..Infotainment: a hybrid that is a perfect example of Baudrillard’s idea of hyperreality. Baudrillard suggests that hypperreality creates a uniquely entertaining experience, what he called the “thrill of the real.” This thrill is something we might experience when that “Breaking News” banner unfurls on the screen. But the thrill constantly weakens and extinguishes itself unless something even newer happens.
So news becomes more about live action excitement than analysis and investigation. Perhaps that’s why the same networks that pre-empted their regular programming to cover this [Balloon Boy] story for hours later turned on the family by trotting out angry commentators condemning the family and talking with legal analysts about the charges they should face. The news networks sent reporters to dig up dirt on the family and reported that they couldn’t find evidence that the parents worked steadily, and interviewed neighbors and other acquaintances on camera to malign the father’s character.
Let’s face it, the news networks that covered this event got Punk’d (another example of postmodernity where celebrities thought they were living their private lives but were in fact part of a television show) but seem reluctant to admit it. Maybe behind the scenes news directors will see this as a wake-up call about the folly of chasing shiny objects—literally in this case—during a time when they could be covering other more meaningful stories in greater depth.
- Via Karen Sternheimer, Everyday Sociology Blog