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How Much Is Too Much? Celebrity Death Tributes — Too far?

For every lash, there is an equal and opposite lash in the reverse direction: a backlash if you will. So it is with a seemingly irreproachable story like the tribute paid to the passing of Tim Russert. After his shocking passing last week, the news hasn't been shy with coverage. From the moving tribute held during the usual Meet the Press time slot, all the way to today when MSNBC will broadcast the private memorial service at 4 p.m. EDT. Some are saying it's too much.

In Debra Saunders column yesterday she acknowledged the Meet the Press tribute was appropriate, but then said:

Overall, however, the hours and hours of tributes across the cable spectrum show the news media at their worst. For me, the Russert Weekend only served to confirm my suspicion that in 2008, cable TV stations can only do one story at a time -- and then they overdo it and beat it silly. . . An outstanding journalist of Russert's stripe rated more than a nice sendoff story. But there is another tenet of the profession that Washington TV news bureaus seem to have forgotten in the shock of Russert's passing: We are not the story.

Over on Slate, Jack Shafer had this to say:

I wonder whether the media grievers gave a moment of thought to how this Russert torrent they produced played with viewers and readers. Did the grievers really think Russert was so important, so vital to the nation's course, and such an elevated human being that he deserved hour upon hour of tribute? I wonder whether any of the responsible journalists paused to think, "Hey, this is really weird. We're using our unchecked editorial power to soak the nation with our tears about our friend, and that's unseemly!"

Gawker went one step further and created the "Scale of Celebrity Death" ranking the impact of surprise celebrity demise. Princess Diana, incidentally, ranked a 10.

Are celebrity death tributes, and the wall-to-wall media coverage surrounding them, too much? Do we need them to mourn those characters who've touched so many lives? At what point does a tribute become ghoulish?


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