ms. Smith’s former TV producer, Jeffrey Shore, as saying “it’s kind of ghoulish and just too bad” the way she was being exploited in death.

Was Ms. Smith’s death bigger news than anything that happened that day in Iraq?  Probably not, but people have already heard enough about Iraq.  They just want the whole thing to go away–and terrorism with it.  That may be an unrealistic goal, but at least Anna Nicole Smith was a human being people could relate to, warts and all, in a time when most heads are in the sands of avoidance and denial.


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