Is the death of Amy Winehouse really newsworthy?

While I feel terrible that Amy Winehouse has passed, and sickened by the fact that her death is destined to become a punchline on talk radio, the really terrible thing, I think, is that it’s going to dominate news around the world for the coming days, bumping the mass murder in Norway, and the current Murdoch scandal in England, from the headlines. While I think a lot could be gained from discussing her death, if it were done in a thoughtful way, I think that’s unlikely to happen. I doubt the her death will trigger any substantive discussion on drug addiction, or, for that matter, our obsession on celebrity, and its costs. It will just be more of the same voyeuristic gawking that we’ve come to expect from the post Anna Nicole Smith press. And, worse yet, I think news of her passing is going to keep us from pursuing those conversations that were developing about media consolidation, the state of journalism, religious extremism, and non-Muslim terrorism. It’s a sad day all around.

update: I went to the gym after posting this, and CNN was playing footage of Winehouse stumbling around on a stage recently, looking terrible, and forgetting all the words to her songs. Before showing the footage, the news anchor said, “Hopefully, people won’t remember her like this…” I thought that was classy.

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  1. Mr. X
    Posted July 23, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    How much do you want to bet that Murdoch’s people are trying to hack Winehouse’s phone?

  2. Mr. X
    Posted July 23, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    And is it really news to anyone that Winehouse passed away? I bet every paper and television network has had an obit written for the past year. It was just a matter of time. So, no, it’s no more noteworthy than something coming crashing to the ground after being shot into the sky.

  3. Posted July 23, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Who is Amy Winehouse? I’ve honestly never heard of her until now.

  4. heidi
    Posted July 23, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    We are a shallow people..all that matters is entertainment and having “fun”..and betting on which artists will make it into the 27 club. Real news? No one cares anymore. If it causes people to have to think anything deep or real thoughts, people ignore it. If people have to actually act to change anything, no one does it. So yep Amy Winehouse is going to be more “media” worthy. Sorry I’m a bit cynical today.

  5. Posted July 23, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    She’s a British R&B singer, Pete. I don’t follow new music much, but she really stood out from all of the other auto-tuned pop stars of the modern era. Here’s a video. Her battle with drugs and alcohol has been well documented over the last five years or so.

  6. Posted July 23, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    I guess the sign of being officially old is to not know of famous music stars until after they die.

  7. Bob
    Posted July 23, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    The difference between her and the usual celebrity train-wrecks is she actually contributed some valid art to the planet. That album is fantastic, maybe the best pop record of that decade. It’s great from start to finish and she wrote the songs herself. Her first one was half great too. I’m normally with you on the absurdity of celebrity nonsense as news argument. Personally, I was really pulling for her and looking forward to hearing what she came up with.

  8. Mark
    Posted July 23, 2011 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    This post also appeared on Facebook, where someone named Jessica Letaw left the following comment:

    There’s a difference between theoretical empathy – we acknowledge that a lot of people have died, and are sorry about it – and the way we respond to a death that is (sort of) personally relevant. We heard Ms. Winehouse on the radio, we identified (or enjoyed not identifying) with her music, we scrutinized her life and praised ourselves for not making her mistakes: in other words, even if antithetically, she was a part of our lives, even if just briefly. Newsmongers (those purveying and those consuming) are capitalizing on that basic fact: that we are hungrier to read about ourselves, which Ms. Winehouse was, than to read news about the Other.

    I’m not saying I agree or approve. I am saying, in the spirit of denying both evils (addiction and bigotry), maybe we could start by not vilifying human nature?

  9. Taco Tom
    Posted July 23, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    I couldn’t agree more. Pop music, pro sports, tv, movies…what a wonderful place to spend our money. Surely we wouldn’t want to waste it on things like education and healthcare now would we? It is so much trouble to think, leave it to someone else. It is a brave, new world we live in.

  10. Posted July 23, 2011 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    More on Norwegian nationalist Anders Behring Breivik from Gawker:

    Just before the bombing, Breivik—using the name “AndrewBerwick”—posted a video on YouTube calling for conservatives to “embrace martyrdom”; YouTube’s removed the video because it violates their Terms of Service. However, a 1,518-page manifesto titled “2083—A European Declaration of Independence,” attributed to “Andrew Berwick,” can be found via the Twitter feed of Kevin Slaughter; Breivik reportedly uploaded the document to a Norwegian site just before the attacks.

    In the document, Breivik names “the lack of cultural self-confidence (nationalism)” as “the root of Europe’s problems,” complains about Europe’s “Islamic colonization,” refers to himself as “Justiciar Knight Commander,” and discusses using video games as combat training, among other things. He claims to have spent “in excess of 300 000 Euros” working on the book, which he deemed “a gift” to “fellow patriot.” If for some reason you don’t feel worthy of such a “gift,” or you just don’t feel like pouring through pages of hate and insanity, admirably patient Foreign Policy managing editor Blake Hounshell’s read the whole damned thing and has shared remarkable excerpts on his Twitter.

    Breivik has been charged under Norway’s terror law, and is due to be arraigned on Monday. The Telegraph reports that witnesses who survived the Utoya shootings saw Breivik laughing and screaming as he shot their peers. “He kept shouting: It’s safe to come out. You’ll be saved. I’m a cop,'” says one survivor.

  11. Posted July 24, 2011 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    I really don’t care about Winehouse, knowing zero about her.

    What will interest me, however, is the stream of posts from Tater declaring Breivik as a hero.

    If you incessantly spew hatred against a visible and easily identifiable group of people, eventually this is what you’ll get.

    Sickening. I really don’t have words for how nauseating this is.

    Has anyone ever heard of a person running in to a Tea Party (or any other right wing group) meeting and killing 85 people?

  12. someone
    Posted July 24, 2011 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Not knowing about pop culture might prove you’re cool in some circles. Taking up space here advertising the fact rather than spending ten seconds on wikipedia is just you forcing us to wank your ego.

  13. Anonymatt
    Posted July 24, 2011 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    I’ll try to put it in terms Pete may understand. It’s like if Faye Wong died after her several years of hiatus.

    Mark, it’s always funny to see you exploit a tragic event by writing a blog post complaining that other media are exploiting a tragic event.

  14. Posted July 24, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Matt, that helps make things very clear.

    I looked up her entry on Wikipedia, but it didn’t make much sense to me.

  15. Eel
    Posted July 24, 2011 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    The Winehouse jokes have started.

  16. Anonymous
    Posted July 25, 2011 at 1:05 am | Permalink

    I honestly don’t give a fuck that Amy Winehouse is dead. Yeah she was talented. No, I have never heard a voice like that. But I THANK GOD I never had to put up with her shit personally. Addicts are the most selfish jerks on the planet. (Check the video of her last ‘concert’ to see what I mean here.) All addicts are looking for is a caretaker they can use. No I WON’T give you a ride since you lost your license due to DUI. No YOU MAY NOT get ugly with me just because YOU CHOSE to get drunk or high. No I WAS NOT PUT ON THIS EARTH to do whatever your little junkie, addicted heart wants. I am at the point where I won’t put up with addicts and do not want them around me. If one CHOOSES to off themself due to their addiction, la-de-friggin-da. It’s evolution in action, nothing more and nothing less.

  17. K2
    Posted July 25, 2011 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    I found Russel Brand’s comments on her death quite thoughtful.

  18. Posted July 25, 2011 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    “No I WON’T give you a ride since you lost your license due to DUI. No YOU MAY NOT get ugly with me just because YOU CHOSE to get drunk or high. No I WAS NOT PUT ON THIS EARTH to do whatever your little junkie, addicted heart wants. I am at the point where I won’t put up with addicts and do not want them around me.”

    This is the story of my life. You are a true brother.

  19. Meta
    Posted July 25, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    From CNN:

    The total death toll in Friday’s bomb blast and shootings in Norway has been revised downward from 93 to 76, police say.

    Police now say eight people died in the bombing in Oslo, up one from the earlier death toll. Authorities revised downward the number of dead in the shooting on Utoya island from 86 to 68.

    Police say they are still searching the island for possible victims.

  20. Tate
    Posted October 31, 2011 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    The cause of her death was found to be alcohol poisoning.

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