By Anna Van Der Like
According to the New World Encyclopedia, “celebrity” journalism is less reputable than other types of journalism. Some would argue that these gossip columns are not journalistic at all. Yet they are incredibly successful and continue to sell even in a time when print media is slowly fading away.
Aristotle taught us that persuasion required ethos, pathos and logos. It would be hard to argue that celebrity journalism utilizes the logos aspect, but is there an argument that this type of journalism uses ethos and pathos? Gossip magazines have managed to not only capture an audience, but to hold onto them.
Ethos correlates with attractiveness. In a journalistic sense, it seems that the sources used by gossip columnists are not the most credible. Yet the topic of conversation within the articles usually is an incredibly attractive celebrity. They may not be using the ethos in the journalistic sense, but they are still taking Aristotle’s advice.
Us Weekly has an entire section of their website dedicated to beauty. Just by scrolling through the front page of the website, anyone can see the amount of attractive people that Us Weekly is using to bring in readers. Is this what Aristotle was talking about? It certainly seems to be persuading the readers.
Pathos is an emotional appeal. Journalists and psychologists alike have questioned whether or not positive or negative headlines bring in readers. A quick scroll down Radar Online will show which they think works best. Today’s titles consist of: ‘MOMAGER MELTDOWN’ ‘HOUSE FROM HELL’ and ‘BLOODY CRIME SCENE PHOTOS’.
The emotions that these magazines are looking for are shock, anger, disbelief and intrigue. These overdramatic headlines certainly achieve their goal: they grab people’s attention. It is not certain whether or not this area of journalism is crossing an ethical line.
Gossip news has always brought forward ethical questions: what is the reasonable expectation for a celebrity’s privacy, are the ‘facts’ are actually checked, are these headlines appropriate for journalism, etc. The issue at this point is that everyone has come to expect this from gossip journalists.
Nobody cares as much when gossip magazines get their facts wrong because they are expected to be wrong. We expect paparazzi to be hated by all, but they are technically photojournalists. Cliché headlines are expected from gossip magazines, but in other areas of media they are unprofessional.
So how and why does “celebrity” journalism still exist? My theory is that their use of Aristotle’s advice about persuasion has worked in their advantage. Now it is too late, the public is hooked on this information and they do not care about ethics, professionalism or even the truth. They just want more of it.by