To judge from the coverage given Paris Hilton’s exalted and overhyped exit from the Los Angeles penal system one would think that, surely, the vast majority of Americans nearly obsessive in their undying fascination with this non-story. Paris Hilton’s correctional facilities debut-and is there anyone out there who honestly thinks there doesn’t exist the great possibility of a return engagement sometime in the future-received the kind of big name reporter treatment on every single national news outlet that one might expected when Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld announced that they knew where the WMDs in Iraq were even though every weapons inspector who had been there said they couldn’t find any. Just goes to prove that American mainstream media covers the stories most Americans are interested in.
Or do they?
Earlier this week Paris Hilton appeared on Larry King’s talk show on CNN for her first-ever interview as a paroled criminal. (Does that mean she can’t vote? Let’s hope so.) The interview had been hyped shamelessly prior to airing and was immediately followed by a special two-hour edition of Anderson Cooper’s show, devoted to analyzing the interview itself. Yes, truly, American mainstream media is the only thing standing between us and the deception of our government. Certainly, Anderson and the gang should all be proud of their contribution to the exalted line of American journalism that extends from Thomas Paine to Edward R. Murrow to Woodward & Bernstein. Which is where American investigative journalism apparently ended. Now we have guys like Anderson Cooper and girls like Chris Wallace to depend upon to keep American democracy safe from the American government.
Surely, you cry in their defense, surely CNN and MSNBC and Faux News and Charlie “The Backstabber” Gibson and Little Katie Couric would not be devoting such energy and effort to the Paris Hilton story and surely Larry King would not be conducting an interview with Paris Hilton if the American people were not crying out loudly for it. Right? Well, perhaps not. The fact is that the Paris Hilton interview did earn Larry King his biggest ratings of the year, so an argument can certainly be made that Americans care more about a pampered brat lying out reading the Bible than they care about a pampered brat lying about the existence of WMDs. Or, it could be that all those people under the age of 40 who never watch Larry King in the first place tuned in this time. One thing is for certain, if you took the money that CNN spent hyping this and airing and analyzing the Paris Hilton interview and broke it down to a per-person cost, it would be shamefully embarrassing. How many people watched Larry King’s interview with Paris Hilton? It is estimated that a paltry 3.2 million Americans were interested enough in what Paris Hilton had to say to watch her. How many millions does Larry King make? Didn’t Anderson Cooper just sign a billion dollar contract? How much is two hours of his time worth? How many millions did CNN sink into their at least three-hour Parisfest? In the interest of how many Americans?
3.2 million. If Larry King’s interview with Paris Hilton was a sitcom it would be canceled. Unless it was on NBC, of course, where anything over a dozen viewers it considered by the network to show promise. Hey, you know what, that interview was a sitcom. Larry and Paris: The Original Odd Couple. Oh man, I’ve got to get to NBC and pitch this idea.