Thomas Jefferson would have deplored the modern American obsession with entertainment celebrities. Indeed, had he seen the grotesque amount of time the average American citizens spends analyzing the minutia of the lives of actors, singers, and those bizarre celebrities who seem famous only for being famous, he would conclude that celebrity obsession is a cancer eating away at American society.
We live in a time when most Americans would be very hard-pressed to name their own representative in Congress, or even the governor of their state. However, it is likely that substantial majorities would be able to identify the subject of the latest reality television show, or which Hollywood couple is expecting a baby, or which musical superstar has been arrested for drunk driving.
While the main blame for this must be laid at the feet of the American people themselves, a large part of the problem also lies with the media. We used to be able to distinguish between legitimate news organizations and those who engage in mere tabloid journalism. But today, there seems to be little that separates them. When we turn on CNN or one of the three semi-reputable network news affiliates, we are just as likely to see a story about the latest party escapades of a young Hollywood figure as we are to see an investigative story about the budget deficit.
About the only news organizations which maintain a shred of credibility in America are PBS and NPR. Because they are public broadcasters rather than corporate networks dependent on advertising revenue, their producers can resist the pressure to down down their programming and can focus on news reports of genuine importance to citizens. (A wonderful way for a 21st Century Jeffersonian to begin the day is to listen to the hourly news summary on NPR while sipping a cup of coffee.)
The media barons see their operations as mere profit-generators and choose to ignore their civic responsibilities to educate the American people about the issues of the day. It is imperative that 21st Century Jeffersonians begin to put pressure on the media establishment and send the message that stories about the lives of entertainment celebrities belong in tabloid magazines and should have no place among serious news reporting.