Headlines

I’m beginning to wonder what motivates newspapers. In the past couple of days, allegations have appeared in a book serialised in the Independent on Sunday that the Tory party leader, David Cameron, smoked a bit of pot in school. Big whoop. Because nobody took drugs in 1982 at all, did they? And yet, certain tabloids see this as headline news. Why do they bother? Do they think they can cause a political scandal on the scale of Tory backbench sleaze in the early 90s? Do they really think it’s worth the bother of trying to undermine an opposition party that, while the strongest it’s been in over a decade, is still too weak to really stand a chance of winning a general election?

Well, I’m kind of playing devil’s advocate here. In fact, I don’t believe that the tabloids are that politically-minded at all. My conclusion is that they’ve just discovered gossip sells. Look at the ‘celebrities’ who make the headlines these days and you’ll see a parade of pop stars who haven’t seen the Top 40 in a few years and nobodies whose only claim to fame is a fortnight in the Big Brother house. I hadn’t heard of Lib Dem MP Lembit Opik before his relationship with one of the Cheeky Girls was splashed across the newspapers and, let’s face it, Gabriela Irimia isn’t exactly a household name in her own right either. So why do the tabloids need to scrape the barrel and present us with this kind of ‘news’?

Time was when the papers would have a single column dedicated to ‘gossip’. In that kind of moderation, a little speculation about the latest love affairs of Hollywood stars and rock gods could be considered harmless. Somewhere along the line, celebrity gossip got blown out of proportion. Chances are that the success of Hello! magazine, first published in 1988, had something to do with this. Hello! appears to have been the first publication to find an audience for examining the lives of little-known celebrities and, what with everyone else overexposing the gossip market, we’ve reached a point of saturation where barrels have to be scraped for something new.

I can’t deny that this stuff has selling power; if it didn’t, then the trend would have stopped a little before the turn of the millennium. The disturbing thing is how voyeuristic it shows our society to be. Princess Diana died under the flashbulbs of paparazzi, for crying out loud! And now the gossip columnists, who’ve taken over whole newspapers much like lunatics running the asylum, need to tell us in huge letters that a leading politician may have used a narcotic substance in his teens. I can see the headlines now:

Shock Exclusive: Everest highest mountain on Earth

Latest scientific breakthrough: hitting your thumb with a hammer really hurts

Government confirms new houses will continue to be made of brick

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~ by Scary Rob on 12 February, 2007.

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