On June 26, the House narrowly passed the controversial Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy & Security Act to limit carbon emissions, but USA Today readers can be forgiven for not knowing it. Instead of covering a hotly debated bill that could result in “the largest tax increase in history,” the newspaper devoted its’ coverage to the death of pop star Michael Jackson.
From June 26 to June 29, USA Today did manage two articles on cap and trade – “Analysis: Climate Change Bill Major Victory for Obama” and “Obama Urges Senate to Act on Climate Change Bill” – but they were only featured online.
Jackson, who passed away June 25, dominated USA Today. Nine articles were devoted to Jackson on June 26 and 29. The June 26 front page blared: “MICHAEL King of Pop dies” over a photo of Jackson that took up much of the remainder of the page. The top of USA Today advertised: “Faces of Jackson: Keepsake posters, 8-9D.” Jackson also was the headline on June 29: “Inside Michael’s Last Show.”
Just in case there wasn’t enough coverage of his death, USA Today advertised on June 29: “Coming Tuesday: 40-page Michael Jackson keepsake.” Although Jackson’s untimely death is certainly tragic and worth covering, a 40-page feature section on the costly effects the Waxman-Markey Bill will have if passed in the Senate would be more relevant to Americans. And, considering that the bill as written runs to 1,500 pages with amendments, 40 newspaper pages might be necessary to do it justice.
The Heritage Foundation reported the impact the Waxman-Markey Bill would have on Americans. Gas and energy prices would spike and it could cost American families an additional $3,000 per year. There would be job losses as some manufacturing jobs will be outsourced. And “it will not make a substantive impact on the environment.”
While USA Today was busy reporting “Jackson’s funeral plans unclear,” the newspaper failed to provide Americans with necessary information about legislation that will greatly affect them long after Jackson’s funeral is held.