How newsworthy is the media itself?

Tim Russert died recently. He hosted a news/politics show on an American TV network, a show that I’ve admittedly never watched, and he apparently died rather unexpectedly. Sounds sad, like it would be for anyone with a personal connection to him. But I have some honest questions: why have there been three segments on Larry King Live about this? How is it relevant to CNN International’s web or television viewing audience? I don’t get it.

I don’t watch a lot of German TV. In fact, I don’t watch a lot of any TV*, which is included in our cable package as part of our rent (and we pay into the GEZ just like we’re supposed to). But I can’t shake the impression that other cultures wouldn’t flood television or other information sources talking about the death of a person with a similar role.

I mean, do Germans even know the names of their nightly newscasters if you stop them on the street and ask? Maybe they do (but I sure don’t). But I really wonder if this is a particularly American phenomenon. Maybe I’m losing touch with my own roots the longer we live over here, or maybe the limited TV exposure (thanks Mom and Dad) at home growing up didn’t foster a perceived personal connection to the voices and faces in the glowing box. Is this perceived personal connection, or the implication of its existence, a symptom of something very unsettling in modern popular American culture?

I guess what I’m asking is:

  • Have kids grown up with so much television exposure that there is a personal connection to media personalities? Of course it’s a one-way street, so how sick is that? I’m guessing television watching hasn’t decreased at all since the time my skull was still soft, so what are the implications for today’s kids?

  • Is it important for Pfizer, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKlineBeechWellcome and the like that you are fully aware of the Tim Russert tragedy so that you can ask your doctor* about their exciting new product lines designed to keep you — and your other TV-family members — safe from circulatory system problems?

Now that I’m complaining about the media coverage on the media coverage, it feels like I’m part of the problem, and I’m getting a little woozy from looking into that infinite series of mirrors.

Time to head out to the ol’ ballpark. Stay tuned.

11 thoughts on “How newsworthy is the media itself?”

  1. tqe / Adam

    My week in America coincided with Tim’s death. It was the lead story every day that I turned on the news, which made me very sad–at the same time there were people in Iowa losing their homes and livelihoods, and all CNN could focus on was Tim Russert.

    It’s sad, to me, that a television personality who died of a heart attack at 58 took up so much time on the news — i bet there were plenty of other 58 year olds who died of heart attacks over that same week. They didn’t get any attention.

  2. Nargan

    Honestly, I was surprised by the amount of attention he received, too. However, I really never watched any of the news digests that the esteemed Mr. Russert was involved with. I am much more deeply saddened by the news that George Carlin passed away this past weekend from heart failure at the age of 71. I remember at least a handful of evenings with the whole fam hanging out in our family room watching his specials on our VCR. He was accessible for both my generation and my parents’ and there are many routines “Seven Words” and “Stuff” which will live on for years and years to come. Thanks for the good run, George.

  3. Chritina G

    Growing up in the DC suburbs, we had to pay attention to politics, that meant watching McLaughlin Group and Tim’s show, Meet the Press, every Sunday as a family. It’s sad to see him go, his show was something I shared with my dad. The coverage may have been overdoing it, but they are remembering one of their own. Another point is that he died younger than average, which makes us all think about our own mortality. Finally, I think folks from Buffalo (you know who I’m talking about) saw him as the hometown boy who done good.

    I’m gonna miss George Carlin too.

  4. Andrea

    I was a big fan of Tim Russert but I am biased since he was from Buffalo. However, I do agree with you.
    The Media took this story much to far. I must say though, I did watch his memorial service.

  5. ann

    I agree with you and with the other posters. – oh but I do know some names and Gundula Gause und Tom Boro – I have no idea which show they are from, but their names have stuck with me. I think the people who host discussion shows (e.g. Anne Will) are even better known.

  6. Cliff

    Christina G said:

    his show was something I shared with my dad.

    I hope the coverage evokes fond memories for you. I guess there are millions of people who watched the show and have an emotional attachment to their viewing circumstances, and that’s something I’m struggling to relate to.

    Christina G said:

    The coverage may have been overdoing it, but they are remembering one of their own.

    And that’s kosher?

    I’m not hatin’ on Tim Russert, fans of the show, CNN, or even the USA at large here. I get enough hatin’ — mostly out of pure ignorance — at work.* I’m really trying to understand what the standards for news reports are, and what they imply.

  7. Carolyn

    We didn’t really get to watch enough TV to let us get attached to any personalities. However, Meet the Press was the only real news show that I watched after I moved out. It was a nice way to spend a lazy Sunday and it was an interesting show with up to date/current issues. Before asking or criticizing why they (US/WORLD NEWS outlets) how much coverage they spent on it, see if they have any You-Tube segments or check out the MSNBC website. I think you’ll find that you like the way his show ran/functioned.

    Did the media take it too far? Nah, I don’t think so. He was a pretty well liked, tough news guy. Plus he died suddenly and young(er). Larry King did a show on heart disease following Russert’s death.

    Lastly, if you didn’t/don’t like the amount of coverage, you are free to change the channel or shut the TV off. They probably figure most will do that eventually anyways. Plus, give it a couple of days, and we’ll all forget about it and focus on the next catastrophic event or famous person dying.

  8. Carolyn

    I noticed a typo. “Before asking why or criticizing how much they covered it …”

  9. Chritina G

    I hope the coverage evokes fond memories for you.

    No, more like sad memories that something else I shared with my dad is gone. But it’s not like I’m losing my shit over it, just feeling a little melancholy.

    And that’s kosher?

    I much prefer it to the month-long in-depth coverage of Anna Nicole Smith’s death.

    I think the news shows can cover whatever they want to, you can choose to turn off the TV if you don’t like it. Why all the fuss? Obviously the general public is cool with the amount of coverage that was given. I think if this is causing you consternation at all, it should be with what the US viewing public considers newsworthy, rather than what the newscasters themselves think. Look at the most widely read newspapers in the US and Germany, USA Today and Bild. If people wanted “real news,” they’d read the New York Times, Washington Post, or Frankfurter Allgemein.

    BTW, Rainer knows the names of all the German political talk show hosts, which is what TR was. I don’t know the names of most newscasters in the US or on CNN International.

  10. Andrea

    Hi, I just wanted to say that Carolyn and Christina pretty much hit the spot…in my book anyways.

  11. Sarah

    I knew who Tim Russert was and I liked his work. But I’m with Cliff, in that I thought the coverage of his death was way over the top – to the degree that it seemed like self-indulgence on the part of the news organizations. I think Adam makes an especially good point in that other 58-year-olds died of heart disease that week, too – where’s their coverage?

    It just felt unseemly – his death was news-worthy, but not saturation-worthy. And there was something maudlin about the whole thing to boot. I guess I like to keep my grieving private and my news objective.

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