By Nathan James
Americans like drama. We vicariously enjoy gossip, tension and conflict, and we're prepared to pay for the access to these things. Look on the shelves of any convenience store, and you'll see entire publications devoted to the broadcast of personal information. In many ways, our obsession with the personal lives of others has created the modern celebrity.
We like to think of this kind of behavior as harmless, and it often is. No one is really hurt by media scrutiny of Johnny Depp's relationships, so we think there's nothing wrong with it. But sometimes our media and its proclivities can reflect on our culture, and sometimes what it has to say isn't good. Our country saw an excellent example of this earlier this month, when Anderson Cooper publicly announced that he is gay.
Cooper, a journalist and television anchor with his own show on CNN, has long been the subject of rumors regarding his sexuality. When he announced in a short and precisely worded email that he is, in fact, homosexual, it immediately became a national news item. ABC News, Fox News and even CNN ran stories about Cooper's sexuality.
We should not be proud of this.
Honestly, it's bad enough that there was ever a rumor mill focused on Cooper's orientation. As a journalist, Cooper made a point of not discussing his personal life, citing his desire for privacy and the exploitation of his mother by tabloids. Still, individuals as well as news sources found it necessary to raise discussion and theories regarding the man's lifestyle. Neither Cooper's desire for privacy nor the irrelevance of his orientation were enough to deter individuals and reporters from asking about it.
Worse still is the media's reaction to this revelation. Apparently, Cooper's sexual orientation is not only worth wondering about, it's worth being published across the nation and the globe.
What this shows is not just that our media is obsessed with gossip. It shows that our culture still considers homosexuality a spectacle and an aberration. After all, no one is running stories about Bill O'Reilly's heterosexuality. No one is doggedly pursuing the details of Wolf Blitzer's social life. The media is so concerned with homosexuality because the media see it as bizarre, and this reflects poorly on our news and those who consume it.
I applaud Cooper for his courage in doing what he believes is right, and I don't want anyone to think that I'm condemning his announcement. I'm rather condemning the fact that any announcement was necessary. Cooper is a journalist, and his sole responsibility to the public is to report the news. Most agree that he does this well and that he succeeds in being informative and unbiased. To concern ourselves with the intimate details of his personal life is more than just insensitive, it's twisted and voyeuristic. And to make a news item of his sexuality and to pressure him to discuss it publicly is simply wrong.
Each person who has published or sought out information regarding Cooper's sexuality needs to consider the following: First, why is this information important? And second, why do I want to know it? If you can't answer these questions, or don't like the answers, then you may need to do a little soul-searching.