Matt Barnes and the Shallowness of Gossip

You’ve probably heard about Matt Barnes’ Instagram post yesterday as the world closed the book on 2015.  You can read the post if you like, and I won’t pretend that I didn’t.  It made me feel bad for the guy, and that was probably the reaction that everyone had.

My issue is not with you or anyone reading the post.  My issue is that it’s ESPN’s top story right now, highlighting the general interest that people have about personal lives of famous people.  For the life of me, I can’t understand what’s so interesting about the intimate details of someone’s personal life, no matter how famous that person may be.  What’s more, it’s on a “news” organization like ESPN to stay away from the type of crap that you’d find on TMZ.

I understand the desire for people to have genuine interest in the well-being of a person and the details of their lives.  I’m guessing that you have a friend or a family friend from long ago whom you’ll respect until your last breath because they always ask how everyone in your life is doing, and they show genuine interest in how your loved ones are doing.  I’m not talking about that; I’m talking about something else — a desire that so many have to take interest in the juiciest details of one’s life without caring at all about how well they’re doing.  That’s what bothers me.

For whatever (irrational) reason, there’s always gonna be a market for that stuff.  That’s why TMZ exists, and that’s why tabloids still dominate the shelves near the cash register at a supermarket even though the front cover A) involves stories that aren’t even close to true and B) aims to get inside the most intimate and detailed aspects of famous people’s lives.  If people wanna read about that kind of stuff, whatever, it’s a free country and I have to live with it.  But if ESPN wants to be a legitimate sports news source — not that anyone around here views them that way after deflategate — then “Grizzlies’ Barnes Rants about the Worst Year of His Life” should never be the top headline on its website.

Even if a lot of people care about Matt Barnes’ Instagram post, that doesn’t mean it’s “news,” at least not according to journalistic standards.  My favorite point of reference on this topic originates from Christopher John Farley, who stated, “People are interested in pornography, too, and we don’t always cover that.”  Jon Stewart’s segment that used the clip of Farley’s fire quote can be found here.

I’m not criticizing anyone for reading Matt Barnes’ rant on Instagram.  After all, I did too.  But if you did, I hope that you were reading it out of genuine care and hope that his life is going to improve and not because of the superficiality that causes people to care about the intimate details of someone’s life out of sheer nosiness.  We’re better than that as a society, or at least we should be.  And even if we’re not, the news media — whether completely legitimate or as often shady as ESPN — has an obligation to leave the gossip of people’s personal trials out of their coverage.

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