Last Sunday, TV critic Howard Rosenberg wrote a column that accompanied The Times' news coverage of the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales. The column elicited a heavy response--pro and con--from readers.
In what will no doubt be a flood of angry letters in response to Howard Rosenberg's insightful article "A 'Masterpiece Theatre' of Pomp and Puff," please take comfort in knowing there are some like me who wholeheartedly support his views. In fact, after reading his article, I rose from my couch and gave him a standing ovation.
It's time to see this story for what it really is, a famous and beautiful person dying a tragic death. That's it. Diana's celebrated work with AIDS patients and victims of land mines primarily consisted of half an hour of photographed visit time, which the media was gladly welcome to view, and then a fancy, $1,000-a-plate dinner for her to wear her latest fashion design.
Her "loving contribution to mankind" pales in comparison to real heroes like Mother Teresa.
What a curmudgeonly attitude Rosenberg has toward worldwide reaction to Princess Diana's death! Yes, it was excessive. But so was her life. Yes, she was not "our Princess," but she represented every fairy tale that we have heard since infancy, including the Wicked Stepmother and the Prince Who Will Take You Away From All This. But there was no happy ending, and I think that is why so many people are mourning the loss of Princess Diana. It is the reality of life--finding out that there is no "happily ever after" and no matter how much money or fame you have, you still end up in the same place.
While much of the media coverage of Diana's funeral was overdone, Rosenberg achieves the height of arrogance in his inference that the 2.5 billion people outside of Great Britain who watched the funeral with rapt attention and, for most of us, with true grief and sadness, didn't really feel that way, but did so only because the media told us to.
Who the hell is he to tell me my feelings, and those of the entire world, are only there because we were brainwashed by the network news? I felt the pit in my stomach, sir, the moment I heard the news, not after all the glitzy coverage. My 12-year-old son, who I'm sure identified with what it would be like to lose his mother, was very disturbed by the news as soon as it happened and was intent upon watching the entire funeral because it was important, not because anyone told him to watch.
It would have been far more appropriate for Rosenberg simply to say, "I don't share this feeling, I don't understand this feeling," or perhaps more succinctly, "I have no soul."
JAMES D. LEO
Like many people, I have been moved to tears over the loss of this person's early death just when she was doing important work.
However . . . the very media that created her popularity now get to use her death to further their ratings and be the first to jump on the entertainment bandwagon.
What a sorry day for us when Mother Teresa's death is pushed from the front page and 80-plus slain in Algeria is a small article hidden between department store ads. It makes me sick to see these pious and pompous broadcasters smearing the tabloids and stalking photographers when they are the ones originally creating much of the frenzy. All the media people engaged in glamorizing Diana must take responsibility for her death and examine their journalistic tactics.
Three cheers for Rosenberg! His article on television's coverage of the royal funeral deserves to be chiseled in stone. The networks' coverage of Diana's tragedy was princely hyperbole but far from honest. The TV news coverage was pure entertainment. It was mesmerizing and tearful but it wasn't truthful or balanced news.
Is it possible that Howard Rosenberg viewed others' emotions through his own expressed lack of interest in the Princess? His column seemed uncharacteristically uncharitable and severe. For people to whom Diana was not "just a stylish, pretty celebrity" but also an expression and powerful symbol of style and beauty allied with compassion and grace, her death was authentically heartbreaking.
Yes, it is appalling that stations that "will not spend a dime to cover California government have jetted reporters and camera crews to Paris and London." But it is not shocking, nor is it new. The "media," centuries before we would call it that, have always covered gossip more than government.
Because Rosenberg's tone was unnecessarily condescending and flippant ("Well, you know, being a spoilsport is a dirty job, but somebody has to do it"), it damaged the most critical parts of his message.