News of the worsening condition of Senator Ted Kennedy-currently suffering from a malignant brain tumor-made the front page of The Globe, one of the trashiest of the trashy tabloids. But in the respectable press, all we hear is that a lavish celebration of Kennedy's life is being prepared for the upcoming Democratic National Convention. The reader is asked to read between the lines and figure out that Kennedy is perhaps near death. Anyone who purchases The Globe, though, is always kept well-informed as to which old famous person is closest to death's door. It's a macabre little niche that they've been allowed to dominate thanks to the squeamishness of the rest of the press in covering celebrity health. Recently, the tabloids have led the MSM in covering the illnesses of Kennedy, Liz Taylor, and Paul Newman-though how reliable their coverage has been is called into question by the continuing survival of all of those people. Then again, when the mainstream press waded into the fray with their alarmist reports of the imminent death of Patrick Swayze, Swayze seemingly underwent a miracle recovery. So the reader is almost completely without reliable information. It does seem newsworthy, in this case, to ask precisely how bad Kennedy's doing. Does he actually have two weeks to live? Wasn't he just recently showing up to work at the Senate? But much as the press only ever hinted at how far gone Reagan or Strom Thurmond were (until they were done with public service), notions of privacy and respect lead editors to gloss over the uncomfortable details. Not so in England, where tabloid media is often indistinguishable from the "real" press. The Daily Mail, Mirror, and Sun all keep running tabs on the mortality of Britain's famous. Decrepitude and mortality sell papers! Who knew? Not American editors, yet.
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