Sunday, March 04, 2007

Where's Paris?

In an unusual move, The Associated Press published a story last week in which one of their writers, Jocelyn Noveck, discussed the venerated news organization's decision to not report news related to Paris Hilton for an entire week. Noveck writes that the AP's editors wanted to see if anyone noticed, or cared, about the lack of new about Paris, and not surprisingly, there were no deaths, mass riots, not even any complaints from the Parisites (Parisians? whatever her fans are called).

Some people were a little disturbed at the idea that the AP was "tinkering with the news," but what is a news service if not the gatekeeper of news, determining what is and isn't worth reporting? Noveck brings up the point that news sources tend to take an attitude of "if everyone else is covering it, why shouldn't we?" and seeing as celebrity news is the main force driving magazine sales, it was inevitable that even the most highly regarded news agencies would fall into the trap.

You can make the argument that with all the truly important things going on in the world, the AP (or The New York Times or any other major newspaper) shouldn't be wasting their time on Paris or Britney or Tom and Katie, but there's clearly a huge market for celebrity news, and even respected sources can't ignore the impact of celebrities, who shape our culture in innumerable ways (good or bad, that's up for debate). What they can do is choose to ignore celebrities and stories that are not newsworthy, and let the gossip rags continue to bestow quasi-celebs (the Brandon Davis's and Kristin Cavallari's of the world) their 15 minutes of fame.

Still, I can sympathize with the editors who are forced to determine whether the release of a certain American Idol contestant's scandalous photos counts as news, considering that nearly 40 million people watch and care about the show and far fewer care about the anti-Putin protests in St. Petersburg. Questions like "who counts as a celebrity these days?" and "if x many people want to know about it, does that make it newsworthy?" are difficult to answer, and I think that's why coverage varies on which celeb news makes it to the major papers and what's ignored.

I don't really have any suggestions for a system that determines who and what should be reported. But hopefully newspapers, magazines and blogs can try to break out of the bandwagon trend and simply stop reporting on celebrities who aren't famous for anything more than a gift for self-promotion, and simply stop talking about them when their 15 minutes has passed and the world is ready to move on.

And finally, for the love of all things holy, I'm calling for worldwide prohibition of any further discussion related to Anna Nicole Smith and her death, children, lovers and legacy (*puke*). Thank you.


Emma said...

parisites, that's pretty great. thank you.

Annie said...

You speak the truth!
Parisites suck, and they need to go away...they're so parasitic.

The Anna Nicole thing is so vile too. If I hear anything more about it I think I'll have to take some pain pills in large quantities.

Oooh - sorry, was that in bad taste?

Anonymous said...

With God as my witness...the night before Anna Nicole died I was mentally forming an email in my head that I wanted to write to "Entertainment Tonight" to complain about their non-stop coverage of that gold-digging slut. I don't watch all that often, but I was sooooooooo sick of hearing about her that I wanted to scream. I was ready to quit watching forever and make sure they knew why. The next day I heard the woman was dead and, I swear, my first response was "Thank God!!" I felt horrible for feeling that way, but I was so hoping that we'd be done hearing about her. Unfortunately, just the opposite has happened and she's all we've heard about! There's no justice!

Meg said...

Anonymous- that's hilarious! I completely feel your pain- I've had to stop watching those shows and reading the tabloids for a few weeks (oh, how my workouts have suffered!), it just drove me crazy. Hopefully in a couple of weeks we'll never have to hear about Anna Nicole again.

Anonymous said...

nice job