Earlier this week, I linked to a report from MTV about a new sociology class at Georgetown on Jay-Z. More mainstream media sources are now getting to this story including the Washington Post. Here is what was reported on their Celebritology blog:
As noted by MTV’s Rapfix blog, Georgetown — otherwise known as the institute of higher learning unofficially endorsed by Justin Bieber — is offering a fall-semester-only class called “Sociology of Hip-Hop: Jay-Z.” The three-credit, twice-weekly lecture is taught by professor, author and Jay-Z proponent Michael Eric Dyson, who tells MTV about the course: “We look at his incredible body of work, we look at his own understanding of his work, we look at others who reflect upon him, and then we ask the students to engage in critical analysis of Jay-Z himself.”
Presumably that critical analysis does not involve speculation regarding ridiculous rumors involving Jay-Z’s wife Beyonce and their baby, aka Sasha Fetus.
Hip-hop has frequently been the subject of university classes; Duke University offers an African American studies class called “Sampling Soul,” which focuses on hip-hop, black cinema, social movements and other topics. And last spring, Bun B of the Underground Kingz served as a distinguished lecturer at Rice University, where he taught a religion and hip-hop course.
But focusing so intensely on a single rapper is somewhat rare. And it presents the unique opportunity to write a killer paper titled “Get That Dirt Off Your Shoulder: Obama, Politics and the Social Implications of ‘The Black Album.’?”
I’m sure someone could come up with a more comprehensive list of college courses on the subject. This might be much more interesting than this particular sociology course which focuses on a hot celebrity.
But this got me thinking about several articles about the news industry I’ve seen in recent years: just how much must traditional news sources write and emphasize the celebrity stories that seem to drive web traffic? A couple of things matter in this Jay-Z story: it involves a well-known celebrity (and the mentioning of the crazy rumors including Beyonce probably doesn’t hurt) and the course is being held not just at any college but at prestigious Georgetown. Beyond those two features, does it really matter which celebrity, which department, and which prestigious college this involves? To some degree, newspapers have always reported on prominent people though it probably involves a lot more celebrity news today.
A second question: does anyone go to the Washington Post exclusively or first for celebrity news or is it like a bonus after one consumes the political and business news? Are there people who don’t trust celebrity news unless it comes from more reputable sources? How does the Post decide what celebrity news to publish – I assume they don’t want it to be too scurrilous ?
Also, I would like to note that this blog reported on this story before the Washington Post.