Written by Shelley Plett Tuesday, 10 April 2007 22:29On an average day seven minutes of news happens. Yet there are currently three full-time, 24-hour news networks. —Jon Stewart, host of cable TV’s “The Daily Show” <p><p>Exactly how many times can a person be expected to listen to or click on to news stories with the key words of kidnapping, death toll, abuse, neglect or murder? Do you watch the nightly news? Log on to Internet news? If so, you must recognize the same pattern. <p>Is it any wonder that Comedy Central has one of the most popular newscasts on television? Sure, they’re satire but shows such as “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart and “The Colbert Report” give a pass from the streaming messages of doom from “real” news sources. They can teach us something valuable, too—how to take a joke. <p>But don’t feel bad, the joke’s on everybody else. Choosing Jon Stewart over Katie Couric doesn’t mean you’re less intelligent than the hard core network news crowd. CNN itself reported that, according to the results of a six-question political quiz, “Daily Show” viewers were better informed than those who regularly watched television news or read newspapers. <p>In a pinch, Stewart fans can make use of that stat against the nay-sayers. (You might read up on that quiz first so you can answer the six questions yourself.) <p>The headline choices of network news could also explain why so many people are willing to spend time surfing entertainment industry Web sites like TMZ or reading about the wildest post-Oscar parties. Why do they do it? For a fat dose of mindless, partial-truth, unhealthy, pointless superstar gossip. <p>An article in Psychology Today Magazine (“Seeing by Starlight: Celebrity Obsession” by Carlin Flora, July/Aug 2004 edition) reported that the primary source of celebrity obsession isn’t the media, but our own minds. Why? Because it is our innate tendency to think of these illustrious celebs as our very own personal friends. <p>And, they claim, since we talk ourselves into these phantom relationships, we believe it’s our right to know about every aspect of their lives. We care about them as we would an actual friend or family member. <p>I’m no stranger to the guilty pleasure of entertainment news. I know Angelina Jolie likes to adopt needy babies. Sadly (pathetically?), I even know their names. But I don’t really expect her to drop in for coffee (Not this week, Angie, I’m swamped.) <p>Does anything she does directly impact my life? Not so much. Aside from our shared interest in Brad Pitt, I would guess we don’t have much in common. <p>But what is a viewer to do? Log on to any news site and we find headline choices like these: “Sisters arrested after baby found in garbage” and “What’s up with Jake Gyllenhaal’s love life?” <p>Sometimes the choice is more about numbing the mind. <p>Comedy television, entertainment television and even reality television are all escape tools. I think the reporter at Psychology Today underestimates the general public. We’re not ignorant. We just get tired of being subjected to the worst of the worst in giant bold print. Maybe we just need a good laugh. <p>Oh, and Ang, in case you’re reading this…tell Brad I said hey.