“The term ‘entertainment journalism’ has practically become an oxymoron, often uttered derisively,” writes The Reeler‘s Lewis Beale in an 11.20 posting. “It has become more and more difficult to pitch stories with any kind of depth. Except for a handful of publications — the New York Times, L.A. Times, Washington Post and occasionally Entertainment Weekly — almost no one is covering the film industry as an industry anymore, and even fewer are dealing with it as a cultural force whose images influence billions of people around the globe.”
Which is one more reason why print — excluding the above publications and the work of ink-stained critic-essayists like Shawn Levy, Peter Howell, Phil Villarreal, Scott Foundas and a few others — is slowly coming to an end, and internet punditry and criticism are the wave of the now and forever-after.
The tendency of print editors to sidestep adult-level content and dilute and dumb stories down “is, needless to add, shortchanging you, the reader,” Beale writes, with “a steady diet of warmed-over, surface-thin interviews — gossip disguised as news and cheerleading pretending to be criticism. Editors assume this is what you want, so they regurgitate the same tired stories about film openings, celebrity bad behavior, features that read like ad copy and stories about why such-and-such [insert term here] is the latest cutting-edge [insert additional term here].
“Can anything be done about this? Probably not, given the craven state of entertainment coverage these days, but I do have at least two suggestions, naive though they might seem.
“First, film journalists can refuse to do business the way flacks want them to. If just a few major outlets took a principled stand — no, we won’t sign your disclaimers; no, we won’t guarantee a cover — publicists would eventually get the message. If nothing else, the studios and distributors, who are not the villains here (most studio publicists will confess off the record how much they despise the personal publicists), would confront the personal publicists about changing their ways.
“More importantly, editors must stop assuming their readers are idiots. Just because US Weekly and InTouch sell millions of copies doesn’t mean that’s all anyone wants to read about showbiz. I know this from experience: The most reader feedback I’ve ever gotten was not from any celebrity interview I’ve ever done, but from in-depth feature stories that probed topical Hollywood issues. (Remember what happened last year on this site when I called out the sycophantic press corps covering Borat?) Readers actually like, and respond to, provocative reporting — same as it ever was.”
“No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” — H.L. Mencken.