Tag Archives: celebrity

Panel Explores Impact of Celebrity Journalism

In the battle for eyeballs and clicks, the growth of celebrity media is forcing traditional media to re-evaluate their business plans and news strategies. From coverage of big stories to the battle for TV ratings, the new breed of media is changing the news competition, San Diego media experts agreed during a recent panel discussion, “Journalism in the Post-Kardashian Era.”

Co-sponsored by the San Diego Press Club and Pt. Loma Nazarene University’s journalism program, the panel discussion focused on the day-to-day implications of the popularity of the vast number of popular new media outlets—TMZ, Buzzfeed, Radar, Inside Edition, OK TV, et al–competing for the attention of the news audience.

Celebrity Media_Panel

“Celebrity journalism is not new; it’s the volume and intensity of organizations chasing the audience,” said panel moderator Kevin Brass, the former media critic for the San Diego edition of the Los Angeles Times and author of “The Cult of Truland,” a novel set in the world of celebrity journalism.

The panel included Tiffani Lupenski, news director of KGTV (Channel 10); Lt. Scott Wahl, public information officer of the San Diego Police Department; Tom Mallory, online editor of the San Diego Union-Tribune; Gene Cubbison, a reporter with KNSD-TV (NBC7); and Irene McCormack, a crisis communications specialist who was thrust into the national media spotlight when she was the first to come forward with sexual harassment charges against former Mayor Bob Filner.

Ms. McCormack’s story generated a lengthy discussion, as she shared her stories of what it was like to be chased and investigated by the tabloids. She hired Gloria Allred, who acted like a shield. Ms. McCormack’s advice to anybody in that situation–don’t talk to the media; get someone to speak for you.

The fast flow of information—and incorrect information—may lead to more restrictions on the availability of information, Lt. Wahl warned. Social media may ultimately spark efforts to tighten controls on records, which would be unfortunate, he said.

Competition forces news executives to make tough decisions, Ms. Lupenski noted. Asked when a celebrity story is news and when it is not, she emphasized there is no set answer. She often holds newsroom discussions to debate stories. But audiences are interested in celebrity news, especially in Southern California, and that must be taken into account, she says.

Celebrity Media_Group

With the competition intensifying online, the San Diego Union-Tribune’s web product is much different than the print edition, Mr. Mallory said. His competition is Buzzfeed, Facebook and every other online entity hoping to attract readers. But the sensational celebrity stories don’t work as well for the local site as original feature stories produced by the newspaper’s staff, he said.

Mr. Cubbison from NBC7 offered a list of the many big national stories he’d covered over the years, from the McDonald’s massacre in San Ysidro to O.J. The tabloids and celebrity news organizations are often pursuing the same stories, but they take a different approach than traditional news organizations, he said. In cases like Ms. McCormack’s story, the difference is often “basic humanity,” he said.

Austin Chronicle Picks ‘Truland’ for Summer Reads

Cult-of-Truland-1024The Austin Chronicle has included “The Cult of Truland” in its Summer Reading selections, praising the novel for its “satirical edge.”

“The Cult of Truland” is set in the world of celebrity journalism and follows the exploits of Jake Truland, “a hero for the post-Kardashian Age.”

“At first, The Cult of Truland, set in southern California, reads like a frothy beach book, albeit with an undertow that grows stronger as it goes on,” Chronicle editor and reporter Michael King writes. But the book soon veers into more serious topics, exploring the behind-the-scenes practices of the celebrity press.

AustinChron“A dark thread runs through the otherwise lighthearted narrative,” King wrote.

“The Cult of Truland” is the first novel from Kevin Brass, who covered media for the Chronicle from 2004 to 2010. His columns and analysis of media issues have also appeared in Ozy, the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Magazine.

“Brass has traveled the world and soaked up a wide range of pop culture, and it sparkles over the edges of his first novel,” King wrote.

Read the full review here.

Buy the book here.

Author Makes Confession About ‘The Good Wife’

GoodWifeAt first, “The Good Wife” was the show I watched when I was sick. The travails of Alicia Florrick were strangely soothing, as I lay in bed with my snot rags and antihistamines.

Somewhere along the line I got hooked; I don’t how or why. As a heterosexual male over the age of 40, I am, shall we say, not the target audience for a show based on a woman wronged by her prostitute-boinking husband.

But I couldn’t stop. I watched five seasons in less than 12 months, which means my psyche absorbed more than 120 episodes and untold number of scenes of Alicia holding a glass of wine and staring out a window.

It is a difficult obsession to explain. It is, after all, a network show and, to put it bluntly, I don’t do network.

Let’s call a snob a snob — I’m too good for “The Good Wife.” Network TV is for other people. My tastes are steeped in the classics, “The Larry Sanders Show,” “The Sopranos,” “The Wire” – the bulwarks of excellent television. I was into “Damages” before “Damages” was cool. I can spend long hours discussing the inside jokes in “Californication,” but I couldn’t name the lead character in “Scandal.”

“The Good Wife” goes way beyond a guilty pleasure. “Sons of Anarchy” is a guilty pleasure. Good Wife-love is more like admitting that you just can’t stop watching “The Bachelor.”

But I’ve come clean and admitted my obsession. I’m not even embarrassed by my fanboy status. I explain my obsession in this article for Ozy.com.

Kevin Brass writes for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and many others. He is the author of “The Cult of Truland,” a satirical novel set in the world of celebrity journalism.


Did Durst Filmmakers Do the Right Thing?

DurstIn HBO’s riveting documentary “The Jinx,” the filmmakers are seen wrestling with how to handle damning evidence they’ve uncovered about millionaire Robert Durst in the course of their research. Do they turn it over to the police? Or do they keep quiet and risk the chance a suspected murderer may escape justice?

For most journalists, it’s an easy choice. A reporter always wants to avoid any appearance of working hand-in-hand with cops. It’s not the role of a journalist to act as an investigatory arm of law enforcement. It’s essential for journalists to preserve their independence and not try to second-guess the impact of their work, until it is made public.

Of course, there are gray areas. And the Durst filmmakers were stomping all over the gray areas, as they wrestled with their film. They were dealing with someone they believed was a murderer. He was also a rich murderer who had already shown a willingness to don disguises and run from the law. And they also knew that their actions could inadvertently impact the investigation, making it even harder to convict a guilty man.

In a round of interviews after the final episode aired — and Durst had been arrested, –filmmakers Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling said detectives had reviewed key parts of the series “months” before it aired. Jarecki is shown in the series stashing the so-called “cadaver” letter, a key piece of evidence, in a safe deposit box. But the filmmakers were clearly afraid their silence could have repercussions and chose to let detectives see at least parts of the series before it aired.

Jarecki told the New York Times:

“We need to be careful about how much we describe about the details of the case, so what we’ll say about that is we provided the relevant evidence to law enforcement some months ago, and it’s been in their court. And obviously they’ve got their own timetable for how to address it.”

Once the series started to air, the filmmakers confronted a new set of fears, Jarecki said. They weren’t sure how Durst, a man they believed was capable of murder, was going to react to the series.

From the interview with The Times:

“We were obviously glad that they made the arrest. We were concerned that Bob was floating around, and we knew that Bob had been upset about Episode 5. We had anticipated he would be upset about Episode 5. The truth is, we had reached out to law enforcement to try and get color about when they planned to arrest him. Because as civilians, one always assumes that law enforcement is going to move more quickly than they naturally do. We understand why they have to be cautious. We understand they have obligations that filmmakers don’t have. But we were nervous. We had security.”

Now that the case is back in the legal system, Jarecki and his crew are entering murky waters. They are filmmakers, not journalists. They created a compelling study of Durst, but it is a TV series, a piece of entertainment, including ominous music and nightmarish re-creations. The filmmakers are artists telling a story, using their evidence for dramatic impact.

Durst’s so called confession at the end of “The Jinx” made for a spine-tingling conclusion to the series, but it was hardly a smoking gun, in a legal sense. The filmmakers had already documented his strange self-dialogue, which could easily be written off as the babbling of a doddering old man. After all, Durst admitted to cutting up a man with a saw and dumping the remains in the Gulf of Mexico and still managed a not guilty verdict.

The handwriting on the so-called “cadaver” note is more compelling evidence. But a jury under the influence of Durst’s well-paid legal team may find that slim evidence, if the prosecutors still can’t physically place Durst at the scene of the crime. The filmmaker’s handling of this key piece of evidence could become a central point of contention. O.J.’s lawyers made the chain of evidence into an elaborate conspiracy.

Durst attorneys will certainly use the series against the prosecution. Can Durst get a fair trial? Anybody who has seen or heard of the documentary will almost certainly have a pre-conceived opinion about his guilt. With it’s haunting music, skeptical tone and ah-ha dramatic moments, the series screams “Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!”

If the case goes to trial, Jarecki and Smerling are going to face intense scrutiny from defense attorneys. In court the filmmakers will certainly seek to receive protection from identifying their sources, editing choices and investigation techniques, just like other journalists.

But this is dicey territory. Some courts have not recognized independent filmmakers and bloggers as journalists, even though they are often producing cutting edge investigators, revealing stories untouched by traditional media.

The filmmakers are facing a barrage of legal questions. Will they turn over raw footage? What about their notes? Will they testify for the prosecution?

Jarecki and Smerling might regret their early interviews, when they fanned the flames, calling Durst’s audio “chilling.” Soon after the final episode aired, they clammed up, noting in a statement, “we are likely to be called as witnesses in any case law enforcement may decide to bring against Robert Durst.” Whether they like it or not, the storytellers are now a big part of the story.

Kevin Brass has covered media for the Los Angeles Times, San Diego Magazine and the Austin Chronicle. He is the author of “The Cult of Truland,” a satirical novel set in the world of celebrity journalism.

More from Kevin Brass:

The Real Reason Brian Williams is Toast

The ‘Colbert Bump’ Impact on Mocking


Celebrity Journalism Takes Center Stage on National Radio Show

“The Cult of Truland” author Kevin Brass was a guest recently on the nationally syndicated “The Big Biz Show” to talk about Brian Williams, TV news and the state of celebrity journalism.

BigBizShowMr. Brass joined veteran entertainment journalist Fred Saxon and co-hosts “Sully” Sullivan, Russ T. Nailz in a far-ranging discussion, including the recent controversy about Bill O’Reilly’s resume claims.

“The Cult of Truland,” Mr. Brass’ first book, is a satirical novel set in the world of celebrity journalism. The humorous, fast-pace style has drawn comparisons to Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard, with many readers focusing on the media issues raised by the story.

Mr. Brass has covered media for the Los Angeles Times, San Diego Magazine and the Austin Chronicle, earning awards and critical acclaim for his analysis and commentaries. He is a regular contributor to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and a variety of other publications.

Check out videos of the show:

Part Two:

Praise for “The Cult of Truland”

“A trifecta — funny as hell, cautionary and filled with jaw-dropping thunderclaps . . . If you dig Robert Crais and Elmore Leonard, you’ll enjoy Brass’s wild dive into the drowning pool of Big Time fame.”
– Bill Minutaglio, former People Magazine bureau chief, author of “Dallas 1963” and “City on Fire”

“An amazing voice… [the] style reminds me of Elmore Leonard.”
-Houston Writers Guild

“Smart, insightful, contemporary and witty commentary on the modern media condition, come to life with a compelling character along with a fun cast of characters. A delightful read.”
-Paul Taublieb, Emmy-award-winning producer

“The main character is a trendy, smart writer who gravitates towards TV cameras and celebrity-tracking websites like a gambler to a poker game.”
-Del Mar Times

‘Truland’ Launches With Events in San Diego

Del Mar event_MayorsGlowing Sand Media’s “The Cult of Truland,” a novel set in the world of Hollywood and celebrity journalism, was formally launched to the public in recent weeks with events in San Diego and Del Mar.

The formal kickoff event was held at the Del Mar Library, a fitting setting. A large part of the book is set in Del Mar, which has a long history as a getaway spot for Hollywood celebrities.

Del  Mar event_SpeakingTwo former mayors of the city attended the event, which was billed as, “A Night of Celebrity and Media.” The local newspaper, the Del Mar Times, profiled author Kevin Brass in an article titled, “Del Mar Native’s Novel Examines the Glorification of Celebrity.”

Mr. Brass has also been speaking to book clubs and private events in San Diego, discussing the book’s depiction of celebrity journalism and modern media practices.

IMG_1849“The book is meant as a fun read, but it explores very real issues about the ethics and influence of celebrity journalism,” Mr. Brass says.

Early reviews have universally praised the book’s behind-the-scenes characterization of Hollywood and the fame-related media, in addition to the humor.

“The Cult of Truland” is a contemporary satire in the page-turning tradition of Christopher Buckley and Carl Hiaasen. Set in the world of Hollywood and celebrity media, it tracks the scandals, crimes and lustful relationships of paparazzi icon Jake Truland, a true hero of the post-Kardashian age.

First Reviews for ‘Truland’ Cite Celebrity, Media Angles

ElvisThe early reviews are in for Glowing Sand Media’s first release, “The Cult of Truland,” and readers are unanimously responding to the book’s insights into celebrity, media and Hollywood.

A contemporary satire in the tradition of Carl Hiaasen and Christopher Buckley, “The Cult of Truland” traces celebrity journalism’s coverage of fame-obsessed Jake Truland, described as “a hero for the post-Kardashian age.”

The book “captures an insider’s view of the frenetic pace and competition in the land of celebrity-obsessed culture insightfully and packs it with humor in virtually every page,” wrote one reader.

Another Amazon reviewer wrote, “I liked the ‘behind the scenes’ kind of access to the paparazzi world, that’s not something you hear much about.”

“The Cult of Truland” was written by Kevin Brass, a longtime feature writer and columnist for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times. Mr. Brass spent lengthy stints covering Hollywood and celebrity for People Magazine and “Access Hollywood,” the nightly entertainment news show.

“It’s meant as a fun read,” Mr. Brass said. “But I hope it also reveals the questionable methods and ethics of celebrity journalism, which we see seeping into traditional media.”

Amazon reviewers have also responded to the book’s humor. Several readers used the phrase, “laugh-out-loud funny.” More comments:

“A wonderful read…just twisted enough, absurd enough, culturally and socially satirizing enough, intelligent enough, and strange enough to keep me reading and reading.”

“Satirical, laugh-out-loud funny, spot-on characters – a rollicking good read. Highly recommended as a fun, easy book but one with something to say. I’m sure this will be on my ‘best of 2015’ list.”

“Every line rings true and is laugh out loud funny.”

“Filled with chuckles and well-timed guffaws, this amusing book roams through the absurdities of cultivated celebrity.”

“A true comedic tour de force…”

“Smart, insightful, contemporary and witty commentary on the modern media condition…”

See the full list of reviews here.

Sony Provides Textbook Case on Bad Crisis Management

SonyAs we all wallow in the juicy goodness of Sony’s leaked e-mails and contemplate the potential for a Seth Rogen film to spark global nuclear conflict, let’s take a moment to focus on what might be the worst crisis management campaign in history.

Faced with an unprecedented calamity, the executives of one of the world’s most powerful media companies flopped around like speared salmon, making things worse at every step.

From the start, Sony has made almost every wrong move possible. They had no response to how and why the organization was vulnerable to attack, allowing the story to settle into the gleeful schadenfreude of the leaked e-mails, which generally reveal Sony executives as crude and vaguely racist misogynists. Instead of a rapid response move to emphasize that Sony was the victim of a horrendous terrorist attack, the story settled on the relative dickishness of various Sony executives.

With reams of data and e-mails already floating around the Internet, Sony then decided to threaten media organizations and try to get them to stop publishing the information, a laughable exercise. Famed attorney David Boies was sent out to try to corral the oiled pig. More than one observer noted the irony — at the same time Sony was defending its right to release a movie, the studio was trying to suppress news organizations’ free speech. Sony apparently was surprised to discover that media companies have their own attorneys, who were well-versed in these sort of cases.

Responding like a raccoon quivering in a corner, Sony then decided not to release the film, leading to a public shaming by the President of the United States. And that instantly sparked 24-hour coverage portraying Sony execs as wimps and appeasers. The company responded by trying to blame theater operators, their partners, a cheap shot the operators probably won’t soon forget. Perhaps even more worrisome for Sony, the creative community lined up to express their outrage, something no studio can afford.

As they struggled to gain their footing and explain the company’s dilemma, they only dug a deeper hole. CEO Michael Lynton went on Fareed Zakari’s show looking like he just got out of the shower. His responses were defensive and weak, as he tried to explain why Sony had no choice but to capitulate to the North Korean oppressors, or the theater operators, whichever you believe are more horrible.

At this point, Sony was moving into uncharted waters. Very few companies hit this level of self-destructive horror. Perhaps management realized it, so they immediately searched for ways to release the film, to show the world it was, in fact, a company with cojones.

The result was the lukewarm announcement to release this very important film in independent theaters, a choice that was apparently unavailable a few days earlier. And then there was the hurried Christmas Eve announcement that yet another choice had been discovered – a digital release, which comes across as a desperate attempt to make a few bucks off the controversy, while take yet another swipe at their theater operator friends.

It’s too late. Not only will no one forget Sony’s early capitulation, the half-assed release will certainly sap any potential opportunity to make a splash with the film down the road. The digital release ensures that Sony shareholders will see little return from this debacle.

Heads are going to roll, no doubt. Sony management allowed the hacker attack to escalate into an international crisis — all over a silly movie about assassinating the dictator of North Korea, a circumstance that could have been averted by simply calling the country, say, East Kortea, instead.

Everyone would have still gotten the joke. Instead, Sony is the joke.

Kevin Brass writes for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and many others. He is the author of “The Cult of Truland,” a satirical novel set in the world celebrity journalism.

The ‘Colbert Bump’ Impact on Celebrity Mocking

Colbert_SquareWith the demise of “The Colbert Report,” TV has lost its best mocker. There are better interviewers and funnier sketch artists, but nobody mocked better than Stephen Colbert, the character, in full stride. His ability to walk the thin line between parody and cruelty was unmatched, and may never be equaled.

That’s a difficult to line to walk. He was pompous, overtly racist and demeaning of everyone. And yet it was impossible not to laugh and enjoy the mocking, even if it may hit close to home. The only TV character to come close to the same line was maybe Archie Bunker, Carroll O’Connor’s armchair Nixonian, who put a face to a generation of bigots.

In an age when every cable pundit sneers at their opposition, Colbert made it fun to mock again, returning satire and humor to a humorless industry. In the process, Colbert separated the world into people who got the joke and those that were the joke.

Making fun of the famous came with a sophisticated edge for Colbert. He allowed us to laugh at the buffoonery of their day to day antics. Blowhards were always his favorite targets. He skewered the pompous. But managed to switch to a gentle smile when dealing with those that were simply stupid.

In many ways, Colbert was far more subversive than Jon Stewart, who works from the traditional fake news format. Colbert did it from within, by becoming one of them, using the punditocracy’s own words, mannerisms and zealous self-importance to undermine their pedestal. He embraced their talking points and made them his own. We all could recognize the thread of reality in Stephen Colbert, the character.

Colbert will go down in history for injecting that character into the political dialogue, blurring the lines between a fictional asshole TV pundit and the assholes on TV every day. But he went further, taking on the silliness of celebrity and the personal shallowness that invades the rich and powerful. Much like Lisa Kudrow’s self-absorbed character in “Comeback,” his personal idiosyncrasy’s and view of daily life were a clear window into the shallowness of celebrity and fame obsession, a vivid profile of people convinced of their entitlement.

More than any other comedian, Colbert provided a daily caricature of the corrupting influence of fame. Stephen Colbert, the character, was convinced of the righteousness of his own place in the world, even though he did not have a single definable skill. It didn’t matter. He was famous. And fame was a lifetime gold stamp to get in front of the line. That’s just the way it is, get over it, Stephen Colbert explained night after night.

Political satire will go on, and new voices will emerge, but nobody will hit the same note as Colbert, that pitch-perfect mock.

Kevin Brass writes for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and many other publications. He is the author of “The Cult of Truland,” a satirical novel set in the world of celebrity journalism.