Beckham
Photo: id-iom

By Chloe Anderson-Dixon

In the past few years, celebrity status and news has become the forefront of public and consumer interest, leaving important news stories and events to fade into the background.

Tabloid newspapers nowadays not only publish current events going on around the world, but often the likes of Kim Kardashian and David Beckham are gracing the front pages, whilst important news and information such as the UK’s economy and even riots breaking out in different countries are being pushed to page three or four.

The question I want to raise is why is this happening? The term ‘dumbing down’ refers to the simplification of important issues, and issues that appear to have no worth culturally or socially are being brought to the forefront.

In terms of the tabloids, these new ‘news worthy’ stories are appearing in the forms of magazines such as OK! and Grazia, devoting themselves to the pursuit of celebrity gossip. These celebrity stories are gaining extensive readership, but at the same time they require very little journalistic research or extensive analysis.

BBC Journalist Michael Bunce supports this, saying: “The essential paradox is that, whilst readers and viewers are better educated than in the past, the media are lowering the IQ of their output.” Even photographers can earn big money for just a photograph of a celebrity without any make up on, and they need not be doing anything more than not looking their best.

Slowly, more and more celebrities are seen appearing in broadsheets around the UK. David Beckham was a regular fixture in summer 2003 as he changed his hair, football club and image several times.

At the same time we were dealing with the crisis of Iraq, however we didn’t see that making the front page in the same issue, it was pushed back to page two or three. As we can see, more importance is placed upon celebrity news stories and entertainment news than previously seen within the mass media.

However, some of the blame for this change in public interest can be put on journalists. News topics such as politics and the government are a lot harder to report on in an interesting and original way than they were. Whilst some may seek to slate this obsession with celebrity status and trivial stories, some may choose to embrace it. After all, it obviously must be an enjoyable form of news, as Now’s sales figures came to 570,279 copies on average per week.

Lazy journalism, growing celebrity status and culture and just plain and simple disinterest from the public have created an age of the consumer as a celebrity and fashion victim, a space to fill with showbiz parties and the latest high street trends. Therefore the media has indeed become ‘dumbed down’, and as Jamie Dowd who writes for the Observer stated: “We may not know much about the Holy Roman Empire. But boy do we know how to accessorise and get the best mortgage”.