This Isn’t News

Jesinta Campbell’s dress didn’t make her the belle of the Logie ball – backlash.

Justin Bieber got a face tattoo after he said he would never get one – mass hysteria.

Blac Chyna is a new Kardashian baby mama and kashing in on the name – international phenomena

When did news change from serious issues about war, peace, politics and starvation to miley-cyrus-liam-hemsworth-marriageseriously trivial “issues” like are Miley and Liam really together? Someone please explain to me, why should I care?

News is changing. What counted as news in past generations is now old news. In a generation blurring the lines of traditional and non-traditional media, how can we define what is just news and what is newsworthy? And where does ‘celebrity news’ fit in?

I remember as a child, a time where news coverage of celebrities was restricted to magazines and tabloids. I knew I could always trust Total Girl magazine for a dose of the cutest new boy in Hollywood, plus an adorable lip-gloss. As I moved into my early teens, Girlfriend and Dolly were my friends, keeping me up to date on celebrity crushes and fashion, and don’t even get me started on the sealed section. But now, those memories of a special place where I could find all my celebrity news seem to be totally distant to what I see now. Today, celebrity news is a widespread phenomenon finding home across all media channels. As a result it has proved its capacity to attract a wide range of audiences, driving mass consumption. The coverage of celebrities has shifted beyond news mediums, and is so omnipresent and pervasive that it has transformed normality in our media world. With 24-hour news channels brought to us through technological advances, we can say that we now have an increasingly unpredictable, diverse and networked news sphere that operates at greater speed than ever before.

In 2015, the Oscars were searched over 406 million times in Australia alone. The only search that beat this search epidemic was the Paris Terror Attacks. Out of all of the things that happened to the world in 2015, only a terrible occurrence was able to scoop the top search spot from a celebrity event. That doesn’t sit too well with me.

At a glance at Google Trends, the top trend on May 10 2016 was that Lea Michele is rumoured to be dating iZombie star Robert Buckley. The headline should read: “Two People Get Into Relationship”. Instead this is a New Couple Alert! and apparently the world cares. Why? Because gossip is now arguably being redefined as news. This redefinition as gossip has lead to a shift of celebrity news moving out of the social pages, into the front pages. One media commentator, Mitchell Lewis from Nova FM, remarks on this shift noting that it’s not the reporting that’s the issue, but rather the placement and quantity. In particular Lewis notes a problem may be “how early you might read something trivial in a mainstream newspaper, while having to go deep inside the publication to find notable world matters”.

Technological advances have created rapid dissolution of the boundaries between news and entertainment, journalist and celebrity, producer and consumer, amateur and professional, truth and spin. With Google in our phones, and Facebook at our fingertips, what is trending in social media and online seems to be how we keep up to date with the who’s and what’s of the world.

Facebook Top Trends. 15 May 2016

As shown from the image above, on 15 May 2016, my top trending story on Facebook was Vanessa Hudgens. After then clicking to ‘See More’ (below) the very next story was a monk who had been hacked to death in Bangladesh. How did this and the string of serious stories below it not make the top three, yet Vanessa’s antics did? Lewis argues that there is no clear line between ‘news’ and ‘gossip’, suggesting that a third alternative be created somewhere in the middle; where gossip such as Vanessa’s $1000 fine (which I’m sure did not make a dint in her wallet) is the lowest level of celebrity reporting. However the second trending story regarding Putin and Trump does not deserve this classification as it is somewhat a reflection of the important or relevant issues in modern society.

Facebook Top Trends List. 15 May 2016

University researcher Graeme Turner also views types of celebrity news as gossip, stating that celebrity is a regime of news where reporting on gossip, rumour and speculation is not judged on terms of accuracy, but rather in its demonstration on the journalists access to otherwise unavailable stories. It lets us simpletons peer behind the glossy curtain of fame and sneak a peek into the lives of the rich and famous; even if these end up as wildly untrue and unsubstantiated rumours. The appeal of the insider’s perspective is like the apple to Adam and Eve. We don’t actually need it but boy do we want it, and we want it now.

Public consciousness seems to view celebrity news as a “guilty pleasure”. How often have we kept up with the Kardashians as a way to be trivially entertained alone and then discuss it with our friends? Do I personally know the Kardashians? No. Will Kourtney and Lord Disick’s relationship rollercoaster affect my life personally? No. But you know what, I can still talk to anyone about this topic knowledgably, and I know people who have emotionally boarded that rollercoaster with Kourtney K and are still waiting to get off that ride. The emotional investment we have willingly placed in the hands of the media and celebrities is why we keep taking another bite of that apple.

This works for the reverse as well. The other side of the audience who is not positively emotionally invested in celebrity, but thoroughly enjoys hating upon them. Newsflash buddy, if you comment that you ‘don’t care’, or that ‘this isn’t news’ on a feed about Bieber’s new face art, the media is still gaining your attention and the journalists will keep writing about it. In the constant struggle for journalists in a battleground for audience viewership, what is deemed ‘real news’ is not always ‘popular news’.

What is deemed ‘real news’ is not always ‘popular news’ 

Using online metrics and analytics technology, journalists are becoming more aware of the interaction, interests, and needs of their audience and providing to these needs. From research, it’s been found that given the choice, audiences will gravitate towards ‘soft’ news (including celebrity) over ‘hard’ news. This pull that audiences have over the popular news choice, is described by one researcher as ‘audience-centred journalism’. As journalists strive for spreadable, viral and high-reach content, they will continue to produce news stories that the audience wants. As long as people continue to interact, care or pay attention, journalists and the media will continue to make it news. In the end, news is still a business and businesses need to survive. We as viewers get what we ask for and it is up to us to change it.

 


Also published on Medium.

2 Comments
  1. Wow this is such a great topic! and you’re right the audience decides what content gets written about because we’re the ones who constantly click on the celebrity gossip stories and it is a business. Just kinda sucks, an interesting reflection of society. Great point you made about haters commenting negatively when they are essentially helping there be more articles on those topics. Great insight, fantastic article!

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