Celebrity Gossip = Good Journalism?

In all the times that this columnist traded words with Andy Warhol, the celebrity artist never managed to work his prediction that everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes into the conversation.  After reading the New York Times Sunday edition for March, 13, 2011, we were appalled to realize that an irrelevant tidbit of information about conversations with Warhol might be a better way to start a column than mentioning the work done by the support group which helps the parents of murdered children cope, which we learned about while chatting with a fellow passenger on the Amtrak taking us back to Berkeley from Los Angeles.

In that day’s edition of the paper, the magazine section contained an article by Bill Keller that attempted to answer the question:  “How much more of itself can the media consume?”  He reports a relevant encounter with Arianna Huffinton and then succinctly encapsulates the challenge facing news aggregator sites:  “They seem to have realized that if everybody is an aggregator nobody will be left to make real stuff to aggregate.”  Do you think that the fact that writers are on strike against Huffington might be a “checkmate” bit of relevant evidence for his contention? 

No use stepping on her toes if their paths will (inevitably) cross again at another future of journalism seminar. 

That epitomizes the Catch-22 limitations of Celebrity Gossip Journalism.  If you piss-off the celebrities you will be ostracized and be cut off from all possible content without access to the views, quips, and insider information that comes with belonging to the In crowd.  If you go along to get along, your supply of material will be unlimited. 

The In Crowd isolates itself from the real world and hence looses touch with the reality of the working class world. 

While on the aforementioned train ride we chatted with a student at Fresno who was going home for a weekend of mom’s good home cooking.  Since it was a chance to get a random sample of what the college students are thinking these days, we asked him if he thought George W. Bush was a war criminal.  He couldn’t say one way or the other.  He wanted a career in criminology and he had no opinion on the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan or the use of torture.  We know we have the raw material starting point for a good trend-spotting column, which we may have to talk to some more college students to get a better basis regarding the trend or statistical aberration aspect of the conversation with the Fresno student.  (Name dropping tidbit.  This columnist saw the Jefferson Airplane perform in Fresno . . . a while ago.)

In the New York Times’ Op Ed area for March 13, 2011, we enjoyed Frank Rich’s piece titled “Confessions of a Recovering Op-Ed Columnist.”   His anecdote about how, as a teenager, he had his first encounter with Walter Lippmann might be a useful tidbit to have ready to use when we do our annual National Columnist Day installment, honoring the memory of Ernie Pyle, when April xx approaches.

The folks at the NSNC organization might want to use the Book Section’s essay by Anthony Gottlieb, essentially inferring that Michel de Montaigne should be considered the patron saint of bloggers as a basis for voting Montaingne as the inspiration for nominating him to be the patron saint of columnists. 

In the Gottlieb piece, he explained that Montaigne used an early version of the stream of consciousness style writing to great advantage.  Perhaps we should relay the link for that to the editors at a web site where some of our attempts to contribute cross posting efforts are rejected for not having one dominant connecting theme.  Then again, when older Americans have to explain who the Jefferson Airplane was, maybe an effort to imitate Montaigne is asking for too much digital leeway.

Columnists (such as Ernie Pyle during the Thirties) used to go out into the hinterland to ascertain what the Average American was thinking.  Now the Fox College of Cable Knowledge is readily available to tell Americans what they should (if they want to be “hip”) be thinking and it saves Rupert Murdock a bunch of silly irrelevant expense checks and it saves the audience brain cells they would need to use up to think.  In America, it has become easier to tell folks what to think and not ask them what they are thinking.

When we spent a recent evening chatting at the Cow’s End Café in Venice CA, we spoke with a hypnotist and amateur magician, who had worked in the psy-ops section of the military, and were surprised to learn that his pick for the next fellow to be dealt the “stolen election” card will be JEB Bush. 

If the Celebrity Gossip In Crowd gets a tip that JEB is trending “hot” on the political radar, then all the bloggers will (as they sometimes do in Congress) confirm that bit of news by a voice vote (that is as accurate a measure as is the throwing of spaghetti against a wall) and tossing in the word “acclamation.”  Until then, rogue columnists have to do the salmon going upstream imitation act and have faith that the old “nose for news” style of intuition is still a valid (albeit nostalgia laden) method for journalistic trend spotting.

Here’s a question for those who think that the assertion that today’s celebrity journalists are trapped inside a bubble:  “What are the chances that this columnist can send the link to this column to Bill Keller or Arianna Huffington and get either one of them to read it?”  Not bloody well likely? 

In a true capitalist country it is easier to manufacture propaganda than to encourage intellectual curiosity, which hold the danger that it could wind up biting a mogul on the ass.  (Solidarity means everyone shouts “yes, sir!” in unison.  [Remember the old axiom: “When I say ‘jump,’ you jump and ask ‘How high?’ on the way up!”]

Who is America’s leading “counter culture” journalist these days?  Is there no market for a modern “underground” voice of dissent?  When Hunter S. Thompson was leading the charge against the establishment press, he got his efforts mentioned in Time, Newsweek, and the New York Times.  When was the last time any of those publications made reference to a blog that was not written by a member of their own staff or by a celebrity?

BTW the three times that this columnist spoke with Andy Warhol, it was rather brief encounter but the one time we did ask if Warhol’s visit to L. A. and a recent Truman Capote sighting in the Venice CA area, was sufficient evidence to do a trend-spotting article.  Warhol quizzed us about the Capote sighting and left the trending possibilities un assessed.

Bill Keller has written (The New York Times Magazine Sunday, March 13, 2011, page 11):  “The other, more insidious reason that I have been deemed more important than the founder of Amazon or Hosni Mubarak is that our fascination with capital-M Media is so disengaged from what really matters.”  To which, we can only add:  “Amen, brother!”

Now the disk jockey will mark the 35th anniversary of the release of the movie “Taxi Driver” by playing the soundtrack album and Frank Ocean’s “Bitches Talkin’” and Sky Ferreira’s “Haters Anonymous.”  We have to go do some preliminary fact finding about the Yosemite Conservancy and their fund raising efforts.  Have an “all the news that’s fit to print” type week.

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