Despite Western powers beating the war drums after allegations that Syria’s government used chemical weapons against its civilians, American pop star Miley Cyrus has managed to steal the limelight.
Cyrus, 20, ranked top on Twitter  Wednesday after her bikini-clad, sexualized performance at the MTV Video Music Awards (VMA) on Sunday, which stunned audiences.
She sidelined Syrian President Bashar al-Assad , who nevertheless garnered popular hashtags related to the allegations of chemical weapons use.
“No question more people know what Miley Cyrus did this week than know about Assad let alone his chemical attacks,” @techweenie tweeted.
“Drones approach Syrian Airspace playing giant hologram of Miley Cyrus VMA twerk blasting her music, Bashar Al-Assad resigns immediately,” tweeted @danielnyari satirically.
A lighter option
“News about Miley Cyrus was all over the place on Monday,” said Hisham Melhem, Al Arabiya’s Washington bureau chief. “TV stations can’t have serious news coverage about Syria or Egypt 24 hours.”
Mainstream media offer “serious news,” with “professional discussion and journalism,” but they also have segments for lighter news, Melhem added.
The popularity contest has sparked debate about how to conduct professional journalism.
CNN’s website came under fire when it placed Cyrus’s performance as its top story.
The Onion, a satirical news website, mocked CNN in an op-ed piece under the name of Meredith Artley, managing editor of CNN.com, entitled: “Let me explain why Miley Cyrus’s VMA performance was our top story this morning .”
The answer “is pretty simple. It was an attempt to get you to click on CNN.com so that we could drive up our web traffic, which in turn would allow us to increase our advertising revenue,” read the falsely penned article.
While Artley clarified on Twitter that it was not her who wrote the article, she responded: “@socialnerdia @TheOnion I’m reading it as more of a joke than something to call the legal team about. Although I wish [The Onion] would have used a better headshot.”
Andrew Wallenstein, editor-in-chief of the weekly U.S. entertainment trade magazine Variety, on Wednesday defended CNN.
“Were the Onion a real news organization, it might understand a more complicated truth behind the uneasy coexistence of Cyrus and Syria in modern digital newsrooms: It’s difficult to subsist on substantive journalism without some help from more crowd-pleasing content,” he wrote.
Covering news about Cyrus might not please “serious viewers,” but there are “people who are interested in this kind of news,” said Melhem.
“We need to respect people who find this kind of news entertaining. There’s also a market that wants light and entertaining news,” Melhem added.
By Dina al-Shibeeb
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