Thursday, 18 March 2010

On Celebrity Reporting

Today*, my fellow students and I discussed the 'phenomena' of Celebrity Reporting, which I have been anticipating with a growing sense of foreboding that was at least partially met. After an entertaining if unsurprising talk from a freelance hack who dabbles in the field – cue anecdotes of the mindless charades conducted by Z-list individuals, faceless PR players and hard-nosed editors – our tutors were curious as to why the known celebrity fans amongst the student body weren't getting involved. In my cynical way, I suspect this is because their entire world is built around someone else being the centre of attention and standing out.

In a rather sweeping summary, Generation X didn't WANT to care, Generation Y CAN'T care. They have grown up in a world where individuality is persecuted, differences are discussed in committee and adopted wholesale, dictated by the cohesion of high-street retailers and mayfly-lifetime music artists.

I have done some of my peers a disservice. Many were angry at what was felt to be a useless and uninformative lecture, where they had no questions to ask – but what could they have asked? They are unable to confront the basic paradox at the heart of spineless rehashing of footballers and singers falling into and out of nightclubs, that they are bored because there is nothing interesting IN their field.

The integral issue is that they are missing the basic premise of journalism, which is to inform, educate AND entertain. They will probably continue to miss it, as well. This generation is comprised of consumers, not contributors. An argument was put forward that celebrity culture fosters a false sense of rightfulness amongst people, that they will not strive to achieve anything when it's clear you can succeed by freak chance or physical prowess or other unhelpful traits that nonetheless put you in a role model position.

The audience wasn't listening, chattering to themselves, unwilling to confront the truth. They were angry that their interests were being decried so easily, but unable to offer any kind of defence. And why should they? In their world, nothing is worth that much effort except Ugg boots and low-slung jeans.

They, as consumers, are not fully to blame. Celebrity culture inspires a sense of community and mutual identification that we do not receive from detached, Byzantine politics, fractured and violent society or maladjusted family, all concepts that have fallen into disrepair in the 21st century. The exact question of Lady Gaga's gender transcends all of these mundane, if important, concepts.

As a test, the tutor threw in Jade Goody's name, igniting a passionate argument about the cult of personality that sprung up around her. Many demanded to know how such an individual became famous? I interjected, describing how much the entire room was vehemently discussing her, and wondered if the same emotion could be attached to Gordon Brown or David Cameron. People with a far greater impact on the world, and much more vision. People who mattered.

The room fell silent, and one voice lamented that I'd described a pretty grim world. I merely shrugged, aware that however slowly, they were grasping the truth at the heart of the matter.

* - Today being Tuesday 16th March

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