Journalism

Larry King goes to Paris…

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.parishilton.jpgmichaelmoore.jpg

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
Wednesday.
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…?

8 replies »

  1. I never have been too fond of Larry King. I can’t see what all the hubub with him is all about. I also think it’s pretty funny that he’s a shill for nutritional supplements like Garlique yet he looks like – and apparently is – death warmed over.

    Paris and Larry deserve each other.

  2. I’ve never been surprised by Moore’s popularity in Europe. After all, he confirms all their biases about the US. The reason Moore has always made me uncomfortable is his hyperbole. I’m not an American so I can’t take offence at his declarations but I do take offence at his outrageous comparisons and poor grasp of economics. He starts with an opinion and then selects evidence to support it. Balanced journalism, it’s not.

    In Sicko (which I’ve not seen) there is the claim that the poorest Brit is healthier than the wealthiest American. Has anyone visited some of the slums of the UK? And the wealthiest Americans include people like Bill Gates.

    But, what both Moore and Hilton have in common is an astonishing gift for self-promotion. You could almost claim that Hilton’s gift is the greater.

    After all, as you so clearly point out, Moore makes documentaries about things that Americans either do, or should, care about. But they’re documentaries. The fact that Moore’s gift for promotion allows these primarily US concerns to go into mainstream release INTERNATIONALLY is considerable.

    Yet Paris, without releasing a single product, has trumped him. Any interview of Paris has to be fascinated by how this ordinary and slightly stupid girl has managed to capture the imagination of not just America, but the world.

  3. Mention the name Moore – and I throw up. So much publicity, awards, reward given to/directed at him for for so little talent and such fakery/slanting/cutting the cloth to suit his own HUGE frame. He is a laughing stock amongst those who work in the Defence field in the UK (and abroad).

    Hmm…”non news”, I doubt I’d put the death of a child/children into that category or anything pertaining to the human family’s little ‘uns.

    The days of the Victorian era slums are no longer the case in the UK -not one deprived housing estate (with its attendant crime, drugs, feral children etc) could possibly compare to the sights found in the historical slums of the past. For example, the activities of the back street abortionists and their ‘work’ laid out on slabs, the beggary and thievery so as not to starve, the dirt ingrained amongst the inhabitants, the open sewers, little clean or fresh water, the starvation, three and four year olds surviving by themselves before being dragged off to the poor houses etc…

    On the ‘slum’ housing estates of today there is plenty of running water, multi services that operate to each home, children have to attend the schools in their areas (even if many skip school), social services and police are frequent visitors, political parties still canvass (and are not shot at – yet), the sewers are not overflowing and the inhabitants still draw their many benefits from the State.

    The real poverty in the ‘slums’ of today is the poverty of aspiration, the lack of strong male role models heading families, youth gangs, anti-establishment thinking, disenfranchisement from the wider society, drug addiction and sexual abuse/prostitution as a career choice of young males and females.

    It breaks my heart to think that anyone, let alone someone as young as 10 (or younger), would offer their body for sale as a means for survival. But worse than that is hearing that some of these kids want the hugs too that can come with the sale of their ass…

    …and the biggest slum of all? Found inside the person who would buy that ass.

  4. Gavin: Moore isn’t a journalist – he’s an advocacy filmmaker and has never pretended otherwise. Even if he were, “balance” is not a worthy goal. We get plenty of that from our “real’ news sources and the results are there for all to see. Balance offers up “everybody gets to tell their side” in lieu of the truth, and fosters the illusion that the opinions of people like Ann Coulter are valid and worthy.

    Moore certainly self-promotes – but look at the subjects of his films. WHAT is he promoting? He’s drawing the public’s attention to causes like corporate greed (maybe if we’d paid better attention to “Me & Roger” we’d never have had Enron?), handguns, our little Dubya problem, and now a serious national healthcare crisis. Remind me what’s bad about that?

    He committed a couple sins in “Bowling for Columbine” by faking some info, and for that he took some serious dings in my corner, but let’s not dismiss the importance of the principle behind what he’s doing.

    Meanwhile, here’s hoping his next film takes on Big Media….

  5. I’m jes’ wondering what Paris will be doin’ after Larry’s show. Will she be turning over that promised new leaf or just wearing her usual fig leaf?

  6. Oh, I don’t deny that what Moore highlights is important, I just think he discredits his argument by polarising it to the extent that he does. I tend to think of most people as ignorant or short-sighted, not setting out to commit genuine misery (unlike Charles Taylor in Liberia). Accusing his opponents (as Moore does, in the way he does) puts everyone’s dander up and the debate goes all over the show. If you want to sell movie tickets that’s fine, but if you want to tackle issues …

    And I read that Paris is now a born-again virgin.

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