Michael Jackson More Newsworthy than Afghanistan?

Americans’ limited interest in foreign affairs has long been lamented. But surely, the war in Afghanistan deserves more press coverage than the death of a pop star?

In my New Atlanticist piece “Michael Jackson Trumps Afghanistan in News Coverage” I explain why this in fact happened — despite Afghanistan getting a seven month head start and the year being only eight months old. The punchline:

[T]he Jackson story is phenomenally easy to cover:  Point a camera at invited guests.  It’s mostly speculation, reminiscences, and blather.  And, frankly, it’s juicier fodder for the cable “news” networks, which mostly do infotainment during prime time absent breaking hard news.

The situation in Afghanistan is a slow-burning story.  Coalition troops have been in country going on eight years and it might take decades of steady work to achieve our goals there.  That’s very hard to cover on television even aside from the danger, complication, and cost.  Aside from the occasional firefight and terrorist attack, it’s the theatrical equivalent of watching paint dry.

Oh:  And coverage of Afghanistan has more than doubled since the beginning of the month.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Eneils Bailey says:

    The situation in Afghanistan is a slow-burning story.
    ..it’s the theatrical equivalent of watching paint dry.

    The situation with Michael Jackson was a sad story.
    ..it was a sad story for Jackson and his family and uniquely sadder for a group of folks that seemed to have nothing more interesting in their life than to dwell on a fifty year old, drug taking, sad sack who scripted the end of his life long ago. I was surprised as to what appeared to be many middle-aged men and women out in the crowds mourning. Probably the same demographic for TV viewing.
    Watching paint dry for these folks is probably the theatrical equivalent of Masterpiece Theater.