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The growing symbiosis between celebrity culture and political journalism - George Clooney mention

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The growing symbiosis between celebrity culture and political journalism - George Clooney mention

Post by Katiedot on Sun May 06 2012, 08:45

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Last updated: May 5, 2012 12:19 am

Welcome to ‘Pollywood’

By Gillian Tett

What is it about George Clooney that makes so many people swoon? I have often wondered this whenever my girlfriends have gushed about his films, red carpet appearances or sultry coffee ads.

Now, however, I have fresh reason to ponder this question. Last weekend I attended the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington, and was lucky enough to snag an invitation to the most exclusive afterparty in town: a midnight event jointly hosted by the French ambassador, Vanity Fair and Michael Bloomberg, the New York mayor, at the magnificent 19th-century French embassy.

As one might expect, the champagne-laced gathering was filled with a fascinating gaggle of political and media personalities (Colin Powell, Salman Rushdie, Arianna Huffington, Gary Gensler, Charlie Rose, Andrea Mitchell, Mayor Bloomberg and so on). But the hottest draw, by far, was Mr Clooney. As he stood in the high-ceilinged entrance hall, politicians and pundits alike clustered around him in their dinner jackets and ball gowns, buzzing approval like bees around a honey pot.

Why? Part of the explanation, of course, lies with those melting brown eyes, self-deprecating style and intelligence (and, yes, after chatting with him for a few minutes myself, I can report that he is indeed charming, witty and socially aware to boot). But aside from Clooney’s magnetic face, there is something else at work. Last weekend Ted Leonsis, the entrepreneur, dubbed it the “Welcome to Pollywood” factor – a growing symbiosis between celebrity culture and political journalism in a Twitter-fuelled age.

Consider last week’s White House dinner. When journalists in Washington first started holding this event in the past century, it was a modest affair. And even as recently as two decades ago, the event was smallish, dominated by a few hundred political writers and pundits, along with their prized contacts in Congress.

But then the television cameras and internet arrived with a vengeance, and media groups started to invite the celebrities, turning a smallish journalist-focused joke-fest for Washington insiders into a vast red carpet affair. This year, for example, those guests listening to President Barack Obama in the Washington Hilton ballroom included Charlize Theron, Lindsay Lohan, Kate Upton, Reese Witherspoon, Kevin Spacey, Daniel Radcliffe, Goldie Hawn, Woody Harrelson and Sofia Vergara – as well as Kim Kardashian, (in)famous star of reality television and raunchy tapes. Some observers, such as The New Yorker, sniffily declared this to be a slightly less impressive crop than last year, but others disagreed. Either way, Kardashian and Lohan were a colourful contrast to the politicians, pundits, journalists and CEOs.

In some cases, that celebrity presence had an overt political motive. With the 2012 presidential race looming, the Republicans and Democrats are now at pains to court Hollywood, not only to win endorsements, but also crucial campaign dollars. Next week, for example, George Clooney is poised to hold a $40,000-a-head fundraiser for President Obama in California, the first of several such Hollywood events.

But political pundits and celebrities have other reasons to rub shoulders right now: both sides are engaged in a ceaseless search for “content” to fuel the onslaught of social media. After all, as my colleague Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson recently noted, the rise of social media provides celebrities with a powerful new ability to reach out to their audience directly, without relying on intermediaries. In some senses, this is liberating; celebrities can now potentially ignore journalists whom they do not like. But the change also creates competitive pressure: celebrities – like journalists – must now produce fresh “content” to keep fans. Simply pouting at a lens, in other words, is no longer enough. They need interesting titbits, views or tales, be those gathered in Washington or elsewhere.

And the incentive cuts the other way, too. In a world where celebrities can disregard the mainstream news, the media needs to curry favour among the most popular Hollywood names. More importantly, with consumers being trained to have shorter and shorter attention spans, there is more onus on media outlets to “entertain”. Reality television, drama, politics, celebrity and “news” are blending in new ways. Hence Sudan only becomes foreign-policy news when George Clooney stages a protest, and when President Obama gave his White House dinner speech last week, it was placed next to shots of Kardashian’s ball gown on the mainstream internet news sites.

Unsurprisingly, this trend horrifies most traditional journalists and politicians, some of whom were grumbling furiously last weekend about how their White House dinner had been invaded. But whether you love or loathe that red carpet, the trend is unlikely to disappear. Not when social media is increasingly becoming the main source of news for anyone under the age of 30, irrespective of whether that news comes from Wall Street, Walmart – or a red-carpeted ballroom in Washington.

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Katiedot
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Re: The growing symbiosis between celebrity culture and political journalism - George Clooney mention

Post by Katiedot on Sun May 06 2012, 08:50

I don't know who we blame for this mess. Us, for being so low brow or the media for pandering to our tastes?

Stories such as what's happening in Darfur just shouldn't require a celebrity to step in before it becomes newsworthy. What's wrong with us that we've got to the point where it does??

I find myself increasingly infuriated by my inability to find news on so-called news channels (eg: CNNi, BBC World etc etc) but there's plenty of news-tainment eg: "And next, a 30-minute report by journalist x as he travels around India. This will be followed by another half an hour of political debate with three talking heads moderated by another journalist. After that we'll be showing you the weather around the globe and then delve into a hard hitting report on child slavery in Uzbekistan"

Newsworthy items are dressed up, given nice stories to pad it out and make a journalist feel like he/she's really achieving something.

But actually finding out what's going on right now in the world is next to impossible apart from the random headlines scrolling across the bottom of the screen unless you're lucky enough to hit on an actual news segment which they do run every couple of hours.

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Re: The growing symbiosis between celebrity culture and political journalism - George Clooney mention

Post by melbert on Sun May 06 2012, 13:56

Love your interpretation Katie - newstainment!

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Re: The growing symbiosis between celebrity culture and political journalism - George Clooney mention

Post by Joanna on Tue May 08 2012, 00:26

BBC news is pretty good, on TV there's the 24 hour news channel which rolls out all the news every half hour, so one can dip in at any time day or night to get updated, together with Breaking News as and when it happens. Same goes for Sky News too.
BBC radio has good news coverage too on two of it's main broadcasting stations.
And then of course there's the World Service on radio.

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Re: The growing symbiosis between celebrity culture and political journalism - George Clooney mention

Post by davidarochelle on Tue May 08 2012, 01:11

Let's be honest. Everyone has their own problems and pains to deal with, so do we REALLY want to listen to those of others that we can't solve? Before so many women were in the workforce, the nightly news kept them from being bored if the neighborhood gossip was running dry. Now with our lives so pressured, rather than being depressed, we want to laugh and be entertained. I've been asked why so many Americans listen to the left-of-center 24-hr Fox News. Not only are the female broadcasters beautiful and "not conservatively dressed," they know to keep you watching for the latest over-the-top ridiculous story out of Hollywood. Even our daily Las Vegas Review Journal has frequent political cartoons making total fun of the presidential election. Why do you think the sexual shenanigans of the Secret Service got so much press? Isn't reading about it more amusing than feeling guilty you can't send money to the hungry and downtrodden around the world? And yes we SHOULD be aware and do what we can to help those less fortunate, just as we SHOULD stop focusing on our relatively insignificant issues. That's why I'm glad we have caring A-listers who we can support, and who act for us when we feel so powerless to help. Go G.

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Re: The growing symbiosis between celebrity culture and political journalism - George Clooney mention

Post by it's me on Sun May 13 2012, 13:30

RIGHT! GO G!!! Thumbs up!
don't stop reading to those ..... people!!

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Re: The growing symbiosis between celebrity culture and political journalism - George Clooney mention

Post by party animal - not! on Sun May 13 2012, 14:21

Nick Clooney has made the point, and has had the airwaves to highlight it, that he would work hard on a cutting edge news story, checking his sources etc, only for the story to be bumped for a more trivial entertainment piece by the editors at the end of the day, often they might say in the interests of 'balance'!

His son, fascinated by newsrooms and journalism, has managed to figure out that that can be reversed by using his considerable celebrity to heighten and highlight the really serious stories, that might otherwise be bumped.

Clever boy.

And all power to all of them who are doing that. Positive PR for the cause - and admirable given the physical dangers. After all, they don't have to do this!

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Re: The growing symbiosis between celebrity culture and political journalism - George Clooney mention

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