Saturday, January 13, 2007

Escaping from escapist journalism

As I was clicking away on my keyboard, looking for an interesting topic to write about this week, I came across an article on Romenesko whose link read “US Weekly circulation took off after 9/11 says editor Baker.”
The article talks about US Weekly and other similar publications that make a living – or should I say killing – of f of celebrity-laden, gossip-driven “escapist journalism.” What many find troubling, myself included, is that tabloid magazines appear to be one of the only forms of print journalism that is not losing circulation and is in fact gaining readership, as the article states.
I am concerned about this because even though as a journalism student I consume a lot more news than the average person, I am also completely addicted to escapist journalism. I love US Weekly. After a long, hard day at the newsroom, all I want to do is eat my dinner and read my daily helping of gossip blogs:,,, pinkisthenew (and those are just a few!) and go to bed.
And I am not alone. The article states that averages 3.4 million hits a day and US Weekly sells a million copies a week. So this really got me thinking. What have I got to escape from? I have a great life. Apparently, so does the majority of US Weekly’s readership, who according to the article is “mostly college educated and with a median income of $70,000.” I’m not saying that everyone who is college educated and makes around $70,000 a year is happy, but they are certainly not living in poverty and needing to escape.
I feel like our society’s obsession with celebrities, fame and fortune, perpetuated by tabloid journalism is creating a feeling of lack in people’s lives when there really is none. These days, nothing is good enough, the grass is always greener on the other side and people think that a long day’s work at the office is a “real problem.”
It also concerns me that if gossip journalism is bringing in the most bucks, is that what all of journalism will be moving towards? News organizations obviously need money to produce content and at the present moment, paparazzi journalism is doing a really good job of raking the money in, while traditional news outlets are cutting jobs to save it.
In the hopes of helping to make sure that my fellow Medillians and I have jobs after graduation, I’m slowing starting to wean myself off of gossip blogs. Starting today…or maybe tomorrow… TD

For the full article:


At Saturday, January 13, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

TD, i say there's nothing wrong with a spoonful of sugar to go along with your daily dose of flax seeds. I personally go for Page 6 and Gawker, but we all have our guilty pleasures.... meerkat manor is also a nice anthropological diversion;)

Anyway, I see what you're saying. There's a lot of garbage out there - and the concern would be that people are only ingesting garbage and nothing of substance.

It's been rumored that Jon Stewart is joining forces with the Washington Post for '08 election coverage. It's an interesting confluence of entertainment and news that may make the hours of red/blue jawboning a little sweeter, and attract more people to the debate...


At Saturday, January 13, 2007, Blogger Medill Media Watch said...

I agree... news delivered in complete seriousness makes me want to fall asleep. and here I am aspiring to be a journalist.

It's funny how "infotainment" draws people. Entertainment will draw people, but feed them straight information and they'll spit it back at you and change the channel.

I, too, am concerned with how uninformed the vast majority of Americans are. Even I can't say I am on top of everything happening in the world. It's too tough to do that with all the other things I have to do in a day. Maybe that's why many people are uninformed. Society has gotten so fast-paced that you are categorized as "uninformed" if you have not heard the news of the day.

However, I believe following fashion and celebrity gossip is fine, as long as you supplement it with some news, which might be called the bitter reality.


At Sunday, January 14, 2007, Blogger Medill Media Watch said...

TD, I agree with your opinions that some people are celebrity obsessed and unhappy with their own lives because they believe that the pictures and mini stories they read tell the full story and portray and sugary sweet glamorous life without a bit of bitterness. ABC's Good morning America did a spin-off special report on this subject of American's obsessions with celebrities on Thursday morning by doing an investigative report of high schoolers who were given a number of surveys regarding their lifestyle and life dreams.

When the students were asked whether they would like to be famous, find a cure for a disease, win a million dollars or win the nobel peace prize (all hypos--can't recall the questions verbatim), close to all who answered (male and female) chose being famous.

The second portion of the story looked a second control group, adults, who were asked questions regarding a shift in career to a job with better pay, job with bette r benefits or a job as an assistant to a celebrity (again, all hypos), more than half of the respondents chose being an assistant to a celebrity.

I think the media is to blame for this and I hope that we, too, don't follow a mudded path simply because we know "that's what people want to watch so we've got to include the hollywood minute in the rundown". I , too, keep up with celeb news but its just that--celeb news...intrusive, uninhibited and at times, unfair to the celeb.

On another note... your blog, the GMA investigation and other stories often look at this strange celebrity obsession but I think that a great deal of it has to do with a conclusion I once read a long time ago.

Our society and especially our generation, 18-34, is becoming more celebrity-obsessed because we find a sense of strange comraderie with them. We've got our friendship circles, sure, but in the huslte and bustle of busy schedules, Chicago bcast, law school, etc. sometimes its hard to call everyone and to keep tabs with the latest on our loved ones...maybe the celebs help to fill that void at times...



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