R.I.P. Gos­sip

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - NEWS -

“Jour­nal­ism is print­ing what some­one else does not want printed. Ev­ery­thing else is pub­lic re­la­tions.”

This is some­thing George Or­well and I have both been heard to say.

And now the line be­tween the two is get­ting ever more blurred as (some) pub­li­ca­tions cut and paste press re­leases and run them as sto­ries with­out al­ter­ing a word, and in­flu­encers post In­sta­gram shots of prod­ucts with­out own­ing up to a spon­sor­ship deal.

Yes, old jour­nal­ists like to rant about this, star­ing at the bot­tom of the whisky glass, as the bar­tender looks at his watch. But the dis­tinc­tion holds. PR is a rose-tinted glass. Through it, politi­cians look hon­est, hol­i­day re­sort pools big­ger... And th­ese days, it’s not just in the me­dia that you find it. We all work in PR, con­trol­ling our on­line im­age with misty-lensed self­ies that care­fully edit out the un­made bed.

But what about gos­sip? As a word it has even lower sta­tus than PR. Gos­sip is fags hang­ing out of mouths and rollers in hair. It’s mean-spir­ited, be­neath peo­ple with in­ter­est­ing lives, “the weapon of the weak”.

But look­ing back with some nos­tal­gia at our once-thriv­ing gos­sip in­dus­try, Jeremy Olds dis­cov­ers it can also be witty, re­veal­ing and – here’s the thing – true. What is writ­ten is out of the sub­ject’s con­trol and that’s start­ing to look kind of valu­able.

Jeremy looks at the death of printed gos­sip in New Zealand and asks, what hap­pened? When did the en­ter­tain­ing bitch­ing cease and the ba­nal schmooz­ing take over? That’s on page 10.

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