Thursday, January 7, 2010

Pet Peeve Thursday--Toni Kelner & Celebrity Reporting

By guest blogger, Toni L.P. Kelner

My pet peeve?  Celebrity reporting.  It's gotten out of control!

Now don't get me wrong.  I don't insist on an unending string of hard news.  In fact, unending streams of hard news depress the heck out of me, and make me crave a feature about Lafayette on True Blood getting a on-air love interest or a discussion of who is wearing which designer duds on every red carpet in the world.  I am a longtime subscriber to Entertainment Weekly and I frequently read People.  And I'm always willing to read about what the kids from The Brady Bunch are up to.

But as I write this, I've got the window for CNN.com open.  One of the thirteen headlines under "Latest News" is:

Tiger woods shirtless How Tiger's wife spent the holidays

 Another story, under "Editor's Choice" is:

Tiger shirtless on magazine cover

 Are either of these important enough, or even interesting enough, to put on the front screen for CNN?

I know, this is a radical thing for me to say, given the fact I write the "Where are they now?" mysteries about Tilda Harper, a freelance entertainment reporter who tracks down the formerly famous.  Who Killed the Pinup Queen?, the second in the series, was just released earlier this week, for crying out loud.  But Tilda and I have rules for good entertainment reporting, and my pet peeve is media people who do not follow them.

1) Celebrity reporting has to involve a celebrity.  And by celebrity, I mean somebody who has become fairly well known and who has stayed well-known for a reasonable length of time. Is the star of this week's viral video a celebrity? Not unless the star was already a celebrity (think Rick Astley, the man who sacrificed his name to Rick Rolling), or the star then becomes a celebrity by appearing in venues other than Youtube (such as Sarah Boyle), or the video enters the cultural zeitgeist (as did Matt Harding's videos "Where the Hell is Matt?"). Personally, I count very few reality show "celebrities" as celebrities at all, but I admit that I may be biased.

Elizabeth taylor 2) The detail of celebrity must be proportional to the level of celebrity. For example, Elizabeth Taylor has been a celebrity for decades, so almost any story about her is going to be of interest. Taylor Lautner is a newbie--he's attractive and talented, but there's a definite limit to how much I want to know about him. Give the kid a chance to do more, then report on that.

3) Celebrity reporting is fluff, and should be treated that way. There is no need to pretend that a reality show's producer having a relationship with a contestant is a huge scandal.  It's barely trivia.

Nice Matters 4) Be nice--I don't want to see mean entertainment reporting. A little snark, sure, but don't slam people because they picked a bad outfit or got a photo taken from a bad angle. Remember what I said about fluff? Fluff is supposed to be fun, and being mean just isn't fun to me. Along those lines, do remember that celebrities have kids, and their kids just might be reading this stuff.

5) Don't beat a story into the ground. Okay, I suppose reporting on Tiger Woods's marital problems was valid entertainment reporting. But I don't care if it was the slowest news week since CNN went on the air, there were other stories to talk about that week! Move on! There are plenty of other pieces of fluff out there!

Britney 6) My personal least favorite bit of entertainment reporting would have to be "where are they now?" stories about people who haven't left yet. Unless a celebrity has been out of the public eye for at least five years, they haven't been gone long enough to write about! (Note that Tilda's targets in Who Killed the Pinup Queen? date back to the 1950's.)

Now I realize this isn't a new situation.  In fact, I remember a classic run of Doonesbury, back in the mid-seventies, when Rick Redfern attended a symposium on personality journalism where the media panelists were bemoaning the overuse of the word "superstar."  To which I can only say, "Here, here!"

 * For what it's worth, I think the story about Tiger Wood's estranged wife violates Rules #2, #3, and #5, and the story about Tiger's lack of a shirt violates #3 and possibly #5.


And what's bugging YOU today?
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Pin-Up Queen Toni L.P. Kelner's latest book, Who Killed The Pinup Queen?, second in the Where Are They Now? Mysteries is now available.  Check out Toni's web site.  Toni also blogs with the Femmes Fatales.