In a celebrity and sensationalism besotted culture such as we endure currently, our news media have been guilty of any number of egregious acts of over-reporting local stories as major news events. Now CNN, the nation’s first all news network and once “most trusted” news source, has committed yet another act of tabloid journalism.
Larry King, dean of the network’s “newsmaker” interviewers, will have as his guest Wednesday evening Paris Hilton, the just-released-from-jail heiress/party girl/celebrity. In order to feature Hilton on the show, King bumped documentary film maker and political activist Michael Moore, whose new film Sicko indicts the American health industry.
Clearly, something seems wrong with CNN’s decision. Perhaps a comparison of Hilton’s and Moore’s careers will shed light. Here’s the tale of the tape….
– Michael Moore emerged on the American scene with his 1989 film Roger and Me which examined the phenomenon of job loss in the auto industry in his native Flint, Michigan. The film was the first of Moore’s documentaries to examine corporate indifference to workers as it probed GM’s movement of auto building operations to Mexico. The film won 11 film festival/organization prizes including the New York and Los Angeles Film Critics Circle “best documentary” awards….
– Paris Hilton first emerged on the American scene in 2001 as a socialite/model. Her first film work was actually shot sometime in 2000 – a sex video that at first she claimed to be “humiliated” by, but that in later release she received directorial credit for. The film won 3 Adult Video News awards….
– Michael Moore has gone on to make a series of award winning documentaries including The Big One, an indictment of corporate America’s massive layoffs while enjoying record profits that won, among 5 awards, the Boston Society of Film Critics “best documentary” prize; Bowling for Columbine, an indictment of the gun lobby and gun violence in America that won the Oscar for best documentary feature and the Anniversary Award at Cannes among its 28 awards; and Fahrenheit 9/11, an examination of America after 9/11 and in particular the Bush family’s ties to the Saudis that won both the Golden Palm at Cannes and the Cesar (the French equivalent of the Oscar) among its 25 awards…Moore’s newest film, Sicko, to be released Friday, is an investigation of the practices of the American health care industry and has already been widely acclaimed….
– Paris Hilton has gone on to make The Simple Life, a “reality” series for Fox television that stars Hilton with her (former) best friend celebrity daughter Nicole Ritchie as, well, as themselves, “forced” to do “horrible” things like work on a farm, pump their own gas, serve as camp counselors, and work as business interns. Hilton has also done cameos or had minor roles in a number of films and starring roles in such epics as National Lampoon’s Pledge This! and Bottoms Up. None of these efforts have earned her any awards – although a Razzie may be in her future….
Larry King has rescheduled Michael Moore’s visit to his show for Friday, the day Moore’s new film is released, so there’s not a question of Moore not getting useful exposure for his new film or being significantly harmed. Hilton, who had expected to negotiate a large payday for her first interview after her release from jail, has now been rebuffed by the major news outlets she was negotiating with, so some sense of reason and perspective seems to have been restored (momentarily) to American news media.
What’s suggested by the dumping by King’s show of Moore for Hilton – and in a wider sense, of such “news coverage” decisions generally – is something insidious: it is news media prostrating itself to celebrity and spectacle anytime the opportunity to do so arises. It’s why we see wall to wall coverage of non-news such as the “runaway bride” and the JonBenet Ramsay debacle referenced above. And why we see bloggers like this one noting news media phenomena like this.
One of my colleagues put it rather bluntly when he shared a news item from the BBC and offered his own observation:
From the BBC:
“The 26-year-old, sentenced to 45 days on 3 June, was released
early due to crowded jail conditions and time off for good behaviour.
She is scheduled to appear on Larry King’s CNN talk show on
The network has said she will not be paid for her appearance,
which has replaced a planned interview with filmmaker Michael Moore. ”
So, Americans prefer to look at skinny Paris rather than that fat pig
Moore … who knew?
Indeed. Who didn’t know…?