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A Daughter’s Turn


Editor’s Note: This week, Mike Spinney’s turned his column over to his 13-year-old daughter Kerrin. We think that’s great since, among other things, Spot-on like to encourage commentary and participation in current and political events by young women. And while this started as an half-serious attempt to squeeze in a few more hours of Father’s Day fishing, it didn’t quite turn out that way. There was some editing involved on Dad’s part. “In the end, I think it was worthwhile,” Spinney said as he submitted Kerrin’s post. We couldn’t agree more. Here’s our (so far) youngest correspondent, Kerrin Spinney.

Celebrity as News Substitute

By Kerrin Spinney

I turned on the television a few days ago and immediately heard a news reporter say, “Good news and bad news. The good news: Paris Hilton was released from jail. The bad…”

I never heard the bad news because I had quickly turned the TV off, but what I managed to hear brought several questions immediately to mind. First, what exactly does Paris Hilton do to qualify her as a celebrity? She’s an heiress. She doesn’t do anything apart from acting cheap and shallow and looking pretty. She adds nothing of substance to the public discourse. Do we really need more people like Paris Hilton getting the attention they do, receiving celebrity status and treatment because of their misbehavior?

Second, why was her release from jail good news?

I guess I’m guilty of contributing to the problem by using this space to give Paris even more attention, but in a way, the situation is inescapable. She and every other vapid celebrity have managed to capture the interest of the American populace, diverting attention and dominating the news instead of politics, economics, war, and other important issues of the day. And when it’s not Paris Hilton it’s some other sports, fashion, or pop star.

When Dad asked me to write a column as a Fathers’ Day present, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to think of anything about which to write. Even though it’s summer vacation, the writing itself didn’t bother me (after all, what are editors for?). They say “write what you know,” but the things I know are related to Middle Earth, SonicVerse, and role playing games. There are elementary school kids who are doubtless more politically aware than me; I probably couldn’t even remember the name of our vice president unless I thought about it for a minute or two. So why are most of us so uninterested in the things that affect our daily lives, yet so enthralled with our individual realities?

The answer is simple: we are taught to be. I hear from my parents and grandparents that there was a time when the news was informative and relevant. Trivial entertainment events, such as Sanjaya Malakar’s American Idol saga, weren’t packaged as news, taking time away from more important things. Over time, it seems mainstream news standards slipped and entertainment found its way into the picture, catering to a lowest common denominator rather than attempting to inform and edify the reader, viewer, or listener. As a result, staying informed is a difficult thing, especially now that much of what we see and hear is spoon-fed to the public and driven by entertainment value.

It’s no wonder that the public clamors for more detailed information about Paris Hilton and other celebrities when we’ve been conditioned to believe that their lives are of more value than our own. That news of their lives and deaths also entertains us only makes us want more.

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