The internet can be a dangerous place. We’ve (us millennials at least) likely all been given a similar warning at a very young age from our parents, warning us of the indecencies that can lie behind some of those HTML pages.
Ten years ago, the internet was primarily thought of as a place to check emails and read up on last night’s sports scores. While we definitely still use the web for these things today, it has also become so much more in recent years.
The internet is now an all-consuming aspect of our lives. The first thing most of us do when we wake up in the morning is check our phones. We use it at work, in the car, while taking a shower. etc. Go somewhere without reliable wifi, or even 4G instead of LTE, and you’re going to hear people complaining it.
Because of this evolving nature, much of the way we interact with one another over the web has changed in the last year. One of these aspects relates to celebrities and celebrity news — something which we at The Celebrity Cafe are pretty invested in. Celebrity news has been around for a long time and will still be around for a long time to come. It’s something that’s constantly adapting to current trends, and with the rise of the internet and social media, it’s time for the celebrity press to progress to the next step — moving from tabloid articles to thoughtful and insightful analysis.
There was once a time when celebrity press online was relatively straightforward — someone famous would do something noticeable, the celebrity press would report on it and the audience could read about it online and then react. It was a relatively simple process, one in which the media sites served as the middleman that would hand over the story to the audience.
Things, however, are different now. In a recent interview with Michelle Tompkins of The Celebrity Cafe, Tyler Shields — the photographer who took the controversial picture of Kathy Griffin holding up a prop of Trump’s severed head — said “Celebrity photography is dead. That ended years ago. The Instagram and social media and the iPhone have replaced the celebrity photographer. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I use celebrities in my work, but they’re actors. I don’t think of them as celebrities, they’re just actors who are acting in the photograph, whereas, celebrity photography — and look, that was something that I definitely did, there was a time when you can just take a photo of a celebrity and that was the story, but that just doesn’t exist anymore.”
Celebrity photography is dead. A bold statement to say the least.
Shields might just be on to something here. We live in an age where anyone can post anything they want on to the internet — including celebrities. Whether it’s good and insightful or mean and nasty, the option to say what you want to who you want is a tool the internet provides.
This so-called tool doesn’t operate on the same rules and regulations as the rest of real world. You can say terrible things, make death threats even, without repercussions. Granted, our culture is starting to become more aware of this and will hopefully begin to lay down consequences for such actions. But as of now, that hasn’t happened.
This means that celebrities are free to post their own stories — therefore creating the news themselves. Twenty years ago, the Kathy Griffin picture would not have gone over the same way it did today. Shields may still have taken the photo, but he would have had to send it into a news publication or celebrity press to get it published, who then could have told the story with whatever angle they wanted.
Now, with the internet at his side, it’s his story. His angle. His message.
Which leads us to the next, big question: where does that leave the press? If anyone can say whatever they want, is there a reason to have news publications cover it and try to spin their own angles on stories?
Yes. There is.
If we accept the fact that there’s no need for celebrity photography anymore, where does it stop? If we simply surrender to the fact that the internet is open territory, how do we find honesty or truth? Where do our morals come into play?
Shield’s Kathy Griffin photo is just one example. But even take a look at something like the recent headlines on Logan Paul and how he made fun of a suicide victim, something that’s been on my mind a lot these past few days.
An open internet gives people like Paul a space to say these unforgivable things. It didn’t have to go through a publication other than YouTube, he didn’t have to provide a backstory or reasoning behind it.
News websites didn’t break the Logan Paul story. Logan Paul broke the Logan Paul story.
Yet, the video wasn’t the end of the story, was it?. Following the realization, people stormed Twitter and social media to talk about the issue. Many/most were disgusted by his actions and criticized him for being a terrible human being, but you also can’t deny that he has a fanbase who tried to defend him (a fact that makes me so, so sad).
Entertainment news, however, can serve to put people like Paul in check. People still look at sites like Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter and, without a doubt, The Celebrity Cafe to not only learn about these issues, but to understand them. Understand them to the point where they can form their own opinion.
How that person chooses to proceed, whether appropriately or inappropriately, is entirely up to them. But that’s not up to the celebrity press.
Perhaps the role of the celebrity, then, is one who creates art. Whether it be through film, television, music, YouTube or a hundred different examples, we recognize the celebrity by what they create. They, then, show that art to the rest of the world via the internet.
The press’ job, which in many ways can be argued is as the same as the critics’, is to evaluate said art. That’s not to say that we should completely sh*t on art we don’t like and make people bad for even trying. Making art is an incredibly difficult process and anyone who attempts to make it should be given some credit (that is the point of The Disaster Artist, after all).
Maybe evaluate isn’t the most fitting word. Instead, perhaps, we should attempt to discern art — to look at the messages it is sending us, what it says about our culture, decide if it lines up with our morals and then proceeds from there. This, in a way, becomes an art form of its own — an art form then made accessible to others, as they decide what to take from it.
So yes. Official media news is no longer the place to break stories about celebrity sex tapes or play into headlines like “OMG DiD yOu SeE hOw FaT tHiS aCtReSs LoOkEd In ThIs DrEsS?!?!”
Good riddance. Instead, celebrity press should serve as a place for insightful discussion and evaluation.
This evaluation can take several different forms. It can be something like a reaction to Logan Paul, or it can be something more investigative and expose like — such as all the work Vanity Fair and The New York Times are doing on sexual misconduct.
These reports are still journalism as we’ve seen in the past. They are reporting on issues that have not been widely known, informing the public about the lives of celebrities. However, this also falls into the category of evaluative journalism. The reports on Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and James Franco are all condemning. These aren’t light, fluffy stories about fashion trends— they have the power to impact careers and Hollywood itself.
When covering sexual assault stories, the goal for a journalist should never be about breaking the latest scoop before anyone else does. Instead, these issues are reported on in hope for change. Change in the industry, change in human behavior and change in awareness.
Again, that change may be out of our hands and is rather up to the internet to decide what they want to do with it. However, that’s also where the job of the writer ends and the job of the audience begins. Journalism exists to inform, review and call for change. The audience exists to bring about that change.
Change. A scary word that’s hard to define.
I don’t ever want to see anything like the Logan Paul outbreak to ever hit the web again. On a personal note, the subject matter hits way to close too home, but it’s also a complete and utter embarrassment for everyone involved and a terrible message to be sending to children.
Realistically, we can’t guarantee we’ll never see another video like this. The internet suddenly isn’t “fixed” from all filth and slander, and there are always, ALWAYS going to be shouting matches and name-calling on Twitter.
But let’s take these stories and figure out what we can learn from them and, better yet, how we can improve. While Twitter may be a good place for these stories to break, it’s not necessarily a good place for healthy discussion afterward.
Now, that’s up to the press and those who write for it. That, of course, puts the pressure on those who write for the press. Without proper engagement or knowledge of the subject matter, their voice just becomes another one lost in the crowd. They have to understand the art. They have to start the conversation.
So read, listen and learn. Give feedback. Make your voice heard. Just because someone wrote something in an article, doesn’t mean you have to agree with it. But do so in a healthy manner. Write your own article. Don’t name call. Let others know what you believe in, and hear what they believe in too.