In a digital world the media often struggles to maintain the attention of its audience. Between horrific mass killings, viral outbreaks, violent authority figures, terrorists, and tantalizing political melodrama, the focus of our media shifts constantly.
The following six topics from 2014 were once a major focus of the fleeting attention of the media. Each of them at one point has received overwhelming media attention to become a fixture of American dialogue before fading into obscurity.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
Questions remain as to how and where Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 came to its unfortunate end. Two-hundred and thirty nine people were never heard from again after contact was lost with the aircraft in March 2014. Efforts to find the aircraft have not been exhausted as the search continues, but the national media’s unrelenting attention did little to provide substantive insight into the unsolved tragedy.
Since the airliner crashed in March, 24-hour news networks have shifted focus from sensationalized speculation to passive, intermittent reporting.
Israeli aerial bombings, Operation Protective Edge, of Palestinian-controlled Gaza during the summer of 2014 overshadowed most television news coverage at the end of July and early August.
Since the operations, tensions remain high in the Gaza Strip and surrounding areas. Little, if any progress has been made, but the 24-hour news cycle has moved on to greener pastures.
Campaign Finance Laws
The 2014 midterm election was the most expensive midterm election in American history — totaling $3.67 billion. In part due to the Supreme Court’s April decision on McCutcheon v. FEC which increased the aggregate donation limits to candidates. Coverage of the decision’s possible effect of the decision on the political process remained peripheral throughout the course of the election season. Still, even after a report by the Center for Responsive Politics detailed the final cost, media attention remained elsewhere.
In January 2014, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie became the subject of a firestorm of media attention after allegations that political retribution affected the lives of NJ and NY citizens due to bridge closures and traffic congestion on the Washington Bridge. What became known as ‘Bridgegate’ was believed to be an act of revenge against elected officials that did not officially support Christie’s campaign. A probe into the incident has been conducted for months with no end in sight, but national attention has shifted following the end of the midterm election season.
Thrust into the American zeitgeist following Snowden’s release of classified documents, government monitoring and mass intelligence gathering became a controversial focus of media attention and public opinion. But, media attention on the subject has remained reactive and sparse.
For instance, at the beginning of 2014, a report addressed dealings between Internet providers and intelligence agencies over use of customer data. Coverage of government surveillance programs following these negotiations have been limited. In November, Congress blocked a bill that would reform information gathering programs used by the NSA. Yet, during the same period, the media and the nation remained focused on the decision of a St. Louis grand jury.
The potential release of 28 pages of the 9/11 report received limited focus following the shooting death of Michael Brown. The report would implicate the Saudi government in having a larger role in the attack than previously expressed but the report received less attention than more sensational events.
The overall purpose of the media is to direct the audience’s focus and keep it. In an effort to do so, the media must constantly develop stories and shift focuses to meet the demands of their audience. But a danger exists; with so many sources of information constantly vying for our attention, how do we know that information we receive is anything but entertainment?