Why Should I Care?

Ultimately, it’s the question at the heart of any story. Why should my audience care?

Is it a story about taxes and how it will change daily habits? It is a story about gas prices and the global economy? Is it a story about whether a town is going to allow people to plant trees in their yard? The question that should be asked often is, “Why should my audience care?”

I pose this question to the thousands of people in London this week covering the royal wedding. Why should I care? No really, why?

Didn’t our forefathers spend years fighting with the British to separate ourselves from them? Didn’t they come to the new world to start fresh? Didn’t they no longer want to be under rule of the monarchy? So why, in 2011, should I care who is marrying whom in the royal family?

I’m not the only one who doesn’t seem to care. A CBS News/NY Times poll conducted last week indicates that only six percent of Americans are following the royal wedding very closely. Another 22 percent is following it somewhat closely. A combined 72 percent is either following it not very closely or not at all. That number is Great Britain is slightly lower at 70 percent.

I may not have majored in math, and the joke is that journalists aren’t very good at math, but I do know what a majority is, and I know that if a candidate won an election with 72 percent of the vote that’s what the headline would read.

So why are networks spending thousands of dollars on covering this event? And it is certainly thousands.

Not only are the hosts of the morning shows (Today Show, Good Morning America and The Early Show) there, but so are their staffs. Their producers, photographers, makeup/hair people, PAs, editors, you name it, they’re there.

While I have not seen a spreadsheet of how many people from the nets headed over the pond, I know it’s a lot. In fact, Tracie Potts of NBC tweeted, “I’m told royal wedding may be NBC’s biggest story ever (people/preps), including Olympics!”

So with 72 percent of Americans not caring about this, why all the attention?

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9 responses to “Why Should I Care?

  1. My theory is that it’s the final act of the irrelevant television news machine. The more relevant polls to cite (if they existed) would be those that see how many people who watch television news are following the royal wedding. My hope would be that the percentage is huge – or else the TV business people are stupider than I think they are.

    The TV yammerers want something with pretty pictures to talk about. So they’re milking this for all it’s worth – it is going to generate a ton of pretty pictures, even if there’s nothing of substance. (And even though it’s supplanting a huge amount of substance – imagine if the networks spent that kind of money sending reporters to interview regular people?! Even in the US?! Yeah, I can’t imagine that either.)

    The TV networks are so detached from reality that they don’t have any idea what to cover, so they cover dreck and drivel and pomp and circumstance. And then they, like the daily newspapers whose headlines they rip and read, wonder why their audiences are dropping, why their advertisers aren’t renewing contracts, and where oh where they could possibly have gone wrong?

    I know you’re in TV, and you know that I respect your work, but I remain incredulous at the low quality of TV news around the country, including local news in larger markets. Crime, fire, court, weather, crime, police, accident, sports, happy feature to end on. It’s formulaic, boring, bad for democracy, and amazingly unwatchable.

    Glad you asked me for more than 140 chars? 🙂

  2. Yawn. Nope. Not paying any mind to it at all.

  3. Your point about what the audience wants guides all sorts of news decisions. I have heard the people say they don’t care about the Royal Wedding. We broke from England, and therefore, we shouldn’t care. Pomp is drivel. It’s on too early.
    I’ll be up at 4 a.m., watching a “happening.” I was in Montreal when Charles & Diana married, and I got up early then as well. Diana and I were both born in 1961, and I could not fathom being in her (flat) slippers.
    The weekend she died, we were in the hospital with our then 18-month-old, who was having trouble breathing. We heard the news reports while we were waiting for the doc to call to tell us to bring him in. We spent 4 days in the hospital; 4 days of watching that terrible news. It did not go unnoticed by me that she and I were the same age, and that life is fragile.
    I love history, I love the ceremony of it all, and I’m curious to see the dress. So much of what we watch on the news these days is chaos – war in too many places, an economy creeping too slowly back to health, man-made and Mother Nature-made disasters…
    For a few hours Friday, we can think about much happier things. We can talk to our children about our own weddings. We may be in a group of friends, giggling and dishing. We might be watching the pageantry and marveling at the carriages and footmen. Some Anglicans and Anglophiles will be watching the church service, soothed by the constancy of the service and delighting in the sacred music.
    By Friday’s evening news, we’ll be hearing again about war and wicked weather. The bettors in London will be placing odds on when the newlyweds will become parents-to-be. (I hope they are left alone, but not all of our dreams can come true.) I’ll probably be a bit tired from getting up so early, but years from now, when William’s coronation is televised, I can say “I was there when he got married.”
    It’s a happening.

    • If it were just Friday I think a lot more people wouldn’t be as annoyed, but this has been constant. In a time when networks are cutting jobs and giving paycuts how can they justify spending this much on this event that truly doesn’t impact a single soul other than those who are marrying?

  4. I completely agree with you on this one Kara. Funny how we forget that we have shrinking dollar, three wars, crazy inflation, $4.00 a gallon gas and no end in sight to the poorest job market in decades. I can understand a certain segment of people being fascinated by the wedding, but it is really worth the amount of time and money they are spending on it? Let people watch it on Youtube if they are that interested. I love ya Ellen, but there are much more important “happenings” in the World.

  5. I agree that wars in the world, expensive gas, personal deflation by whatever means, all stink. On the other hand, isn’t it important to value the longstanding traditions of our culture? If there’s no reference point or standard, then there can be no good or bad. It’s always good to relate to a dream.

  6. I agree that the over-the-top coverage for FAR too long (months!!!) is unnecessary and a huge drain on money and news resources. I do have interest in the actual event and will watch some of it. I realize this ‘event’ is likely a big boost to England’s tourism $. But I do not understand why this is such a huge component of US news outlets. Leave that to the ‘entertainment’ shows, if at all. I work from home occasionally, and usually have on various news programs in the background. Past couple of weeks, I’ve turned off the TV after a little bit of early AM local news.

  7. 235 years ago, we threw off the yoke of British rule and for the last 235 years, we have been secretly yearning to get back our royal heritage. Problem is, America is a huge dung heap of the cast-offs commoners and traitors the British Royalty did not want. We just don’t admit that to ourselves. We are a country of needy children, all clambering for the approval of Mother England.

    We’re fascinated with all things British from their accent to their sense of humor and things as banal as knowing how to address the Queen. The most common among us were horrified that Michelle Obama touched the Queen. (personally, I think it needed to be done.. 235 years of kowtowing is a long time) Each of us secretly wants to believe he is a descendant of aristocratic blood, even if 4,324,789th in line for the throne.

    That is what the US media knows about us and that is why they know their coverage of the Royal Wedding will be successful and profitable. We wanted our independence 235 years ago, but today we still want our deep roots of legitimacy. Maybe we’ll feel differently in another 235 years. Maybe along the way, we’ll gain some self-esteem.

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