The Royal Wedding: Too Much News Coverage?

OK. I’ll admit it. I watched parts of Kate and William’s nuptials — and all the surrounding fanfare — and I enjoyed it. Hey. They’re an engaging couple who bring a modern twist to the traditions and monarchy in England and maybe around the world for all I know.

But — and for pajama-clad citizen journalists there is always a but — did the media — lamestream, new and in between — go a tad overboard in the coverage? There was after all at least one major story playing out in the USA yesterday: The destruction and deaths in Alabama from the tornadoes that roared through Tuscaloosa.

Anyway, here’s from Mediaite, “Royal Scam: Why Media’s Excessive Royal Wedding Coverage Is Appalling and Wrong“:

Watching the wall-to-wall royal wedding coverage on the network morning shows and cable news networks this morning, it is easy to forget that every one of them is supposedly run by a “news” division. Wall-to-wall is not figurative term but a literal one. Give the people what they want right?

But wait, a recent poll by the New York Times and CBS found that about 28% of Americans were following the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton “very closely” or “somewhat closely,” a number that eclipses even the rosiest estimates of NASCAR fandom. Now, imagine if every NASCAR race of the past 20 years happened on the same day.

Yes, it has become fashionable to bash the saturation coverage of the royal wedding, but the the problem isn’t with the amount of coverage, or even the expense, but with what it costs us. This spectacle illustrates the degree to which profit-driven “giving the people what they want” has undercut journalism’s true purpose.

There have been a great number of people who have openly admonished the news media for royal wedding “circus act.” In fact, the only subject more hackneyed than royal wedding commentary on Twitter of late, is people complaining about the royal wedding commentary. These hipper-than-thou critiques ignore the fact that the royal wedding is a rare “real-life” vestige of a myth that runs deep in our culture. Quick, name a Disney movie that didn’t have a princess or a prince in it.

There was a time, though, when you could have a gloriously decadent royal wedding cake, and eat it, too, by having a news media that devoted adequate resources to fulfilling its public service obligation. But times have changed, and so too have the apparent strategy of network news. Former Observer EIC Kyle Pope summed it up best on a recent tweet, writing “The big TV networks show their true stripes, investing hugely in royal wedding coverage while letting their foreign bureaus die.”

Yes, by any measure, the decision makers at both network and cable news divisions went long on the royal wedding, spending millions of dollars of the very budget that they constantly carp about being so diminished. And remember lay-offs of the last year? Think of the poor news producer who was recently let go due to a lack of funds, who must be thinking “I was fired for this?!”

And Dan Rather must not have received his wedding invite either, as he opines on The Huffington Post, “And In Other News“:

The next time you hear about another round of layoffs at a TV news division, the closing of a bureau, the decision not to cover a foreign story with full force, remember this week of silliness in April.

Remember the millions of dollars, hundreds of staff and hours of coverage spent on a wedding in London when crises around the globe and here at home festered. Remember the unseemly pas de deux between the press and a reality TV show huckster peddling racially-fraught falsehoods, as both interviewers and the interviewee seek a bump in ratings.

And then please take a moment to remember the eight American soldiers and one contractor killed by an Afghan soldier at the Kabul airport in a war too easily forgotten. Remember the hundreds likely being killed in Syria and Libya, not to mention the death and unrest plaguing countries like the Ivory Coast, which almost never earn more than a mention on our most-watched newscasts.

Remember those who have the least amongst us, struggling after more than a year of unemployment, a long commute they can no longer afford, or the diagnosis of a medical condition that could kill them and bankrupt their family.

The networks couldn’t ignore the devastating storms that killed hundreds in the South, but you had the odd juxtaposition of that news being delivered by anchors sitting in front of Buckingham Palace.

There’s always the question, is the audience chasing the news or the news chasing an audience? I have nothing against the royals or their wedding. It is a legitimate news story, a big event for one of America’s most stalwart allies. We have had a lot of bad news lately, and if you are someone who finds this diversion interesting and exciting, then I think that’s great.

What bothers me is the hypocrisy. The idea that we can’t afford to throw resources at an important foreign story, but can afford to spend this kind of money on a story like the royal wedding is just plain wrong. The idea that we can’t break into regularly-scheduled programming for an address by the president is wrong as well. When the topic was the “Birther Story” (better referred from here on out by the first letters of those two words), the networks jumped right in.

As a journalist, you like to be the one asking the questions. But it’s time that some of our news executives gave some answers of their own.

By the way, the other big story Friday — the launch of the space shuttle Endeavour — still has legs — since the mission has been delayed because of technical problems until Monday at the earliest.

And I wrote yesterday that this was the final space shuttle flight. Actually, it’s the second to last with the finale scheduled for June.

Sorry about that. It’s the last time I’ll give my editorial assistant and fact checker the morning off to watch a royal wedding.

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