Celebri-spiral™: Enough Already

Our culture is in a celebri-spiral. We're conflicted over our ridiculous, growing celebrity culture consumption via magazines, websites, and TV shows. In 2007, my love/hate conflict made me take to the blog-o-sphere. All writing on this site © Dave Singleton 2009.

Friday, March 2, 2007

March 2, 2007: Associated Press Celebri-Spirals! But Just For One Week. Now What?

Did you catch that the Associated Press banned coverage of Paris Hilton for an entire week? Yes, a newswire had its first official celebri-spiral. Uncork the champagne!

It was an experimental blackout that ended when le auto de Paris got ticketed and towed, and she received a pretty pink, girlish summons for violating her DUI conditions that could land her in jail. Now I want to see that porno video. Bring it!

Note to AP: well, if you must come back with coverage....jail time potential is better than the folly we missed during blackout week, including her "sing-stripping" on a bar in Vegas for her 26th birthday.

According to the AP, "It was only meant to be a weeklong ban-not the boldest of journalistic initiatives, and one, we realized, that might seem hypocritical once it ended. And it wasn't based on a view of what the public should be focusing on -- the war in Iraq, for example, or the upcoming election of the next leader of the free world, as opposed to the doings of a partygoing celebrity heiress/reality TV star most famous for a grainy sex video.

No, editors just wanted to see what would happen if we didn't cover this media phenomenon, this creature of the Internet gossip age, for a full week. After that, we'd take it day by day. Would anyone care? Would anyone notice? And would that tell us something interesting?"

In the end, the ban was picked up worldwide by news and media outlets from gawker.com to Howard Stern's radio show. Did it work? Not at all. Her name was mentioned probably more times than it usually would be in a one-week timespan.

Jeff Jarvis, who teaches journalism at the City University of New York, decries the "one-size-fits-all disease" afflicting media outlets, who feel that "everybody's covering it, so we must, too." Even The New York Times, he noted, had substantial coverage of a hearing concerning where Anna Nicole Smith -- perhaps the one person who rivaled Hilton in terms of fame for fame's sake -- would be buried.

"That disease leads to the Paris Hilton virus spreading through the news industry," says Jarvis, who puts out BuzzMachine.

So did anyone really learn anything from the ban?

"It's hard to tell what this really changes, since we didn't have to make any hard decisions," says Jesse Washington, AP's entertainment editor. "So we'll continue to use our news judgment on each item, individually."

Too bad for us. The Associated Press celebri-spiral backfired since we still have Paris. Although their execution was lame (I.e. banned for a week? What's that about? Make a decision and stick to it), I don't think the concept behind this ban is over yet. Do you?


Blogger Shane Harris said...

I think there's another term for Jarvis' "one-size-fits-all disease." It's called pack journalism, and it's hardly new. But I don't think you can apply that label across the board on all media outlets. Not to stick up for the relentless Anna Nicole Smith coverage, but the Times hardly gave her death and ensuing legal soap opera the same play as CNN and the cable networks. I would bet that if you asked the Times' editors why they covered it at all, it wasn't because "everyone else" was, too, but because the editors judged that Times readers--like it or not--would probably want to read about the trial, if only just a little bit. That's what editors do--make decisions about what they think their readers need or want to read.

As for the AP, it's their mission to cover just about everything. But I'm honestly not sure how I feel about their positon on Paris Hilton. It disturbs me that they feel a need to cover her as much as they do. But to then "experimentally" stop covering her? What's that about? If the editors think she's not worth covering for their readers, they should pull the plug. If they think she is worth covering, they should do their job. This smells like a half-baked publicity stunt crossed with a penchant for laboratory journalism.

It's really not a journalist's job to "experiment" with coverage. Not like this. You don't stop covering something to see how people react. You make a judgment call on whether it's worth covering, and then you stick to it.

Friday, March 02, 2007 9:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Purrr-iss makes me gag, that's all I know.

Friday, March 02, 2007 9:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am for AP banning Paris, but I agree the temporary way they did seems lame. What's the real criteria for news? Make a decision and then stick to it

Friday, March 02, 2007 9:39:00 AM  
Blogger Suz said...

I am with you, Allen. How ridiculous of a move for the AP to then lift the ban and congratulate themselves for doing so with a big announcement. They are the Paris Hilton of news orgs as far as I am concerned. Ugh....By the way, I did notice a lack of Paris coverage last week but I just figured she was having a herpes flare-up or something.

Friday, March 02, 2007 3:08:00 PM  
Blogger Dave Singleton said...

Vivi, good line!

"the Paris Hilton of news orgs"

Friday, March 02, 2007 3:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

She's a ho bag and doesn't deserve any coverage ever. at all.

Monday, March 05, 2007 1:36:00 PM  

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