Friday, April 1, 2005

She Forced a Nation to Debate Death

At least that's what the Beaver Count Times newspaper of Pennsylvania would have you to believe. Oh, and the "she" we're talking about is Terry Schiavo. Not Mother Teresa or Sandra Day O'Connor, or Margaet Thatcher, or Eleanor Roosevelt or Joan of Arc. Terry Schiavo. Looking at this front page from the Memphis Commercial Appeal, you would think that a great American figure had passed.

Terry Schiavo didn't force anyone to do anything, and she certainly didn't have anything to do with the media creation that has been "The Terry Schiavo Case" (insert flashy graphics and dark music here). This story has been wholly a creation of a media that is starved for emotional stories and a political process that knows how to get the media all fired up about nothing. The parents of Terry Schiavo were doing everything they could to prolong their daughter's life and that's their prerogative (though not their right). I feel for them. But this is not a story and never was. Just one time, I'd like the media to say "you know, we have more pressing issues to cover than one family's drama," and take on a real issue.

But real issues don't sell newspapers, don't bring ratings, and don't get the folks to stay with the newscast once Dr. Phil signs off, which is why reporters will continue to go to Florida and put Jesse Jackson and Randall Terry on TV even though they don't care one ounce about Terry Schiavo.

If you look closely at those front pages, you'll also notice that the pope is near death. If Terry Schiavo's death is worth this much coverage, how much ink should the pope's passing get to put that event in proper context? Is there a front page large enough to deal with that?

Of course, we could all be in South Carolina, where the big news was that the University of South Carolina won the NIT. Congratulations. You're #65. At least you weren't forced to debate death.
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