WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
September 4th, 2013 By Zohair Hussain | The Morning After | Posted In: Culture, TV/Celebrity, Music

'Blurred Lines': Styled vs. Sensationalized, or Why 'We Can’t Stop'

As readers' interests shift, integrity seems to lose its main market in reporting

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Following last week’s “scandal” at the MTV Video Music Awards, the pacing of news and reporting made itself known as a speed force to be reckoned with. In the minute-by-minute duration and aftermath of the performance of one, Miley Cyrus, and her “partner in crime”, Robin Thicke, new age media came together to do what it does best: twitter our feed with dribble and spit-up commentary.

It can’t be denied that news reporting, in many ways, is stepping further away from hard facts and closer to tabloid gossip. In a day and age where Twitter is the new paperboy, it can’t be denied that the facts are coming faster. And while this could be an opportunity for better news, more quickly, more often than not we’re trading chances for quick links to real stories with 140 character quips on MC-Hammer-like “did you see her butt”s (#chauvanistsforCyrus).

The real disappointment comes, though, when we look to major media outlets (Still trusted by some. Take off the aluminum hat, Johnny.) the next day for hard-hitting news, only to see that they’ve decided to throw their own hats in the ring. With prize-winning headlines such as CNN’s “Miley Cyrus twerks, stuns VMAs crowd,” the morning news was just as obsessed as the evening newsfeed.

As a reporter, a writer, an observer, this obsessive, sprawling focus is what scares me most. It isn’t the performance itself, full of dancers dressed as teddy bears or Cyrus’ gyrating hips on Thicke’s overly hyped crotch (See “Blurred Lines” for more details). It isn’t so much the event that took place, as it was the reactive reports that left an extra, bitter after taste to my morning coffee.

Even arts reporting, perceived to have more lenient, pop-culture laced subject matter, used to hold itself to similar standards of respectful re-tellings of facts rather than fiction.

Though there had once been a clear distinction between opinion pieces and news articles, even in the realm of aesthetic focus, the lines are suddenly more blurred than ever. And where does that leave us, the “responsible” voices?

Culture is, in many ways, defined by the voices that carry out its most essential conversations. If we are of the few so lucky as to have a readership, our words carry the weight of decades of said cultural insight and historical backing. What do we have to say for ourselves when these words, our influence, sacrifice authenticity for celebrity? Integrity for popularity? What are we really accomplishing when we re-draw the line between honest reporting and scandalized, gossip mongering, and honest words inch closer to the latter? What would our (fore)mothers say?

This isn’t to say that there aren’t some voices, some news outlets out there, who aren’t doing it right. While most couldn’t look away from Cyrus’ extended tongue (search “Venom” and “Marvel Comics” for more details), The Guardian, for example, wouldn’t look past the more subtly digressive implications of the performance. Did you miss the moment where the young, stage-dominant, Caucasian Miley Cyrus groped her not so white back up dancers? (The Guardian didn’t.)  

Some took an even more seasoned route, using temperance techniques to stop the sensational train in its tracks. In Rolling Stone's initially deceptive write up, “It's Miley, Bitch: The Tongue That Licked the World”, Rob Sheffield gave a more balanced account of the 2013 Video Music Awards, mentioning Cyrus almost in passing, and spending his time taking equal shots at all the stars involved in what he said was MTV’s attempt to make “sure this year’s VMA party was a real show. With a little help from Miley."

I ask again: What are we creating when we allow objectivity to bend to the will of popular demand, asking for glitter and jazz and sensationalized headlines? Nothing. We are creating a secular sinkhole of informational access. We lead our readers right back where they started.

And that says to me that there must be a change made. The truth is, we CAN stop. If we want to.

Why can’t we create insight, rather than propagate fan mongering, rather than cling to one star's fateful decision to wear her teddy bear out that night? Let the reporters report and the readers decide. It’s now or never. Robin Thicke will age (even more so, it seems) Miley Cyrus will find Disney again (and a few more times after that), “Blurred Lines” will find its way off the Billboard charts (catchy can only be caught for so long), but the honest word —that will last for…at least a few more years.

 

 
 
09.04.2013 at 02:39 Reply

There's never really been any objectivity in the media. Every reporter has a perspective. If they choose to get other opinions they get to choose whose opinions get heard and whose don't. We can all try to be fair and balanced but let's not pretend we are truly objective. As the late historian Howard Zinn once said, "You can't be nuetral on a moving train."

 

 
 
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