The melodrama surrounding Paris Hilton shows how perverse news reporting has become. It boggles the mind that newsworthy items of great importance are pushed to the background in order to cover someone who impacts society in no positive way and has no obvious talent other than getting in the news.
Who is Paris Hilton? And what has she done to warrant such extensive coverage? Apart from being born to opulent wealth and starring in a homemade sex video, reality TV series, minor film roles and a self-titled music album, there is little that sets this 26-year-old DUI offender apart from the mass of poseurs that haunt the pages of celebrity gossip magazines.
I’m not trying to belittle Hilton, who may be a closet humanitarian when she’s not driving drunk or cat-fighting with the likes of Nicole Richie or Lindsay Lohan.
However, as news producers are fond of reminding us, there is only so much airtime available for news.
This leads one to wonder what real news is getting cut so that television news programs and newspapers can devote endless hours and print space to Paris Hilton trivia. Let me count the ways.
Terrorism. According to the Department of Homeland Security, we’re running a Code Orange on our domestic and international flights right now, which means that we’re facing a “high risk of terrorist attacks.” Yet, incredibly, Hilton’s release from jail and subsequent re-imprisonment has received more coverage than the plot to blow up JFK airport.
The war in Iraq. Even with American troops and Iraqi civilians dying on a daily basis, Operation Iraqi Freedom receives minimal coverage by the media. We rarely hear the names of our fallen soldiers – they are treated as the anonymous dead – nor do we hear anything about their lives or family members.
Yet we’ve been treated to an excruciating amount of minutiae about Hilton’s first few days in jail – from the dryness of her skin because there’s no cream in jail to her attire – an orange jumpsuit.
The genocide in Darfur. It is estimated that there have been 400,000 deaths and more than two million people forced into substandard refugee camps. Is Paris Hilton more important than the starvation, rape and mass killings of innocent civilians?
AIDS in Africa. According to former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, between 1999 and 2000, more people died of AIDS in Africa than in all the wars on that continent, including Angola, Sierra Leone, Congo, Congo-Brazzaville, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea.
UNAIDS estimated that worldwide at the end of 2006, there were 39.5 million people living with HIV, 4.3 million new infections of HIV and 2.9 million deaths from AIDS.