Ledger was one in a million

Rory Geraghty

Last week, 28-year-old actor Heath Ledger was found dead in his Manhattan apartment, allegedly due to an accidental overdose of sleeping pills.

A young man with a promising future passed away. He had a 2-year-old daughter, as well as a budding acting career. We’re all saddened by the situation. Nobody ever wants to see a young child lose her father.

It is not at all surprising that the national media jumped all over the Ledger story. The death of a young, relatively high-profile actor is automatically newsworthy. As humans, we cannot dispute the feeling of sorrow for those close to Ledger.

However, I see something completely different when a tragedy of this nature occurs.

According to the National Center of Health Statistics, about 6,500 Americans die every single day. If my arithmetic is correct, that means more than 50,000 people in America have died since Ledger’s death occurred.

I am not arguing with the reasoning behind all the news coverage for the death of Heath Ledger. If inquiring minds did not want to know about all the details surrounding this sort of thing, several magazines wouldn’t be missing from your grocery store checkout.

Of the thousands of deaths that occur every day in America, it is reasonable to ascertain that many share equally sad circumstances. For example, perhaps a young, single mother living down the street from your parents’ home recently lost a hard-fought bout with breast cancer, leaving her three children without a parent. This is a plausible situation with sad circumstances, to say the least.

It is not about finding the saddest death and reporting it. It is about the fact that thousands of people die every single day, but we choose to become enamored with the death of a single person instead of acknowledging the others.

It would be reasonable to assume that the surviving friends and family of Ledger do not enjoy seeing his name in the news every day. Sure, they are accustomed to his high-profile existence as a Hollywood actor, but mourning his death cannot be any easier with the details of the incident being dissected in magazines and on cable television channels on a daily basis.

The coverage of the death of a member of the pop-culture elite will undeniably sell papers and magazines, as well as garner higher television ratings. Because of the business ramifications of such coverage, the media may not be to blame for the problem.

Now look in the mirror. It’s our fault.

If we, as consumers, were not so captivated by instances such as the death of a Hollywood actor, perhaps we would take a moment to grasp and understand the bigger picture.

Maybe I’m more of a closet social psychologist than I am a journalist. Or maybe I’m a journalist with a heart. Maybe I’m too na’ve to care too much about selling papers and getting high television ratings. Whatever the case may be, I do not like what I’m seeing. Consider this a plea for a little self-reflection. It’ll do us all some good.

Rory Geraghty is a senior electronic media

production major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].