Sure, Ledger's dead, but what did Britney do now? - Jason Smith

I hate writing these kinds of columns. I was sitting at my desk, working on a story, when I heard the news.

Australian actor, Heath Ledger, dead at 28.

It might not have been on the level of the death of Elvis Presley or John F. Kennedy or John Lennon, but it was still sad.

In everything I'd ever seen Ledger in, he gave a great performance. I loved him in "A Knight's Tale," and when I heard he was playing The Joker in the newest "Batman" movie, I was excited.

Granted, I had no desire to see him in "Brokeback Mountain," but that's less about him and more about the subject matter of the film. I knew he'd turn in a quality performance, regardless.

Given Ledger's talent, and the tragic nature of his death, I wondered about the kind of coverage his death would receive from the entertainment media in Hollywood. When I heard the familiar tune of the "Entertainment Tonight" theme, and I looked up at the TV, I got my answer. There was a short blurb about Ledger's death, teasing to more information later in the show, and then it was back to business as usual - the all-important update on the life of Britney Spears, followed a few minutes later by the latest news related to "American Idol."

Somehow, even the sad and untimely death of a young Hollywood star takes a back seat every now and then.

I'm not saying every show on TV should have suspended everything they had originally planned, and only run news related to Ledger's death. But we already know what the stories about Spears and "Idol" would say: Britney's losing it, and half of those singing kids never had it.

Ledger fans, on the other hand, deserve to hear at least a little bit about why the man died at such a young age.

Don't get me wrong. As I understand the early reports I'm getting about Ledger, his death may have been drug-related. If those reports are true, I want to be careful about how much I defend him. Perhaps the entertainment media is thinking the same thing, and wanting to be careful about how much they pay tribute to him before finding out all the facts. Maybe there just wasn't time to put together a story about Ledger's death.

Still, knowing that there's at least the possibility that drugs were involved, is it the best course of action to gloss over his death before smiling for the camera and talking about what stupid thing Britney just did, or how badly the "Idol" kids sang?

Maybe I'm crazy, but I think in this case, the media dropped the ball, opting once again to chase after ratings. It's not terribly surprising, I guess. But it's still sad.

Jason A. Smith covers crime and courts for the Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161, or via e-mail at jsmith@henryherald.com.