A 19-year old singer drove a car while under the influence of alcohol and drugs. He was arrested. He is a multi-millionaire and will be able to buy a whole law firm to defend him, or – which would be the smarter option – simply pay any penalty that will be imposed.
The news media are full of this completely uninteresting and unimportant story. Not only the usual suspects, the gossip magazines, no, even serious newspapers, radio and TV stations. CNN e-mailed me several “breaking news” alerts. MSNBC rudely interrupted an interview with a former Congresswoman on the NSA scandal to inform readers about Justin Bieber’s arrest:
(Thanks to Chris Blattman for the pointer to the video clip.)
I have no problem if websites or blogs run these kind of celebrity stories. I understand there is a market for it. And if a newspaper wants to print it, they can put it on the last page (although I still feel sorry for the story that gets thrown out for it). With these types of media, I can skip what doesn’t interest me.
But radio and TV, especially news channels, are supposed to make a choice on what’s important and what’s not. I can’t easily skip a story, and if watching them, I rely on them to prioritize events and stories. If a channel decides that the news of an arrest of a teenage drunk driver is both so important and urgent that they have to interrupt an interview on the NSA, then they lose all my confidence in them. For god’s sake, even if Mr Bieber’s arrest would have been important, it definitely wasn’t urgent. He was released after paying a bond, so any proper journalist could have waited for the trial or other disposition of the charges and report on the case then. At the very least, they could have let the interviewee finish her sentence.
The sad irony is that there are plenty of stories in the US criminal justice system to report on, from the remaining but almost forgotten inmates at Guantanamo, to a sheriff in Arizona who runs something like a private labor camp, to dubious death penalty cases to the disenfranchisement of millions of prison inmates. There are at least a million people in prison tonight who deserve the media’s (and your) attention more than a 19-year old who drives a Ferrari. I am a lawyer; I know not to put too much faith in the criminal justice system. But as a citizen, I would at least like to have journalists who carefully watch that system. Sadly, I am being disappointed more and more.