It’s quite the task on most days to weed through all the “news” that’s reported from various sources and try to glean the few nuggets of truth that might give you an idea of the state of the world. There is television, radio, newspapers, weblogs, newsmagazines, tabloids, and god knows what else offering a continual bombardment of opinions, facts, points of view, reports, documents, undisclosed sources, and of course, good old rumour.
Then there are the interpreters who will tell you that what you read meant something other than what it was you thought it meant. Or even if it does mean that, it doesn’t matter because it is irrelevant to the big picture, which they never bother to describe.
The stuff that’s reported as facts by those in all those various media are not based on the person writing the piece or the person who saw or witnessed an event. No, he or she has been told what’s happened by someone who “officially” knows what happened. It’s based on documents that have no provenance or witnesses who mysteriously appear for press conferences and then vanish off the face of the earth. Reporters are planted (sorry, embedded) supposedly to allow them access, but access to what? Access to what someone wants them to see, or what’s to be seen?
All of the above is referred to as the legitimate news, which brings us to its illegitimate offspring or siblings. Although on some days it’s hard to tell the two apart, there is still no doubting the gap separating the two in terms of credibility and believability. To me that raises the question of the necessity for “Social News” or “Celebrity News.”
Those doing the writing and those being written about get their egos massaged, and we are led to believe that they are of some socially redeeming value because it’s always to do with a party for this or a benefit for that. That the combined cost of the clothing worn by those in attendance is roughly equivalent to that of the GNP of a small country is neither here nor there.
Even without an event to bring them into focus as a group, we are told that, because of their wealth, as individuals they are more important and more interesting than other segments of society. The diamonds they wear and the clothes they buy are more important than the life rescued by some paramedic on the sidewalk below their penthouse apartment.
What is the public fascination with these people? Does it stem from a form of envy or is it simply a matter of living vicariously through them so that we may experience what we are told is the ultimate in achievements: the ability to inherit wealth successfully.
There is some cross-pollination between those who are “Social News” and those who are “Celebrity News.” Some socials have parlayed their stories of excess and stupidity into a type of dog and pony show celebrity status. They get on camera and perform some tricks for the audience and display themselves and their assets to the best of their advantage, and for no purpose other than their own glorification.
If nobody read about them or watched them on television, all of this would be moot, but because there is an ever increasing appetite for this type of tripe, not only do the number of shows featuring ersatz celebrities increase almost daily, the number of media outlets obsessed with them multiplies correspondently.
There are some of these media outlets that have been deemed more powerful than others. There are the old warhorses of the West Coast, People Magazine and Entertainment Tonight, who pretty much handle the less sensational Celebrity news, figuring what they lack in sensationalism they make up for in access and quality of pictures.
On the East Coast, where there are less Hollywood types but more blue blood aristocrats, it’s “Page Six” of The New York Post that rules the roost. “Page Six” seems to exist for no other reason than to be vindictive and catty about some people and loving about others.
One poor fellow was attacked on such a consistent basis for over a year that he contacted the paper’s owner, Rupert Murdoch, to complain that the items were completely false. It made no difference. It’s because of this gentleman, Ron Burkle, that the good ship “Page Six” is foundering in rough waters, and it has made itself the topic of scandal sheets around the city.
One of the main contributors to “Page Six”, Jared Paul Stern, is under investigation by the F.B.I. over allegations that he tried to extort $220,000 from the aforementioned Ron Burkle. It seems Mr. Stern was offering Mr. Burkle protection from negative stories. For $100,000 up front and a further $10,000 a month, he would be guaranteed that not a negative pronoun or adjective would appear in The New York Post for the next year in reference to him and his dealings.
Mr. Stern also claimed that various other industry heavies had come to an “arrangement” with “Page Six”: Miramax head Harvey Weinstein, and Revlon’s Ron Perelman being two very prominent New York figures purportedly amongst them. Both have denied any such allegations of course, but Steven Houpt points out in his article about “Page Six” (see above link), neither man has been attacked in the last year.
It has nothing to do with Miramax Books publishing an advice book by one of “Page Six’s” contributors, Paula Froelich, or that Richard Johnson’s (the editor in charge of “Page Six” since 1995) girlfriend was employed by Revlon for a while. Even more surprising was that when Ron Perelman and Ellen Barkin were splitting, “Page Six” virtually ignored the event.
Columns of this type have little or no credibility to begin with; gossip is their stock in trade. They give innuendo and hearsay the same credence as properly sourced material. To actively solicit funds as a guarantee of positive coverage is akin to selling fire insurance with a Zippo in one hand and a tank of gasoline in the other. Neither practice is looked on in a positive light by the authorities.
What I find incredible is that after a year of cutting a person to shreds in public, the people at “Page Six” had the audacity to think that if they approached him like this, he wouldn’t report them to the police and might actually go along with the scenario. It makes you wonder what planet they are really operating on.
Like the majority of the people they cover, the folk at “Page Six” seem to think the world revolves around them, but even for these people, this is an all time low.
When I read about things like this, it truly sets me wondering about the quality of anything I read, see, or hear anywhere now. I’m aware that neither New York City or Hollywood are indicators of mood as much as they’d like to believe they are, but to even think that sort of behaviour is acceptable for a newspaper is sickening.
We as consumers of the product of news have to start raising objections to the manner that it is both being gathered and presented if we want to see something close to what we used to have for news. Tell them we don’t want our papers and television stations to be government mouthpieces, nor do we demand that they entertain us.
Unless the audience is willing to demand changes be made to what we see, hear and read, it will only continue to get worse.