Thursday, April 13, 2006

Page Six Scandal Exclusive! Stern calls Burkle "a power-mad, paranoid greaseball" who "should crawl back down his diamond-paved hole!"

Thanks for the email. Obviously it was a set-up, a smear, a vicious attempt at a take-down.

The guy's a power-mad, paranoid greaseball. He should go back to L.A. and crawl back down his diamond-paved hole.


That’s the word from Jared Paul Stern, the man in the middle of the Page Six scandal, going farther than ever in his attack on his accuser, after Tabloid Baby contacted him with some specific questions about accusations he tried to shake down West Coast billionaire Ron Burkle in exchange for nice stories on the gossip page.

Were Stern a civilian, this story could have been punctuated with the sound of his body swinging from the rafters of his attic in the Catskills. But Stern’s no wide-eyed rube. He’s playing the story like a journalism pro, talking to more na├»ve members of the media (like TV news bookers and producers and straightlaced reporters), giving them follow-up story ideas, and controlling the headlines.

It’s Tabloid 101 (see Tabloid Baby, especially Chapter 19, page 233, for the primer on taking back and controlling the headlines in a scandal).

We’ve suspected all along that big Democratic Party booster Burkle had bigger fish to fry than Stern. And now, thanks in part to Stern’s almost loonie aggressiveness, the spotlight is turning to Burkle.

Sure, the world is shocked to find out that Richard Johnson got a free trip to the Oscars (what’s more shocking is that the Post didn’t pay for their renowned columnist to cover the big event). It’s never a pretty sight when the door to the sausage factory is opened. But what’s more telling is the way some tabloid journalists distanced themselves from Page Six in this time of trouble (rat finks like Rush & Molloy at the Daily News even crowed to Nikki Finke about their pristine ethics).

Just days before the scandal broke, we’d written that New York Post columnist Cindy Adams was far too connected and too good a journalist to be labeled a gossip. Writers like Anita Talbert, Marilyn Beck, Stacy Jenel Smith and Matt Drudge are up there with them. And so’s Page Six editor Richard Johnson.

But gossip is a different game. And there are different rules. It’s not reporting. It’s not straight journalism. It’s a game of favors and tips and grudges and blind items and press releases. It’s Liz Smith writing glowing graphs about a stinker of a movie. It’s Lloyd Grove holding his nose because he thinks he’s too good for gossip. It’s Mike Walker playing The Gossip Game on the Howard Stern show. It’s sniping and it’s fun and a lot of time it’s bullshit.

It’s a game. But it’s an essential part of journalism, because big stories and deeper investigations often grow from the gossip dirt.

In this case, billionaire Burkle’s video sting is already backfiring in his face. Because Jared Paul Stern has the balls to fight back and call him a power-mad, paranoid greaseball. Stern is controlling the headlines. He’s telling his fellow journalists to follow the smell and follow the money. And lots of mainstream journalists are now sniffing around the Ron Burkle story.


KateCoe said...

I'm pretty interested in Burkle as Bill Clinton's boss. Is Ron really developing bad neighborhoods?

Ray Richmond said...

The gossip scandal that simply won't die is lent further fuel today by the blogger Tabloid Baby, who received an e-mail from accused Page Six shakedown artist Jared Paul Stern to get his take on the charge that he solicited $220,000 in payments from billionaire grocery store magnate Ron Burkle. And it's nice to know that Stern has calmed down and is now giving reasonable, measured responses, calling Burkle a "power-mad, paranoid greaseball" who "should crawl back down his diamond-paved hole." Not that he's spinning as fast as he can or anything. And guess what, believes TB? It's working.

My favorite part (of Stern's e-mail) is "best." You can tell someone you're going to chainsaw their family, but somehow still end on an upbeat note. And that's pretty heartwarming.