The major news organizations, especially the big three cable news networks, need a crash courses in ethics. Given all the major issues taking place in the world, how can they continue to pander to the American public's most base instincts with 24 hour coverage of Anna Nicole Smith?
Witness the analysis for the top most covered stories at the major news outlets over the last five weeks, as indexed by Pew.
1. Iraq Policy Debate - 12%
2. Events in Iraq - 10%
3. Anna Nicole Smith Dies - 9%
4. Campaign 2008 - 8%
5. Astronaut Scandal - 6%
6. Severe Weather - 3%
7. Super Bowl - 3%
8. Libby Trial - 3%
9. Bush's Budget Proposal - 3%
10. Iran - 2%
I've mentioned this at another blog, but to further illustrate your point, one might recall that Laci Peterson died in Dec. 2002, and that story dominated the airwaves while the country was heading towards war with Iraq. And we know what the consequences of that were.
This point is particularly relevant given the rumblings regarding Iran. I noted that Joe Scarborough, who night after night had been warning about potential war with Iran, devoted his entire program the night of Anna Nicole Smith's death to her.
An explanation that seems reasonable to me is that this highlights the profit driven orientation of the news media (at least on television.) Smith's death coverage can generate ratings, yet it doesn't really require any investment and doesn't upset any potential contributors politics.