Celebrity Culture

March 18, 2005 • Volume 15, Issue 11
Are Americans too focused on celebrities?
By Howard Altman

Introduction

Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston take their star turn at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. Their separation in February 2005 sparked unprecedented media coverage, including a record five consecutive weeks on the cover of Us Weekly.  (AFP Photo/Francois Guillot)
Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston take their star turn at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. Their separation in February 2005 sparked unprecedented media coverage, including a record five consecutive weeks on the cover of Us Weekly. (AFP Photo/Francois Guillot)

In early February, North Korea's leader bragged about his nuclear arsenal, the lagging U.S. dollar started climbing and the Prince of Wales announced his engagement. But the serious-minded readers of Bloomberg News were most interested in Charles and Camilla. Americans have an insatiable appetite for celebrity news, and the juicier the better — from Brad and Jennifer's breakup to Michael Jackson's trial to Martha Stewart's jail term. Some observers say it's harmless to follow the lives of celebrities. Indeed, they even say we are genetically programmed to care, and that the heavy focus on celebrities simply reflects that interest. But media critics say celebrity coverage is squeezing out legitimate news and that, as a result, the United States is becoming a nation that knows more about the “Battle of the Network Stars” than the battle for Baghdad. With less attention being paid to informing citizens about government and the world around them, the critics warn, a cornerstone of a democratic society — an informed populace — is being put in jeopardy.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Nov. 09, 2012  Indecency on Television
Aug. 27, 2010  Reality TV
Jun. 20, 2008  Transition to Digital TV
Feb. 16, 2007  Television's Future
Mar. 18, 2005  Celebrity Culture
Oct. 29, 1999  Public Broadcasting
Aug. 15, 1997  Children's Television
Dec. 23, 1994  The Future of Television
Mar. 26, 1993  TV Violence
Sep. 18, 1992  Public Broadcasting
Oct. 04, 1991  Pay-Per-View
Feb. 17, 1989  A High-Tech, High-Stakes HDTV Gamble
Dec. 27, 1985  Cable Television Coming of Age
Sep. 07, 1984  New Era in TV Sports
Sep. 24, 1982  Cable TV's Future
Apr. 24, 1981  Public Broadcasting's Uncertain Future
May 09, 1980  Television in the Eighties
Oct. 25, 1972  Public Broadcasting in Britain and America
Mar. 26, 1971  Video Revolution: Cassettes and Recorders
Sep. 09, 1970  Cable Television: The Coming Medium
May 15, 1968  Television and Politics
Mar. 01, 1967  Financing of Educational TV
Dec. 16, 1964  Community Antenna Television
Oct. 21, 1964  Sports on Television
Feb. 28, 1962  Expansion of Educational Television
Aug. 28, 1957  Television in the Schools
Jan. 18, 1957  Movie-TV Competition
Sep. 06, 1955  Television and the 1956 Campaign
May 18, 1954  Educational Television
Sep. 03, 1953  Changing Fortunes of the Movie Business
Apr. 20, 1953  Televising Congress
May 31, 1951  Television in Education
Jan. 26, 1949  Television Boom
Jul. 12, 1944  Television
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