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News - Did the media devote too much coverage to the death of Lisa Left Eye" Lopes?"

Yes. The death of Lopes is an important story — but only within the context of popular culture.

Of course -- which is neither a judgment about Lisa Lopes' significance as a performer nor a callous show of indifference toward a vibrant young woman's death. The coverage of the tragedy is simply the latest in a long string of overblown stories. And deep down, we all know it.

CNN anchor Aaron Brown knew it the night he reported that actor Robert Blake had been arrested. He immediately commenced comparing the news about Blake to the case that touched off the trend of blowing celebrity cases way out of proportion: O.J. Simpson.

The anchor's near-apology for thrusting to the side (in less than nine months) the perspective we claimed to have gained after 9-11, rang hollow, as will any justification for overblown coverage of Lopes' untimely death, Blake's arrest and other comparatively low-impact events. It's as if by simply questioning the attention paid to such coverage as the story is being delivered, news decision-makers are excused from their responsibility to put it into more reasonable perspective.

This is, after all, a problem of proportion. The death of Lopes is an important story — within the context of popular culture. But the manner in which news is now blasted over the airwaves and in print gives the impression that the death of a pop artist — or, say, some author's thesis that working women are waiting too long to have babies — is equal in importance to the impending war with Iraq or the Los Angeles race riots of a decade ago, just to name a few. These stories are simply not of equal consequence — but somewhere along the way, we accepted the judgment of the market, as opposed to good news judgment.

There is a nearly forgotten public trust in the media that shouldn't be left to the whims of the market — one that is afforded to those on whom we depend to tell us what's most important by virtue of the coverage they devote to one story over another. After 9-11, journalists everywhere declared how good it was to have everything in perspective again. A reasonable observer might've assumed we had collectively realized our missteps in obsessing about interns and the like.

Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes was no intern. Her music and her life mattered — to millions. So it may seem callous to use the coverage of her death to make this point. But we should be mourning not only this tragic loss of human life, but also our collective loss of perspective.

Former New Yorker magazine Assistant Managing Editor Howard Lalli now serves as The Headline Group's media strategist. In other words, he's worked both sides of the hype machine.??





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