Sunday, August 10, 2014

US, UK Media Plagued by Excessive Celebrity Coverage

Rabin Man Shakya
Former Lecturer of Journalism, Peoples Campus and RR Campus, TU.

Wikipedia describes celebrity journalism as another area of journalistic genre which "focuses on the personal lives of people, primarily celebrities, including movie and stage actors, musical artists, models and photographers, other notable people in the entertainment industry, as well as people who seek attention, such as politicians and people thrust into the attention of the public, such as people who do something newsworthy."

It continues: "Celebrity journalism differs from feature writing, in that it focuses on people who are either already famous or are especially attractive -- and  often covers celebrities obsessively, to the point of using unethical behavior to provide coverage."

Paparazzi reporting, lifestyles of Hollywood stars, dating and weddings of the celebs, conflict, cheating and divorce of the stars, obsession over stars' babies, pregnancies, their bizarre behavior and photos are a always the good sources of celebrity journalism here in the US.

The media in today's world exercises tremendous influence in the way people think and behave. And no doubt, the American journalism is a cornerstone of American democracy and governance. But sadly enough, lately, US media's obsession with celebrities, fads, polls and ratings means that they sometimes miss bigger stories and issues. More than anywhere, Justin Bieber, Jennifer Lopez, Kendra Wilkinson, the Kardashian sisters and other celebrities are making constant headlines in the US media.

Likewise, arrests of the Hollywood stars, prominent sports people and politicians for their bizarre illegal activities  are more fodder for the celebrity coverage here in the US. Celebrity reporting is extensively carried out by the UK tabloids The Sun, The Telegraph and The Daily Mail whereas in the US, the Enquirer, People, Us Weekly, In Touch, Life & Style weekly magazines disseminate the celebrity reporting. Questionable reporting practices in "Celebrity Reporting" were time and again reported in the UK as well as the US, and there were a plenty of cases where the "victims" of the gossip stories sued the different media outlets in the UK and the US for questionable reporting practices and for libel and defamation.

If the US and UK media are more plagued by the celebrity coverage, journalism of the countries like Nepal are more politicized, polarized and trivialized.

Remember, the death of Princess Diana was caused by the paparazzi who were following her car. Paparazzi journalism has done no good for the cause of healthy journalism. The excessive coverage of the celebrity news and activities by the US and UK media has been castigated by the media observers, but the pathetic side of the journalism here is that the polls and ratings, not the quality, determine the destiny of the TV programs and their survival

As a matter of fact, celebrity journalism is gaining momentum not only in countries like the US and the UK, but slowly and steadily the celebrity journalism is taking root across the world. Today more than ever, money, sex, scandals and crime sell pretty much. That is why reporting of celebrities interests most of the people across the world. Writing salacious gossips about the celebrities is one of the modus operandi of the celebrity journalism, and surprisingly, readers love to read salacious gossips that enhance the circulation of the tabloids and increase the number of "views" of the bloggers and online journalism.

Back in 1993-94 when I was with The Rising Nepal, I had the privilege to interview Nepalese celebrities cum luminaries: Ambar Gurung, Gopal Yonjan, Tara Devi, Nati Kaji, Shiva Shankar,  Prem Dhoj, Yogesh Vaidya, Harihar Sharma, Ravi Shah, Mithila Sharma, Madan Krishna Shrestha and Hari Bansha Acharya and the list goes on. The interview materials were published in my regular weekly column "Lifestyle" in The Rising Nepal in 1993-94. And, though my articles were based on the interactions and interviews with the senior Nepalese celebrities, it was, of course, not a part of celebrity journalism.

The effects of globalization of media were evident in Nepalese journalism too, and as a result, celebrity journalism is slowly and gradually making inroads into Nepalese media as well. That's because the existence of celebrity coverage is changing in a world of transparent social media and online journalism where everyone could be a journalist or netizen.

Just one little example: News of notorious Don Dinesh Adhikari Chari's death recently in a police encounter in Kathmandu has drawn an extensive coverage both in social media and the mainstream media in Nepal, thereby making obscure model Khoosbu Oli, the Don's alleged girlfriend a cause celebre. 

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