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Too much attention to Gosselins, 'Octomom'?

  • Story Highlights
  • CNN's "Reliable Sources" focused on Kate Gosselin, Nadya Suleman coverage
  • Legal analyst Lisa Bloom: "We are fiddling while Rome burns"
  • Baltimore Sun TV critic David Zurawik: "We should care about [Gosselin]"
By Natalie Apsell
CNN
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(CNN) -- Two concerned mothers have been all over TV screens recently, but unlike most of the mothers who have made appearances on TV of late, they are not concerned about health care reform.

Nadya "Octomom" Suleman is scheduled to appear in a two-hour Fox special on Wednesday.

Kate Gosselin, here smiling at a press event in April, has been making the talk show rounds.

"Jon & Kate Plus 8's" Kate Gosselin -- minus estranged husband Jon and the kids -- did a teary interview with Meredith Vieira on NBC's "Today" last week; and on Wednesday, Fox will air a two-hour special featuring Nadya "Octomom" Suleman, the single California woman who gave birth to octuplets in January.

Suleman and Gosselin have already received more than their proverbial 15 minutes of fame -- so should the media, particularly the news media, continue to fill the airwaves with stories and interviews of these two women? Howard Kurtz posed this question to a panel of media experts Sunday on CNN's "Reliable Sources."

Lisa Bloom, a CNN legal analyst, said the media may be feeding a public appetite for these stories, but not without a price. Video Watch the debate over the TV moms »

"How sad, really, that there's this insatiable appetite among American news consumers for stories like that -- about people's shortcomings. Is this the first time somebody has had a divorce, or in Octomom's case, is this the first time that somebody has been a lousy parent?" Bloom asked. "We are fiddling while Rome burns, covering these stories ad nauseam."

David Zurawik, television and media critic for The Baltimore Sun, said there is a legitimate sociological debate occurring about why there is public interest in these "characters," and why the media continue to cover them.

"That's not enough just that [the audience cares] about them," Zurawik said. "But here's what's going on with Kate Gosselin, at least. People are judging their own lives. They're judging themselves as parents. They're judging themselves as wives. They're judging themselves as families against her. And that's really important.

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"Look," he continued, "she is the most talked-about, the most discussed representation or image of motherhood on American television. Think back to the '50s, with Barbara Billingsley from 'Leave It to Beaver' and all those books and dissertations are written about them. We should care about her."

Zurawik said critics of the coverage are voicing "a nice high-minded argument for Sunday morning TV."

Gosselin, who also appeared on "Live! with Regis & Kelly" on Thursday, has her fair share of critics, particularly in the tabloid media (who have, nevertheless, been willing to follow her every move). However, few mothers have been criticized more in the press than Nadya Suleman.

Suleman, who gave birth to octuplets January as a result of being implanted with six embryos, has a total of 14 children under the age of 8. News of her collecting public assistance for some of her children outraged many taxpayers.

Suleman has not been portrayed as a sympathetic figure in the press, but could the "Octomom" special on Fox do anything to turn her image around?

Lola Ogunnaike, a popular culture reporter, is skeptical.

"I doubt it. I highly doubt it. I think that she's hoping that this will, in many ways, lead to something even bigger. But people really do see her as a villain," Ogunnaike said. "Fox is also banking on that, and that's why they didn't actually give her a full reality series. They're sort of testing the waters with this show and seeing -- if she does, indeed, draw ratings."

Bloom said she has personal experience in trying to get what she believes are important stories about people in remote countries on the air, only to be passed over for tabloid stories.

"I have personally pitched stories like the Cambodian war crimes tribunal. ... That's an important legal story. You can't get those stories on the air," she said. "Why? Because we want stories with sex, with bad parents, with people like Octomom."

Kurtz asked if either "Octomom" or the "Jon & Kate Plus 8" sagas could fade from the media spotlight after Gosselin and Suleman's TV shows this week.

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Ogunnaike said the opposite is likely true.

"There could be more, unfortunately," she said.

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