Out of Focus This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     America is at war. We are at war to protect our highest ideals, our basic moral beliefs and the lives of our citizens. At home and abroad, Americans find our way of life threatened and faced with issues that tear us apart. One of these issues is, of course, the Scandalous Super Bowl Sunday.

Never mind that commercials for this fantastic parade of debauchery included no less than three medications for erectile dysfunction, numerous ones for alcoholic beverages, and one memorable flatulence gag. Never mind that both the pre-game and half-time shows featured scantily clad young women, or that one performer wore the American flag as a poncho. No, the main focus of both the media and the American public for the following week was one pixelized piece of female anatomy. There is no disputing this; we all saw it with our own eyes.

And yet, as much as we would all like to think that we would view this as trivializing the important issues at hand, there must be some explanation for our being so focused on this incident. Looking at the world around us and the seriousness of world events, it is easy to see why people want to escape reality now and then. The media, of course, knows this all too well and exploits our need for instant gratification by providing us with what we seem to want, an endless stream of celebrity marriages, reality TV and a twisted version of investigative reporting.

This begs the question of whether media coverage is truly fair to all concerned. It is apparent that news commentators draw from limited sources. A report about the war in Iraq will most assuredly come from either the White House or the Pentagon, both of which may be biased toward their own interests.

Likewise, the media at times preserves its own self-interest in the ratings war by capitalizing on minor blunders by presidential candidates. In matters as important as the election of a future president, these blunders should not overshadow the critical issues at stake. Whether it is falling off a stage, choking on a pretzel, or emitting a now-infamous scream, such actions can be the death of a presidential bid, or even end a political career. By broadcasting these brief moments repeatedly, they take on a life of their own. Although true, is this fair to those concerned? It is even more tragic given that the media has the potential, and some would say the responsibility, to build good will through accurate reporting about people and events.

Not only does the media fail fully to investigate its reports and frequently blow relatively minor incidents out of proportion, they often ignore critical events of significantly greater importance. In case the media neglected to tell you, the following events did occur during the first week of February, the week after the Super Bowl:

Bush named commissions on Iraq data and conceded that the analysis may have been flawed in the weapons of mass destruction reports; a teenager was stabbed to death in a Miami middle school restroom; Pakistan confessed to aiding nuclear efforts; NASA commemorated and mourned the lives of those killed in the Columbia tragedy on its one-year anniversary.

Also, a teen football star, who had a chance to play for the NFL, was killed in a shooting. Finally, in Russia, a bomb killed 39 people and injured over 200 in a Moscow subway.

These events should not have been overlooked. We must make it our duty to be informed about the world around us. This is the only way to make the informed decisions necessary to any democracy. We cannot allow trivial events and controversies to push more important issues to the back of our consciousness, blinding us to the possible consequences. We cannot expect to understand everything, and thus the media has an important place in keeping us informed to the best of its ability. However, the responsibility is ours, as citizens, to ensure the media fulfills that responsibility, and to act accordingly when it does not. The media exerts a tremendous influence on the choices of people and nations. It has the ability to shape future events, and with that power comes responsibility.

Simply put, if the media had given as much emphasis to the previously mentioned events as they did to the super sexy Sunday indecent ... sorry, I mean incident, it would be far more beneficial to all, and we should all be concerned. In today's fast-paced world, the media is essential to constructing and maintaining our world view. Distortion of the truth, or succumbing to popularity contests, can only undermine our perception of reality and therefore our principles and ideals of democracy as well.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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