The Insanity of the Recent Justin Bieber Coverage

By Lexie Schapitl on January 31, 2014

Photo courtesy of the Hollywood Reporter.

Two friends and I took a taxi into Newark, N.J., to see Bieber perform at the Prudential Center. The average age of the audience was probably 15, tops, and aside from parents accompanying their children, at age 18 we were easily the oldest people there.

But nonetheless we had a great time. We sang along. We danced in our seats. We said the word “swaggy.” We navigated the sea of preteens in homemade t-shirts, many complete with functioning lights and battery packs. We watched in disbelief as hundreds of girls lined up to take a picture with a cardboard cutout of the Biebs, which they had to PAY FOR. And at the end of the night we bought knock-off t-shirts from random men on the streets as souvenirs to remember the experience.

I wouldn’t go so far as to call us “Beliebers,” but the point is that I’m not just a “Bieber-hater” either. My friends and I are obviously fans of Bieber’s music and talent if not his behavior. The pop star has often graced magazine pages and celebrity gossip shows for all the wrong reasons: spitting on fans, peeing into a janitor’s bucket, and putting a fan’s phone down his pants in the middle of a show (the show WE ATTENDED I might add).

But now Bieber isn’t just acting out; he’s actually committed a crime. Several, actually. A week ago he was arrested for DUI and resisting arrest, Wednesday night he turned himself in and was charged with assaulting a limo driver in Toronto, and he allegedly egged his Calabasas neighbor’s house.  And he isn’t just appearing in People or on Access Hollywood; he’s being covered by reputable news sources.

It’s a classic case of tabloidization: when respectable media report cover sensationalistic stories of crime, sex, violence, or celebrity missteps that they might not otherwise report. These types of stories attract readers and viewers, and therefore drive up ratings and sales. The Tiger Woods scandal of 2009 is a classic example.

But not even the dramatic car crash turned sex scandal received this kind of attention from such serious news outlets. Everyone from the NBC to the Washington Post has been reporting extensively on Justin Bieber’s latest antics. And it’s getting a little absurd.

TV stations are bringing in legal analysts to discuss what’s next for the Biebs. Digital simulations of his drag racing incident have been created and played repeatedly.

And if I see Bieber’s now-infamous smiling mug shot one more time I might actually lose it.

On Monday night, Jon Stewart beautifully called out cable news stations for their ridiculous Bieber coverage on The Daily Show. But the madness has continued.

I don’t mean to single out CNN, but I’m about to. Last night I was watching Anderson Cooper 360 while eating a late dinner. When the clock struck 9:00, Piers Morgan Live began with “breaking news.” A development in Atlanta? Security concerns in Sochi? Something of great national importance that may seriously affect people’s lives?

Nope. Justin Bieber turned himself in in Toronto.

Part of me totally understands why this is happening. I mean I’ve seen The Newsroom.

But we’ve seen this a thousand times before: child star acts out and begins a downward spiral that eventually ends them in jail and/or rehab. IE: Britney Spears shaving her head and driving with her baby in her lap. Amanda Bynes doing I don’t even know what and calling everyone ugly on twitter. Lindsay Lohan post-Mean Girls. Helen Keller could have seen this Bieber breakdown coming from a mile away.

It’s not an original story, and it’s a story that belongs in the tabloids and not the Times.

Some of you might be thinking that I’m a total hypocrite right now. “Isn’t this the girl who wrote about the Kardashians? What makes this any different? Who does she think she is?”

I am an admitted pop culture junkie and still believe there’s nothing wrong with following celebrities in moderation. If you want to know about Justin Bieber’s arrest or Lorde’s boyfriend, there are plenty of websites, magazines, and TV shows that can fill you in. But there’s a line between news and entertainment. It’s a line that is often fuzzy and unclear, but it’s a line nonetheless. And the recent Bieber coverage has definitely crossed the line.

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