Coverage of Paris Hilton’s return to jail: Is it fair?

I’d like to thank the august Old Gray Lady for being hip and catching me up with all things newsy and entertaining. At 4:23 p.m. EST, The New York Times informed me that Paris Hilton, famous fleshpot, would return to jail. Complete with Nick Ut’s AP photo, too.

Yep. There’s the weeping Ms. Hilton. Right next to the lede heds: “General Pace to Retire as Joint Chiefs Chairman” and “Immigrant Bill Sponsors Vow to Press On.”

The rest of the Big Media piled on, too.

Thanks, too, to CNN.com. It told me on its lede page, under “breaking news” headlined “Crying Hilton ordered to jail,” that Ms. Hilton is indeed going back to the Big House. There is, of course, a link to video of a police car picking her up to return to court. And a link to its Entertainment page, where you’ll find the story and Nick Ut’s AP photo. It’s all labeled a “developing story.”

At 4:42 p.m., I see that The Washington Post has buried the story. The link is five heds down, under “Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Pace to Step Down,” “Report Addresses CIA Sites,” “Jefferson Pleads Not Guilty” and “Carl Bernstein on Hillary Clinton.”

At 4:25 p.m. EST, there’s the Los Angeles Times, paralleling the play of the NYT. There’s Nick Ut’s photo and the hed (“Distraught Paris sent back to jail”) played to the right of “Gates picks replacement for head of Joint Chiefs,” “New passport restriction waived” and “Bush is briefly taken ill at G-8.”

At the Chicago Tribune‘s Web site, Ms. Hilton’s misfortune is the lede art — a video — over the hed “A crying Hilton sent back to jail.”

At the Boston Globe‘s Boston.com site, the story’s played No. 2 under “Whooping cough hits three on Cape Cod.” In the Globe hed, Ms. Hilton’s condition has worsened: “Screaming Paris Hilton sent back to jail.” [Emphasis added.]

The Miami Herald stuck Ms. Hilton (and a tight crop of Nick Ut’s photo) in the middle of a three-part banner at the top of the Web page: On her left, “Un-Daunted/Culpepper can’t compete” and on her right, “Downtown Miami/How bad is it? You tell us.” Ms. Hilton’s hed: “Paris Hilton/Back to the slammer.”

At the Denver Post, Ms. Hilton receives fairly modest attention: Her story is merely the ninth hed down on the lead Web page under stories about actual real news.

Very few news Web sites will not carry news of Ms. Hilton’s return to jail.

Two questions: Is it news? Is it fair to Ms. Hilton? She’s rich, spoiled, a whack job … and very, very young and stupid, which are not crimes. Is this sweeping, blanket, front-page, over-the-top coverage fair?

xpost: 5th Estate

10 comments on “Coverage of Paris Hilton’s return to jail: Is it fair?

  1. Well, I guess I’d ask a couple of questions, Denny:

    1) Fair to whom? – Paris Hilton – let me see – nope, don’t care….you sow the seeds she’s sown and you reap the whirlwind – her behavior is like that of a spoiled toddler – maybe some “down time” will help her reassess and grow up a little (which would surely be good for her) – maybe not – again, don’t care….

    2) fair to the public? – hell, no. I’ve railed about celeb-reportage passing as “news” in too many posts for there to be any doubt that I find such fawning by the press on such a non-story anything but irresponsible and, in these times, near unethical behavior toward the public who depend on a free press for full and fair reporting about the activities of our government, our economy, our environment, etc., etc., etc….

  2. Main issue: is it newsworthy? Well, no – not as it’s presented. She’s a new age celebreslut getting a small measure of what she deserves, but so what. A celeb going to the pokey for her crimes is Page 6 at best.

    Now, what WOULD be news is the story surrounding her aborted early release and subsequent reincarceration. The story there is about potentially favorable treatment for a celeb. And that COULD be an actual news story.

    That’s not the story being covered, though…..

  3. Celebrities are never newsworthy. If Bob Ordinary from Somewhere, Wisconsin got a DUI and violated probation, he’d go to jail and that would be that. No news coverage, no leniency. Paris Hilton should get the same treatment. Jail time for her crime, and no news coverage. Why feed her ego (what little of it there is left)?. The intelligent among us don’t want to hear about yet another stupid rich person who’s famous for no good reason.

  4. You’re asking all the wrong questions. The real question is this: “will it sell newspapers and place adverts?” The answer is: Yes.

    The general public finds it riveting. Like a slow-motion traffic accident. The peril of stardom. The peril of the Roman Games. We like our heroes winning. But, when they lose, we like it gory.

    There are more celebs in the news because there are more celebs. It isn’t any different from stories 50 years ago covering the Queen having breakfast or the goings on in Hollywood.

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