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A Chico newspaper decides to "leave Britney alone"

Last month, David Little, the editor of the Chico Enterprise Record, ordered a month-long media blackout of Britney Spears at his newspaper. His actions followed the news that an assistant bureau chief for the Associated Press sent out a memo stating that

Josh Wolf first became interested in the power of the press after writing and distributing a screed against his high school's new dress code. Within a short time, the new dress code was abandoned, and ever since then he's been getting his hands dirty deconstructing the media every step of the way. Wolf recently became the longest-incarcerated journalist for contempt of court in U.S. history after he spent 226 days in federal prison for his refusal to cooperate. In Media sphere, Josh shares his daily insights on the developing information landscape and examines how various corporate and governmental actions effect the free press both in the United States and abroad.
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At the time of this writing, a search for "Britney Spears" at news.google.com reveals 23,600 articles. By comparison, Britney's friend, Lindsay Lohan, who appears nude in in this month's issue of New York Magazine, and has also had significant personal drama in the past, has a paltry 4,028 articles currently linked to from Google News.

Last month, David Little, the editor of the Chico Enterprise-Record, decided that he had had enough. In a column published on January 20, titled Sit back and enjoy a Britney blackout, Little announced that "This is the last mention you'll see of Britney Spears in the E-R until Feb. 20. If we find this newspaper can exist without her, we may go even longer." It's now February 21st and the E-R is still running Britney free. I e-mailed Little to find out how long he plans to continue the blackout and will update this blog when I hear from him.

(Update here) In his column David Little describes the impetus for the "Britney blackout:"

...an assistant bureau chief for the Associated Press sent out a memo to all Southern California AP reporters. It said: "Now and for the foreseeable future, virtually everything involving Britney is a big deal. That doesn't mean every rumor makes it on the wire. But it does mean that we want to pay attention to what others are reporting and seek to confirm those stories that WE feel warrant the wire."

So AP, a serious news organization, was joining the tabloid/Internet/trash TV fray. There were stories about rehab and a trip to the hospital and Dr. Phil and court appearances and several other stories I failed to pay attention to.

Since the Enterprise-Record began it's blackout, the AP has been very busy covering Ms. Spears. The E-R website maintains a feed of Associated Press content, and, in the past month alone, the AP has posted 70 articles that mention Britney Spears.

In the midst of the "Britney blackout," the public editor at the Sac Bee, Armando Acuna, asked his readership, "whether they agreed with [him] that The Bee was going overboard with almost daily coverage of the wayward pop singer's much-chronicled life." As Acuna pointed out in a follow-up, "The answer was a resounding and weary 'yes.'"

Acuna goes on to explain how Little hasn't received any complaints about the Enterprise-Record's moratorium on Britney stories either. He also commends Little for his decision, writing, "I think his self-described "one little step" is admirable and a sign of independence from the group-think media herd."

Though Acuna states that, "Little is under no illusions about what he's doing," and that "his actions have gone unnoticed in the nation's press." Perhaps it's time that the press reassess whether it makes sense to continue hounding Britney and reporting on every move she makes, no matter how personal or private.

Perhaps the only reason the public continues to feed on Britney, is because it's what they are being fed. Maybe it's time for the media to take heed of Chris Crocker's impassioned plea from last September and "leave Britney alone."