I do wish we hadn't gotten 24/7 coverage about Britney Spears' haircut or Anna Nicole Smith's baby. It's one thing to tack that kind of thing onto a little gossip report--we're never, ever going to get rid of gossip reports, because gossip is what we do--but serious time on the news?
I'm not one of these people who doesn't think it's "real news" to cover happy events, or at least events without bloodshed. I support sports news (though I don't care) and hearing about who won the Oscar or how a local kid won a chess scholarship or something. Even fluffy stuff like, "Hey, how 'bout them American Idols?" has a legitimate place, since it's a community-bonding ritual, however pathetic. Good news is still news. But there's a difference between that and obsessing over salacious details suited for tabloids and daytime talk shows... and my use for tabloids and daytime talk shows is pretty limited.
Still, I'm not going to go off on the gossip culture. We're not going to get rid of it, and, you know, whatever. People are social animals and get interested in their various alphas, and life is so damned boring that I can see it.
But the reporter's sanctimonious excuse about "If you didn't want it, we wouldn't do it" needs to be smacked hard across its smug little face. We follow those stories on the news shows the same way we follow other stories on the news shows--we've been given the beginning and the teaser and, being homo narrativus, we have to know how the story comes out, whatever the story is. That's why the common advice is to have a spicy lead paragraph with all the points laid out and an interest hook planted--once the reporter has gotten us to ask the question "Then what happened?" we will stick around to get the answer. So if the news promos tease us over and over again with, "What made Britney Spears shave her head?" or "Who's the father of Anna Nicole's baby?" our minds, like monkeys, dutifully start wondering, at least until we've finally hit overload. It's just part of the way we're put together psychologically--we see a path and want to know where it leads, even if we know it's just not that important to anyone. Cats have nothing on human curiosity, but there's so much out there that human curiosity will tend to latch onto what happens across our paths. And yes, that also means people who are curious about some obscure field of microbiology--somewhere along the line, something came across their paths that made them interested in science, then in biology, then in microbiology, then finally into an obscure branch.
So, reporter-guy... you're not getting off that easily. You may be reporting about Anna Nicole because you perceive a demand for it, but the demand is there because it was initially reported as a huge burning question. If you'd just said, "Former model Anna Nicole Smith was found dead on _____. Custody of her child is in the hands of _____ until the matter is settled," then you could have moved on to something more important without anyone really badgering you. People who want to know more can always tune in to Jerry Springer. Or Saturday Night Live's fake news, for that matter.