Whitney Houston's death shocked the world, much like the passing of the King of Pop Michael Jackson and Princess Diana. Sure, there have been noteworthy deaths in the celebrity world, like Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain, but these three larger than life individuals reinforced the importance of television news.
Last Saturday night, February 11, 2012, during the broadcast of "Saturday Night Live," veteran news anchor Lester Holt broke into programming and delivered the solemn bulletin. I'd already heard the information on Facebook, with some posts serious and others comical thanks largely in part to my comedian friends. Although I knew what occurred, the news coming from Holt seemed to emphasize how big a deal this actually was.
King of Pop:
Michael Jackson's death in June 2009 broke on celebrity website TMZ. Like Houston, the passing ended the long tenure of professional stardom and personal craziness. However, what really solidified the importance of Jackson's death was the television coverage, not only of his death, but his funeral and eventual trial of personal doctor Conrad Murray.
In August 1997 America's princess Lady Diana died in a car accident; the result of a high speed chase with paparazzi. Although the paparazzi were initially thought responsible for the death, the actual cause was due to the reckless driving of the intoxicated chauffeur. Media stations broke the news, and what was supposed to inform the public of an individual's death became one of the most watched events in television history.
According to Nielsen, coverage of Princess Diana's funeral garnered 32.2 million viewers, 10 million more than the recent Royal wedding of her son Prince William.
While the internet and social media like Facebook and Twitter deliver news and personal feelings instantly, television still determines the impact. Viewers will never chalk up their experiences with these deaths as when they read it on Facebook from a comedian or actor, or when Ashton Kutcher tweeted it.
Had the internet and social media been prevalent during 9/11, the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion and Kennedy's assassination, TV still would have been the medium that forced people to "remember where they were." In 1963 NBC's coverage of President's Kennedy death was in excess of six straight hours.
Importance of Television:
I admit that a lot, if not all, of my news comes from sources like Yahoo. However, watching a news anchor talk with analysts regarding a topic is much more rewarding. Years ago, CBS's Walter Cronkite was deemed the "most trusted person in America."
His stories on the death of Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lennon were a couple of the prevalent stories that impacted America. No matter where technology takes us and how antiquated television and radio become, the reality is television's personal and emotional impacts still rule over media. We just haven't had another Cronkite.So, if you're still unaware of the most recent death, megastar Whitney Houston just passed away. And yes, it is a big deal. In the words of Walter Cronkite, "And that's the way it is."