“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.