GWAS New York News Desk

After a brief hiatus, New York News Desk's Rebecca Wallwork is back on the GWAS blog beat with a lament about the infiltration of celebrity journalists...

When I was first starting out in magazines, I interned at Rolling Stone magazine, where I hankered to write a review or feature. I also longed to interview Ethan Hawke, for any publication at all. Today I learned that Hawke has written an 11-page profile of Kris Kristofferson—for Rolling Stone. (Sadly, it's not online.)

Since I hit my earlier goals (Rolling Stone clips, interview with Ethan in the can), I tried not to have a sour-grapes reaction to this news. Still, it was a struggle. I still have a soft spot for Ethan, and enjoyed talking to him about writing (Books! Books, not magazines, Ethan!), but now he has to go and stomp all over my territory. It's hard enough to get assignments these days, and now I have to compete with actors? As the New York Observer puts it, "How much worse can things get for journalists?"

The concept of celebrity contributors is not entirely new to me—at Interview magazine I was responsible for plonking down tape recorders between many a star duo, hitting record, and watching one of them earn a byline in the process. But there, I still had a role. I edited the rambling transcripts, tacked on an intro, and still appeared on the masthead.

Now, with magazines dying, and writing opportunities shrinking all round, the stakes are a little higher. Some celebs can actually write (shocking, I know) and as they continue to take control of their own media with Twitter and blogs and reality TV shows and books, more of them may wind up writing for the glossies.

I get it. I'm guilty myself of enjoying Brad Pitt's photos of Angelina Jolie in W magazine, or wondering when the next installment of Gwyneth Paltrow's GOOP newsletter will hit my inbox (a love/hate relationship, if ever there was one.) But as much as I know that celebrity sells, I'm afraid they're about to sell me up the river.

First, it was citizen journalists I had to worry about—everyone with a camera phone and a status update can report the news and wind up on CNN these days—and then came the bloggers who leaked magazine pieces before they were published. Now I have to compete for a job with people who have a big bold name and a CAA agent on call?

Perhaps I'm being alarmist—a lot of this celebrity-penned content still requires an editor, or a ghostwriter—but it's not like I have the alternative of dropping onto a movie set just to give it a whirl. Let's add my name to the cast of the next Richard Linklater movie and see how Mr. Hawke likes it. (Um, actually, I don't think I'd like it either. Aside from the pay cheque.) My point is, the more power we give celebs—the more we let them do—the more they will take.

Even now that our love affair with celebrity weeklies has cooled, the consequences of the stuff, driven by Bonnie Fuller and her Us Weekly contemporaries, lives on. Its legacy is a bunch of pissed off celebrities who want to review, report, and rant their own media coverage, thank you very much.

Maybe taking journo's jobs is revenge for their having to sit through endless junkets where reporters asked them the same questions over and over again. But, for the most part, those journos weren't there to torture the stars, they were just trying to earn a living. Something that is becoming increasingly hard to do in this once-glamorous world of magazines and newspapers.

Okay, maybe this is all just sour grapes, and I need to move with the times. I know I'm not going to pick up a new trade tomorrow, though, so I'll stick with the media. I'll explore new tools and new channels, and try to mould myself into Journalist 2.0.

And I'll leave Ethan Hawke, the reporter, to defend himself to an irate Toby Keith, who didn't like his Rolling Stone piece one little bit.

In the Observer, Matt Haber wraps his piece by asking, "Coming soon, Russell Crowe, ace reporter?" It's a scary concept. But at least he knows how to work a phone.

Yours truly,
Rebecca Wallwork/New York News Desk


Unknown said...

Great piece Rebecca!

CA said...

I too have love/hate with Gwyneth. Why is that?

In my case I am pretty sure it is nothing more than absolute jealousy (the hair, the husband, the lifestyle...)

mish said...

Wow great piece Rebecca! I too have a crush on Ethan Hawke (Reality Bites, Before Sunrise/Sunset etc), but this is annoying. As if it isn't hard enough for struggling journos to get a damn break.

Oh your intern days sound very familiar heheh.. x

YK said...

And it is not just journos who are getting a raw deal - it is all sorts of media work - talk to any retiring sportsperson and see what they want to do - work in the media - with no training or skill, just a profile. Those of us that want to work in the area with the skills and the training get no look in!

jess said...

What an interesting article! I have always had a small issue with celebrities turning themselves into empires (why do celebs think they can do EVERYTHING?), but at least when an actress decided they were going to record an album, design a fashion line and create a perfume, it didn't take opportunities away from other people (aside from using their names to launch new careers so many regular people have a hard time breaking into). The journalism industry is already so competitive, so I completely understand Rebecca's point!

Top Bird @ Wee Birdy said...

Great post - I also take issue with reality TV types (BB etc) getting columns/paid writing gigs with magazines. Very unfair considering all the journalism students trying to get a break in publishing.

I remember a certain publishing house sending one such reality TV person off to writing classes. For f's sake!

belinda said...

yes, totally over it. has been bugging me for years - all those D-list celebrity columnists and former sportstar commentators and now bloody celebrities on playschool - what's that about? The competition is hard enough, but to compete with a popular profile is, well, not a competition at all - you know you have no chance. What's worse is when you read and watch these people and you're doing so with your eyes covered because they're just so bad!