Celebrity
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The Pull of Celebrity

A major part of the expansion of television news magazines is America's fascination with celebrity. In 1972, Francisco Alberoni used the term "powerless elite" to describe that group of famous people such as actors, sports figures, musicians who wield no real power yet have attained status within the mainstream culture. In his book Tabloid Television: Popular Journalism and the Other News , John Langer writes of the influence of this elite. "They may not directly exercise control or occupy authorized positions, but stars have a significant part to play in the way that values and attitudes are assembled and disseminated…" Entertainment Tonight is a program that caters entirely to celebrity "news". The program is set up like a news show, with two anchors that report on the comings and goings of the stars. The dalliances of these people are somehow perceived as news. Recently, Dateline NBC interviewed actress Gwyneth Paltrow about her breakup with boyfriend Brad Pitt. 20/20 scored huge rating points this February with an interview with the infamous Monica Lewinsky, who has achieved fame only because of her extramarital affair with Bill Clinton.

Another aspect of celebrity comes from those "newsmakers" who are known only because of their bad deeds or misfortunes. Any of the number of scandals that were mentioned previously involve people who fall into this category. Langer claims that the public wants to know information about these people because they are more similar to the consumers themselves. A news report on Rwanda has little impact on the average American, but almost everyone knows someone who has been involved in a love triangle. They can relate to the murder mystery of the six-year-old beauty queen. All three networks have done extensive pieces on the Jon Benet Ramsey case, going so far as to present the facts of the case and providing a toll-free phone number for viewers to call in and vote about the guilty party. These types of melodramatic stories are presented as news to the public. Why are they so interested?


Economics The Nature of TV Sensationalism Now What? References Links Home