American Media: The Bliss of the Public or the Bane of Celebrities?
Throughout history, the media has caught some of the most horrific scenes on camera. While it is great that these events were documented, one cannot help but wonder how much is too much when prying into the lives of public figures. Even celebrities need a time to grieve; yet that time seems limited when they are constantly being harassed by men with cameras trying to give the best account of the situation. Since the introduction of the television, and possibly before, news broadcasters have been concerned with one objective— relaying the most interesting and informative report of the breaking story, regardless of the effects of their curiosity. In most cases of tragedy, the media coverage makes the situation worse.
There is a photograph by Elliott Erwitt of Jackie Kennedy at President Kennedy’s funeral, which really embodies the effects of broadcasting tragedies. In the picture, Mrs. Kennedy’s face seems frozen in a state of disbelief and grief as a man behind her stands unaffected with a microphone around his ear. Millions of Americans sat in front of their TV sets watching the funeral, and through all of this Mrs. Kennedy was barely able to relax and reflect since it was her duty to plan the whole procession. After the funeral, she still could not find the time to grieve. Because she was the first lady, Jackie Kennedy had an obligation to the public so “even under the greatest stress imaginable [the] widow was receiving the guests who had come to her husband’s funeral” (Mayo, 84). By being the wife of a public figure, she too feels the stress of being a celebrity. The media, as well as the members of the public have forced her to remain active and composed despite the tragedy she had just withstood.
Even through all the sorrow and depression around him, the man in the photograph remains stoic and emotionless. This man represents the American media scene. Newscasters and reporters maintain an apathetic attitude towards suffering when reporting a story. While the “continuous newscast of the assassination and funeral of President John F. Kennedy…was an unprecedented…event”, it was not unlike the media to deprive the former First Family of a moment of reflection (Mayo, 5). Because of how hectic that day was, Jackie Kennedy was not even given the opportunity of telling her own children of their father’s death and Senator Edward “Teddy” Kennedy was informed of his brother’s passing by a TV anchorman (Mayo, 39). A death in the family is a serious loss and to be informed of this tragedy by a person outside the family is a shame. The media is unable to leave public figures alone—especially in times of tragedy—which oftentimes desensitizes the matter.
Another disadvantage of media coverage is the effect it has on the viewers. Watchers tend to believe they know public figures personally because of the reports that they see on television. This impression...