By Anthony Romanelli, Executive Opinion Editor

As I type this, the stop story across all news channels is that of Jussie Smollett, an actor best known for playing Jamal Lyon on Fox’s Empire, and the racist attack by Trump supporters he faked in order to gain the attention and pity of his fans. Liberals decry Smollett’s exploitation of racial tension for his own gain, while conservatives maintain that Smollett’s case is just one of many attempts by Hollywood to denigrate and marginalize Trump supporters.

As all of this was going on, a terrorist attack was foiled by our brave law enforcement officers.

Lt. Christopher Paul Hasson, a white supremacist and Maryland Coast Guard member, was arrested for unlawful possession on Friday the 15th after a warranted search of his home yielded 15 weapons and over 5,000 rounds of ammunition, at least some of which was obtained illegally. Steroids and human growth hormone were also being stored illegally by Hasson in order to increase his capabilities in combat. The prosecutors have a labeled Hasson a domestic terrorist after a hit list was found in his home that included prominent Democrats and journalists. Hasson’s search history included the addresses of Congress members and the manifesto of Anders Behring Breivik, another terrorist who killed 77 in Norway in 2011, many of them children.

The priorities of American media are beyond skewed in the era of Trump. A man who came within days of committing a mass shooting, something both our political parties at least pretend to care about, and yet the top story is some actor’s petty race-baiting and every pseudo-intellectual on the political spectrum is weighing in.

Jussie Smollett is a amoral, lying con man who wanted to smear a quarter of America for his fifteen minutes of fame. I won’t dispute that. But for our major news networks, liberal and conservative alike, to prioritize his story over matters of real national significance? It’s irresponsible and overtly mercantile, selling controversy for clicks.

Unlike our head of state, I don’t see the media as “fake news” the “enemy of the people”. I do, however, believe that at certain news outlets, namely CNN and Fox, the overall journalistic quality has degraded and priorities become skewed. The news should never breed with the entertainment industry, lest it create a commercialist atmosphere where stories are shared based on how they sell. With subjects as important as homeland security, ignorance is even worse than bias.

We the people need to hold our news networks accountable. That doesn’t mean death threats, photoshopped “attacks”, and the constant accusatory cry of “fake news”. It means sending a civil but purposeful message; We will not let our free press be reduced to tabloid gossip. In an era where Internet mobs latch on to controversy without fact-checking, and Photoshop alters what we see, we cannot afford to let our journalists abandon their mission

Actor Jussie Smollett (left) and Coast Guard Lieutenant Christopher Paul Hasson were arrested in the same week, and while Smollett has dominated the news feed, Hasson’s crime was far more important and serious. News outlets need to use their judgment and avoid the lure of easy tabloid stories.