My cellphone chimed at me earlier this afternoon with a news bulletin from CNN that actress Lisa Robin Kelly had died. Millions of Americans would want to know this breaking news, I imagine, because of her work with the television comedy “That ’70s Show.”
I think it is safe to say (tragic but true, in other words), that the typical American newsroom executive can assume that the typical American news consumer will know the name of this woman and that most news consumers will want to know that she has died. Pop culture matters in America. Thus, her death is a news bulletin. We can expect quite a bit of coverage on cable TV tonight.
Pop culture matters. Does Egypt really matter?
There will be quite a bit of coverage tonight about the unfolding events in Egypt, where more people died in the latest clashes between the Muslims who lead that nation’s semi-secular military establishment and those who want to see Egypt evolve — through ballots or bullets — into a true Islamic state.
What can editors assume that Americans know about what is happening in Egypt?
Can the typical American editor assume that the typical American news consumer even wants to know the details?
If the typical American knows the name of Lisa Robin Kelly, how many Americans would know this name — Sayyid Qutb?
Qutb is a very important person in the recent history of the world, even though he was executed by the Egyptian military establishment in 1966. You see, it’s hard to understand what happened on Sept. 11, 2001 without knowing Qutb’s name and its even harder to understand what is currently happening in Egyptian streets, mosques and churches without knowing something about Qutb and his thought, especially when it comes to justifying bloodshed in conflicts within Islam, between Muslims.
Can the American news executive justify coverage that tells consumers about the history of the conflicts in Egypt? What can editors assume Americans know or even what to know?
Well, the Washington Post online team just ran a handy feature that offers quite a window into the thinking behind the coverage of these events. The title: “9 questions about Egypt you were too embarrassed to ask.”
It begins with the assumption that many Americans do know even know where Egypt is. Honest. Question No. 1 asks, “What is Egypt?”
Question No. 2 moves closer to the issues that will interest GetReligion readers: “Why are people in Egypt killing each other?”