Friday, March 02, 2007


The Blackout of Paris

Normally, I leave the "hard news" items to Robert George, but in this case I couldn't resist.

It seems the Associated Press tried an experiment recently: a week with no news items on Paris Hilton. Apparently, no one noticed. From an AP editorial at
So you may have heard: Paris Hilton was ticketed the other day for driving with a suspended license.

Not huge news, even by celebrity-gossip standards. Here at The Associated Press, we put out an initial item of some 300 words. But it actually meant more to us than that.

It meant the end of our experimental blackout on news about Paris Hilton.

It was only meant to be a weeklong ban -- not the boldest of journalistic initiatives, and one, we realized, that might seem hypocritical once it ended. And it wasn't based on a view of what the public should be focusing on -- the war in Iraq, for example, or the upcoming election of the next leader of the free world, as opposed to the doings of a partygoing celebrity heiress/reality TV star most famous for a grainy sex video.

No, editors just wanted to see what would happen if we didn't cover this media phenomenon, this creature of the Internet gossip age, for a full week. After that, we'd take it day by day. Would anyone care? Would anyone notice? And would that tell us something interesting?

It turned out that people noticed plenty -- but not in the way that might have been expected. None of the thousands of media outlets that depend on AP called in asking for a Paris Hilton story. No one felt a newsworthy event had been ignored.

So why would I bother posting this? Simply for the end of the editorial:
So what have we learned from the ban? "It's hard to tell what this really changes, since we didn't have to make any hard decisions," says Jesse Washington, AP's entertainment editor. "So we'll continue to use our news judgment on each item, individually."

Which means that for the immediate future, if not always, we'll still have Paris.

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