Thursday, December 27, 2007

NY Times' kid blogger gives TMZ another handjob

Youthful TV blogger-turned-New York Times special reporter Brian Stelter continues to drag the former “newspaper of record” down the slippery slope of hype and spin with his breathless adulation of the syndicated television series based on the corporate porn-pushing gossip site TMZ.com.

For the second time in ten weeks, the 21-year-old stunt hire (the recent college graduate ran the TVNewser site, and was hired by the Times to boost its youthful cred when covering that Internets thing) has written a Times puff piece about the middling infotainment show, deceptively painting the camp, giggly TV version of the corporate porn-pushing gossip site as some kind of phenomenon, even while mentioning that the show lags millions of viewers and more than a couple of ratings points behind the more traditionally ass-kissing Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood and the like:

‘The three-month-old television version of ‘TMZ,’ which is based on the popular Web site about the foibles of Britney, J. Lo and the like, continues to rank as the top-rated new show in syndication.

“Harvey Levin, the managing editor of TMZ.com and the host of the series, said he has been thrilled with the popularity of the celebrity gossip show…

“The ‘TMZ’ staff holds a 6:30 a.m. P.T. meeting to plot the day’s coverage. The program is produced at 1 p.m.; a few affiliates broadcast it live and most others show it later in the day.

"The program has drawn an average rating of 2.0 in recent weeks, or roughly 2.2 million viewers, placing it well behind the established entertainment news brands (‘Entertainment Tonight,’ ‘Access Hollywood’) but ahead of the other recent additions to the syndication market (‘The Steve Wilkos Show,’ ‘Crosswords’)...”

So if TMZ TV isn't really a hit, why the drumbeat of praise, which, coming from the Gray Lady's website today, will only be repeated as gospel by the lazy mainstream media? We pointed out back in October, when Stelter wrote the first major TMZ “hit” spin, that the writer’s youth, background and excitement over seeing a website translate to a TV series, may have colored the Times coverage. This basic reprint of the original story in the final days of the year, coming the day after TMZ.com’s very dangerous Will Smith-Hitler-JDL slam, is questionable to say the least.

In any case, the real analysis comes from the ones who are a bit more savvy, experienced and knowledgeable about television. That would be the readers:

A sampling of some of the comments from the The Times’ website:

Never saw it, didn’t know it was on TV, couldn’t care less. If it’s anything like Entertainment Tonight or Access Holywood, I don’t want to see it. Both of them are 30 minutes of irritating jump cuts, stories with no content and adolescent pandering to celebrities who should be ashamed of themselves for the way they act. Whatever happened to dignity?
— Posted by Lloyd Perell

Everytime I hear about these shows, I think of Princess Diana dead in that tunnel in Paris with the paparazzi hovering around taking pics. I don’t see how the American public can condone the behavior that TMZ and other shows cause their paparrazi to do so that they can have an “exclusive”. Last I saw was a person following Julia Roberts to her kids school. That’s irresponsible and can dangerous to her kids.
— Posted by ATL Guy

We need to start asking some larger questions in relation to not only the cultural focus on celebrities, but also the focus on very specific Hollywood women with very specific behavioral patterns.
In an interview with the Arizona Republic, the musician Tori Amos was asked: “Does it trouble you that the obsession of both media and fans with such damaged figures as Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Anna Nicole Smith seems to get stronger each year?”
Amos answers: “You have to define what the obsession is, because it’s not about respect. In the old days, when you think about the screen sirens – Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Catherine Deneuve – they were more on a pedestal... Some of these women had really developed an inner sense, and they had great writers. So when you look at some of the people who are (now) getting the obsession, we are obsessed with watching people destroy themselves because it makes us feel better about our lives. And that’s what is a little disconcerting.”
— Posted by Mandy

Well, that’s a shame. Bad enough the bottom feeders found a foothold on the internet, now they’re on tv. It’s a vicious cycle. Let’s find something new, build it up, make it popular, then hunt it down, rip it to shreds and dance on the grave. (Sounds like one of the insipid animations from the show.) Maybe for a sweeps period, they can turn their investigative eyes inward on themselves and show all their own embarassing habits and fetishes. (That would be the snake eating its own tail…)
— Posted by D Loehr

Success, eh? Reminds me of the old saying that, “nobody ever lost money underestimating the intelligence or good taste of the American public.”
And no one seems to be able to figure out why America is producing a generation of self-absorbed idiots? The “success” of TMZ is just further evidence of our insatiable obsession with lurid human behavior.
No wonder the rest of the world looks on in disgust at this country these days.
— Posted by Playashot

It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that if there was ever a Frontline episode where they revealed The Big Truth about ‘Bush’s war for Oil’ and how the corporations helped and are guilty of being all corporationy, most people would would click right pass it looking for American Idol. lm3rs! lol!! OMG! ponieees!!!! Welcome to capitalist America.
— Posted by Geoffe Du Marciand

The dumbing down of America on the web wasn’t complete enough so now it comes to TV.
I liked Harvey when he covered legal issues for local TV in LA. Smart, to the point. I’m sure he still sleeps at night but I hope he asks himself if he’s making society better or worse? Better for him, no doubt, worse for the rest of the world.
He’s one of the reasons we’re reviled — and copied — in the rest of the world.
 A degenerate telling us about other degenerates.
Entertainment? I’d rather have needles stuck in my eyes.
— Posted by Peter A. Lake

2.2 million viewers… that’s about the same number of prisoners being held in US jails. Wake up. This article is just hype. TMZ does not represent mainstream America.
— Posted by John

(UPDATE here!)

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