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Sandra Bullock trumps health care

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By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 26, 2010; 12:02 PM

News can be a popularity contest.

And maybe those of us on the "serious" side of the business shouldn't be snooty about the voting that takes place every day.

I was looking at the aggregation site Newser.com on Thursday, and after clicking on the word "popular," this is what I got:

Math genius turns down $1M prize. (No. 1). 24% of GOPers believe Obama's the Antichrist (2). George Bush uses Bill Clinton as towel (3). Tim Tebow's prayer request bombs (4). Kate Gosselin awful on dance floor -- and off (5). Nine successes who were rejected by college (6). Bullock breaks down at family dinner (7).

Ah, Sandra Bullock. Is there anyone in America who hasn't been following that story? She wins an Oscar and finds out that her moronic husband, Jesse James, has been cheating on her with a tattoo-covered woman who peddled her tale to In Touch magazine.

Newser linked to a gossip story, quoting unnamed sources, that may or not be true: "As Sandra Bullock meets with top-end divorce lawyers, the Oscar winner recently broke down at a family dinner over emails from the kids of cheating hubby Jesse James. 'Sandy broke down at one point but she came right back,' a source told X17 Online."

On Gawker, Bullock was the hottest post of the morning, drawing 11,670 hits in six hours:

"Jesse James' ex-wife says her biological daughter Sunny -- who is Sandra's adopted daughter -- 'loves Sandy and vice versa. She's welcome to be a part of every aspect of Sunny's life.' Which is funny because Janine was very recently fighting to keep custody of her daughter."

Now, this is hardly the most important story of our time. Hollywood actresses seem to be in failing marriages all the time. But during my CNN program last week, after talking about health care, I found esteemed journalists chatting about Sandra during the break. It's just a helluva human interest story.

The New York Times hasn't published a word. The Washington Post has limited itself to one paragraph in the Reliable Source column. The network newscasts haven't touched it. Are they, in some sense, ignoring what people care about? Why is Tiger a story but not Sandra?

Newser founder Michael Wolff, a Vanity Fair columnist, wrestles with this question on his site:

"What if it isn't gossip we're interested in? What if we really aren't small- and mean-minded? What if we aren't scandalmongerers but rather, as we sort through other people's dirty laundry, erm, truth seekers?


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