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since 1997 | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Is the death of Patrick Swayze really the top news of the day?

Last night I arrived home just in time to hear the news break that actor Patrick Swayze had died, and a few minutes later, when CNN’s signature evening news broadcast, Anderson Cooper 360, began, it was the top story. Of course it’s going to be of interest to many people, and of course Swayze had lots of fans who are going to be very sad.

But Anderson Cooper devoted 20 minutes — without a commercial break, if I recall correctly — to Swayze’s death. That’s a full third of his hour-long newscast… actually, more than a third, if a 60-minute show typically ends up with about 43 to 44 minutes of actual content after commercials.
With all the other really important stuff happening in the U.S. — from our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that appear to have been forgotten, to the ongoing effort by the Obama administration to shove the crimes of the Bush White House under the rug, to the uproar over health care reform, to, I dunno, how about the years-long drought that is killing Texas

Is the death of Patrick Swayze really the top news of the day?

If CNN can devote this much time to the death of a celebrity, why can’t it devote this much time to the events that really affect us?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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  • Steve Taylor

    Carrie Rickey, writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer, said that there are great actors, and there are great personalities, and Swayze was one of the latter. Nobody would ever mistake him for Laurence Olivier, but he was much beloved by those who worked with him over the years. That said, you’re right, the sense of proportion seems to be all haywire these days.

  • Cassi

    This article is a disgrace and a waste. Devoting 20 minutes to Patrick Swayze’s death was a very nice thing to do and Patrick deserved it. We hear more than enough every single day about all the other crap you mentioned to last a lifetime. 20 minutes is nothing compared to that. Get over it.

  • AJ

    It’s not the top news, but it was the most recent news, and I guess seeing as how Americans like their celeb news FIRST and foremost, it didn’t surprise me or even make me stop to wonder.

    You write about entertainment rather than anything else. You constantly harp on about actors. Why don’t you write about that war that was forgotten? But then, all you’re doing is mirroring the main interest of Americans. ANd the interest of Americans these days doesn’t even lie primarily in celebrities with a remote amount of talent, but especially in celebrities who I don’t see a fucking iota of point about, ie the Kardashians and Montags.

    So, how about you amend your column if you’re so pissed about where we are at? lets hear about the war. I’d gladly read.

  • MBI

    Because it sells. Period.

    Journalism is a business, and it’s time to stop pretending it isn’t.

  • Catherine

    Patrick Swayze was a very decent human being who shared his talents without weirdness and battled his illness with courage. I can understand you may think his death did not warrent that much time. However, if you recall, recently we have had all TV time tied up with the death of the last Kennedy, who got away with murder. Also the death of Michael Jackson, who started out as an adorable little boy and turned indescribably weird. We heard very little about the deaths of Farrah Fawcett or Ed McMahon because of all the Jackson hype. So – where are the priorities? -And, who defines them? Do we care about individuals or only big news-making headliners?

  • dafydd

    Wow…there’s a lot of haters on this site lately.

    If you don’t like MJ’s take on things why come here? And if you really don’t like her opinions why on earth bother to post a reply?

    That said, the love felt for the Swayz was immense. With DD and Ghost for the laydeez and Roadhouse and Point Break for the boys he was quite literally the man every guy wanted to be and every woman wanted to dance with.

    Coop probably spent 20 minutes covering his death because of the latter.

  • Kayla

    Why not? Every other day gets devoted to the same things: government, Afghanistan, Obama, etc. Why not take 20 minutes for Swayze? It’s ridiculous to say

  • Adora

    For someone who devotes so much time to writing about movies and such I find this an odd way to react to the 20 devoted to a man who gave many of us hours of delight.

  • Dr Rocketscience

    Seriously.

    When I heard he’d died, I was all, “Awwww, that’s sad. Guess he really only had a few years left.” And that’s it. I mean, he was a talented dancer and reasonably competent actor and by all reports a nice guy, but now my Facebook homepage is littered with heartfelt memorials and quotes from Dirty Dancing and Point Break.

    Freakin’ Point Break!!!

    WTF??!?!?

  • Ralph

    Why does everybody forget his hilarious turn in Donnie Darko? Now that was a great part! It is sad the disease has made another victim… but 20 minutes prime time is a bit much, I guess.

  • Jim Mann

    For someone who devotes so much time to writing about movies and such I find this an odd way to react to the 20 devoted to a man who gave many of us hours of delight.

    But Maryann is a movie reviewer. It’s too be expected that she spends time talking about issues related to movies.

    Had Entertainment Tonight or some other show devoted to movies spent 20 minutes on Swayze, nobody would have questioned it. But for the regular news, which is supposed to cover major issues, spends that much time on it, something is a bit off.

  • MaryAnn

    Thanks, Jim.

    Jesus. That’s what’s wrong with this country: People see matters of great import — like wars and the future of the very nation — as no different than entertainment. Christ. No wonder we’re such a mess.

    You write about entertainment rather than anything else. You constantly harp on about actors. Why don’t you write about that war that was forgotten?

    AJ, this is a site devoted to movies and TV. If you’re suggesting that CNN’s main mission is coverage of the entertainment world, why don’t you just say so?

    And I DO, in fact, sometimes write about current events when it’s appropriate to my overall mission here.

  • M&M Junkie

    As a long time fan of Patrick Swayze’s, I was delighted to see Cooper’s report last night because as I flipped around with my TV remote, absolutely no other channel was reporting on his passing. This was truly sad since I don’t have enough fingers to count how many channels were devouting time to the Kayne West / Taylor Swift debacle. I guess what I’m trying to so say is that, the focus may have seemed inappropriate for some, but for the fans, it was time well spent. And that’s the beauty of TV. At least I was able to find one channel (CNN) that was devouting time to the story I wanted to see last night.

  • allochthon

    I’m with you, Mary Ann. NPR did about 30 seconds, and that was plenty. I couldn’t care less about 99% of the celebrity news, and what I am interested in I can get from *gasp* celebrity news outlets. (And 99% of the celebrity news I’m interested gets thoroughly covered here, so I’m good)

    But we knew Anderson Coopers was a doofus.

  • Fett101

    You’re not alone, Mary Ann. Especially considering it’s Patrick Swayze. He hasn’t been relevant in years and was barely so even when he was.

  • JoshDM

    We’re at the drive-in,
    she sends me for food.

    I return with her order,
    don’t want to be rude.

    She eats a hotdog,
    loaded with onions and cheese.

    Piled high with chili,
    and just dripping with gree-ease.

    Feel her breath on my face,
    I’m trying hard not to breathe.

    Get me out of this place,
    she wiped her mouth on my slee-eeve.

    She passes wind. {She pa-sses wind}
    She passes wind. (she did it again)
    She passes wind. {She pa-sses wind}
    She passes wind.

  • In much the same way this site is dedicated to movies and television and celebrity madness, we are here watching because we want to. We have these arguments because we want to.

    Does Swayze *deserve* getting all this media hoopla surrounding his death? In most respects did Michael Jackson (literally overkill) or Paul Newman (maybe, as he was also an activist and businessman) or Anna Nicole Smith (tragic life and death)?

    Perhaps it might be a little too much, given that we’ve got drought here, war there, health care reform debated by gun-toting crazies, etc. But the deal on Swayze is this:

    He was an actor catering to the Generation X crowd, the generation more likely now than even the baby boomers (getting too old) or the more tech-savvy Millenials (not in the decision-making levels yet) to determine what gets played on our TVs. We were teens growing to him in The Outsiders and Red Dawn as Older Brother; college age girls drooling over him as Shirtless Hunk in Dirty Dancing, Ghost and Roadhouse; savvy young adults tickled to see him earn a paycheck in Donnie Darko.

    Swayze may not have been relevant in years – he wasn’t an Oscar-caliber actor, merely good-humored B-level badass with a dancer’s grace, think Gene Kelly if Hollywood made shoot-em-ups instead of dance musicals in the 50s – but it turns out he was part of our Gen-X culture (“WOLVERINES!” “Nobody puts Baby in a corner!”). And so attention must be paid…

    So we get Swayze’s death played out as national tragedy – that he died of cancer related to his heavy smoking is merely the excuse to wail and pray.

    Anybody up for a Red Dawn or Point Break remake?

  • Fett101

    Anybody up for a Red Dawn or Point Break remake?

    Now that you mention it…
    http://www.aintitcool.com/node/42366

  • toshiki

    Oh come on, MaryAnn. I have a feeling you wouldn’t be asking that question if it was David Tennant who had died (though, no doubt, you’ll say now that you would).

    It was one Anderson Cooper report, it’s not like they’re going to be going on about this for weeks like they did with Michael Jackson. Swayze was a bit of a zeitgeist tapper way back when with Dirty Dancing and Ghost so I think it’s fair enough to give him some airtime the day of his death. The fight that he fought, filming The Beast through his cancer etc, contributed to the worthiness.

    And sure, he’s no Laurence Olivier but the man brought a great amount of charm, humour and personality to nearly all his roles, even the bad ones, so I don’t quite see the need to diss him (I know you didn’t, Maryann, just addressing some others – namely the guy being a little snooty about Point Break, which for what it is, is a genuinely excellent film like pretty much all else Kathryn Bigelow has directed).

  • Accounting Ninja

    Oh, and we don’t “hear about all that other crap every day”. We hear faint whispers of it, but more the voices who are trying to shout it down and say everything is fine, return to status quo now! Stop being such a reactionary, loudmouthed gawd-danged hippy! Stop making us think about all that unpleasantness! Quick, I need more pop culture to distract me from serious news! That would explain the level of hatred I saw: people don’t like the scales forcibly removed from the eyes.

    I can’t believe a few people here; your logic fail is epic. To equate MAJ’s site, which has always been about nothing but tv, movies and general geekery with a supposedly reputable news site whose job it is to cover important, current news and NOT be People Magazine is just…wow. They are NOT the same thing.

    And what do I think about Patrick Swayze’s death? It’s a shame. It’s too bad. Can we move on in a reasonable time frame and not drag it out weeks upon weeks? I mean, I’ve heard more about MJ, Swayze, Dancing With The Stars and Kanye fucking West this week more than anything else! I couldn’t really tell you what’s going on that’s important by just listening to the popular media outlets.

    We need to get that guy in here from the 9 thread who posted all those interesting thoughts about how media is designed to distract the populace from the real crimes of the world. I’m sure it’s all interconnected.

    Oh, and JoshDM: LULZ

  • stryker1121

    20 minutes dedicated to Mr. Swayze is a bit much, especially for a so-called “news outlet” like CNN. I can see a nice minute dedicated to his career and life…but what was Cooper talking about for 20 minutes? Well, CNN is a 24-hr news channel, so they gotta fill all that time w/ something, and people love them some celebrities…so it’s no surprise Swayze’s death took up a good chunk of Cooper’s show. And to Accounting Ninja and others, you can always turn to dozens of other TV, newspaper or online sources for your hard news if the overdone Swayze coverage offends.

  • The simple answer, whether right or wrong is that we as a population (and we I mean a global we) have become obsessed with the world of celebrity. Therefore when someone who has earned celebrity status dies the TV companies provide what the public want. Personally for a news program to spend 20 minutes on his death does seem a little extreme and would expect that more from an entertainment news show.

    Funnily here in the UK the news coverage of Swayze’s death has rarely been more than a couple of minutes on each news show.

  • Accounting Ninja

    And to Accounting Ninja and others, you can always turn to dozens of other TV, newspaper or online sources for your hard news if the overdone Swayze coverage offends.

    I know there are plenty of other sources. But, even at the gym last night: I was on a machine for an hour, and there are 8 tvs, like 5 of them various local/national news channels. I was exercising during the 6pm hour, prime news time. Guess what I saw the most of? Lots of sports, Swayze, Jackson estate stuff and Kanye West. There was some local news in there from wmur 9. There was a bit about the whole “you lie” drama with Obama. The whole “healthcare coverage” just seems to be a front for all the drama surrounding the arguing about healthcare (of course it doesn’t help that I live in a VERY conservative state and there are anti-healthcare commercials on during the news o_O). But the majority was celebrities, sports and DRAMA (now with more sports!)! I learned nothing about the world last night. Guess there’s nothing going on, huh?

    It’s not even so much that it is what it is. It’s been this way for years, after all. It’s that when someone calls attention to it, she is promptly told to shut up by strangers to this site so rudely barging in with tired old “Why don’t YOU do it” arguments. It’s like we have a reflexive need to bury our heads.

  • tomservo

    Who can dislike a karate chopping, NYC philosophy majoring bouncer roaming the mid-west parcelling out zen ideals and beatdowns all in a quest to save small-town America from their local businessmen tyrants?

  • MaryAnn

    Oh come on, MaryAnn. I have a feeling you wouldn’t be asking that question if it was David Tennant who had died (though, no doubt, you’ll say now that you would).

    Well, I just can’t win, can I?

    Look, this has nothing to do with whether I’m a fan of Swayze or not. (For the record, I liked him fine.) But his death, while a tragedy for him and his friends and his family, was not a surprise — he’d been ill for a long time. And no matter how much his fans enjoyed his work, it’s not like he cured cancer and did anything that impacted the world much. He was famous and loved by many, sure, and that means he deserves maybe 5 minutes at the top of the news. Not 20.

    Well, CNN is a 24-hr news channel, so they gotta fill all that time w/ something

    Right. Sure. Which is why, when some sort of substantive discussion on something important accidentally happens to get started, the airhead anchor always interrupts the debaters to apologize for running out of time. How does CNN run out of time? It’s 24/7. And yet time can be made for Barbara Walters to prattle on about what she thought about Patrick Swayze. Give me a fucking break.

    you can always turn to dozens of other TV, newspaper or online sources for your hard news if the overdone Swayze coverage offends.

    Yeah? Where? Unless you want to equate Alternet and Salon with CNN for scope and audience.

    The point isn’t that *I* don’t know what’s really going on in the world. The point is that lots and lots of other people don’t, because the goddamned so-called “news” won’t tell them.

  • MBI

    “Unless you want to equate Alternet and Salon with CNN for scope and audience.”

    The reason CNN has that larger audience is BECAUSE it devotes this kind of coverage to the death of Patrick Swayze. It’s also why I don’t watch CNN. Despite the lofty terms in which we discuss journalism, the news organizations aren’t OBLIGATED to give you the news you want to know about, and if you don’t like their product, the response is the same as if you don’t like “Heroes” or “Lost”; you stop watching. You’ve got other options.

  • bitchen frizzy

    Deja vu all over again…

    …this thread is going down a direction of other conversations on this board.

    Maryann is convinced that the tail wags the dog when it comes to news media content, and no argument or evidence will suffice to change her mind.

    I do agree with her on CNN’s vapid and superficial content, which is why I don’t watch CNN. I don’t agree with her that CNN has an unfulfilled obligation to engage in social engineering, even if it goes bankrupt in the process.

  • stryker1121

    MaryAnn, people will seek out the ‘real’ news if they want. Those that don’t want to, won’t. It’s very easy to ignore the star fucking and melodramatic health care “you lie” bullshit by picking up a newspaper,or failing that, by checking out a paper’s website. I don’t see Swayze above the fold in the NY Times, or in my local paper either. I’m hoping most people who care are smart enough to figure out where to get the facts. Call me an optimist.

  • tomservo

    I believe Barbara Walters gets respect from other journalists. If it wasn’t her, I don’t believe they would have given Swayze’s death so much airtime.

  • Paul

    Actually, I gained a lot of respect for him after he did “Donnie Darko.” It takes guts to play against type, especially when switching to the Darkest Side. And he was putting his name in a weird, risky movie mostly filled with, at the time, relative nobodies, aside from Drew Barrymore who was also the executive producer. I like it when famous actors put themselves behind a weird little movie. It shows what sort of movies they’d really like to be doing.

    So while I wouldn’t have given him 20 minutes either, I would have given him some. Then again, on any given 30 minutes of a news program, there’s only five minutes of real news anyway.

  • I got chastised for this too on facebook when I criticized the attention that this is getting. The man pretended to be people on a screen. This is not the top news of the day. People die of cancer everyday and the majority, no one ever hears about and their story is no less tragic. MJ at least came out of nowhere in his death, but that was still overkill too.

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