I love the reaction that I get when people ask what I do for a living. I say that I’m an entertainment reporter and the conversation -- either by taking one path or another -- always leads to the same place. The person that I'm talking to thinks that I have the coolest job ever or else they cut right to the chase and say, “So do you cover all of the gossip and dirt that people get caught doing and scream it to the world?”
Yes, six days a week I am that person. Depending on who you are, you then think that I'm either super lucky or else a seedy scumbag who benefits from the missteps of others. I can always tell which it is by the expression on the person's face but quite frankly, neither of those assumptions is at all the case.
First of all, any working writer will tell you that no matter what your genre of choice is, it's a damn hard business to excel in. DAMN HARD. Your brain has to be “on” at all times. You have to be able to produce content very quickly and entire days off are a rarity. It's never a 9-5 thing either. Some of my days start before 7 a.m. and end after 11 p.m. The industry that I work in is super competitive and everything matters if you want to maintain status as a Google news source.
I realize that people have a million misconceptions about those of us who cover celeb news -- one of the biggies is that I'm sitting in luxury with a perk-filled life. Occasionally I'm lucky enough to hit a red carpet or snag free tickets, but the majority of my time is spent chained to my desk with three email accounts and two cell phones blowing up. I can never catch up or stay completely on top of everything, it's simply impossible.
As for those who think that I'm a slimeball for profiting off of the misfortunes of those raking in millions, I can assure you that I'm not -- for a multitude of reasons. I realize that the press often comes across like heartless vultures that are just looking to scoop each other while also stabbing one another in the back. A friend recently reminded me that no matter how nice someone seems, if they aren't working for the same company, they are not your friend. You have to be tough as nails to make it a week in this industry, but that doesn't mean for one second that I'm some heartless bitch without a moral compass. I'm actually quite the opposite.
I do think that the children of celebs should be completely off limits and if a story simply doesn't feel real or right to me then I'm not writing it, period. I run on logic and if those logical dots aren't connecting in my head (even if every other site out there is reporting it), then I'm not putting my name on it.
I don't want a cease-and-desist letter or the threat of a DMCA because I got something dead wrong. That can be a fatal mistake that, made a few times, could cost me my job. The idea that we just “make stuff up” on slow days is absolutely ridiculous. Internet-based entertainment sites exist because of advertising and no one is buying space if you perpetuate lies.
Also, I won't just take someone's word for things and repeat them. I pick up the phone and call agents to try and get a comment, and I dig further. If some C-list actor kills his wife, I'm going back over the last five years to be able to put together a balanced piece and not just a few words about this guy going crazy. I believe that I'm responsible for my words and that those words are often a direct representation of who I am. So I'm sarcastic as hell, but I don't aim to hurt anyone ever.
It makes me laugh when people slam celeb news or roll their eyes at all of the grocery store magazines because if there was no interest then this wouldn't be a booming industry! Seriously, if so many people are hating then how do the tabloids sell a minimum of 500,000 copies a week? (And most of those buyers also spend a few minutes each day checking their favorite sites for news too!) It's like a badly kept dirty little secret and the ultimate guilty pleasure all rolled into one. Writers like me get the side eye at times, yet your doctor's office no doubt has a table filled with dated entertainment news to peruse while you wait.
Obsessing over celebrities has been going on for decades now. Long before "E!" existed, "Entertainment Tonight" was a daily fixture in most of our homes. Many of us were raised on it to some degree, and even if you don't know the details, I'm going to bet that you kinda heard something about Jessica Simpson getting married last weekend.
Why do we care enough to pay attention? I think the answer is pretty simple actually. Celeb news is a great diversion. Life is tricky at best and really difficult at worst. We all need to escape from our own issues for a few minutes, and checking out how “the other half” lives is a great distraction. Even better, sometimes after reading a story or two, our own problems don't seem so bad anymore. Hell, my teenager's room is a disaster and she has had a snappy comment for nearly everything this week, but at least she's not a young Disney star already on dope, right?
So much has been made out of aggressive paparazzi and the press being invasive but honestly the cases that we hear about are really extreme. It doesn't take very long for any celeb to learn the ropes, and trust me when I say that if they want to go unnoticed, they can and will. There's a reason why Kim Kardashian pops up constantly and Kate Middleton is only seen in official capacities. Kim wants attention and purposely goes to locations where she will be photographed, while the royal mama would much rather be behind closed doors playing with her baby.
Stars of any caliber know exactly where to go in order to be seen, which means that they also know to avoid these locations at all costs if they prefer privacy. Is it as simple as that? In most cases, yes, it really is. Also, when they ask for privacy and respect they usually will get it. Bad-mouthing the over-zealous press while shopping in slow motion at The Grove doesn't really work out too well. Actions really do speak louder than words, and if you appear to want your privacy respected, then it usually happens.
That said, if you are a 20-year-old former child star, knee-deep in drugs and running with a bad crew then I will have no problem telling the world what you did last night. If someone is purposely looking for attention I'm not going to feel guilty about giving it to them. Does that make me a bad person? I don't think so.
I have kids to feed, bills to pay, and after years of wrestling with myself I've finally accepted the fact that I am indeed a writer. I spent a lot of years covering all sorts of topics while trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. One day it just clicked that I'm doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing -- writing. I purposely aim to balance out the fluff by freelancing in other places where I can tackle serious topics and keep my skills super sharp but by definition, yes, I'm an entertainment reporter.
You don't have to like me or even agree with the things that I have to say. But if I motivate you to open up that little comment box to say anything at all, then I feel my job is done and my main goal has been accomplished. Celeb news is a round-the-clock business and that means that I get to do what I love to do most of all each and every day, write. Why on earth should I feel guilty about that?