But this post is not about the death of Michael Jackson. It’s not even about the life of Michael Jackson. You can read a ton of articles on that, if that’s what you want. This is about the celebrity of Michael Jackson, or more like the celebrity of the death of Michael Jackson.
The news broke at around 2:00pm today. TMZ was the first to report, the LA Times followed suit, and that was enough for every news outlet on the face of the earth to pronounce Michael Jackson dead. Of course, there will be conspiracy theorists who will say he’s not dead, he faked his death, or that he’s been dead for a while not. But that’s not what this blog post is about either.
The real purpose of this blog post? Just look at the title and you’ll know it: Michael Jackson dies – why should we care?
Why do we focus so much on celebrity deaths? When a celebrity dies suddenly, it’s shocking. Take for example, the death of actress Miranda Richardson. She died after a skiing accident. We mourned her loss for a couple of weeks, and then moved on. While we mourned her death, another 2 people died (on average) on slopes in the United States, but we didn’t focus on their deaths. Why focus on this person?
Farrah Fawcett died today as well. She had cancer, and we’ve actually been talking about her impending death for two months now. But 562,340 people in the United States will die of cancer this year. Why doesn’t the news focus on them at all?
The big question is, why should we care? People are born, and people die. Why is it news? Maybe because these people are celebrities. The news organizations will say “people want to know about their beloved celebrities.” Maybe we care because so much attention is paid to them – they’re so in our faces – that we are forced to care. But that’s not the real answer either.
The real answer is that we care because the media has made us care. They put it on TV and online and tell us, “this is what you should pay attention to.” And why do news outlets make things important when they may otherwise be ordinary occurences? Because these stories draw in an audience. When news outlets have an audience, they make money – the bigger the audience, the more money they make. The more sensational the story, the bigger the audience, the bigger the payoff.
So does the news media care because we care, or vice versa? A little bit of both. Afterall, I wrote this blog post because I knew you’d care to read it, and you read it because you care to know more about this story.