Hmmm. Maureen Orth, a Vanity Fair writer who's out promoting her new book, spoke to Berkely J-school students last month. She had some sage words of advice for them - considering she has interviewed Michael Jackson four times over the last decade.
While you can lament the idea that were living in this era of celebrity and personality, it also behooves the journalists here to get beyond the superficial and the spin and do the legwork and the research and the hard, hard work that takes to get the real story.
The book is an informal tour of what I call the Celebrity-Industrial Complex: the media monster that creates the reality we think we see, and the people who thrive or perish there. My challenge, as a reporter in this environment, is to bring the story back alive, accurately, to find the key that unlocks the personalities, the story, or the crime. I dont mind digging in grubby places. My early experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in Medellin, Colombia, prepared me to fit in at any level. I am also more than willing to pore through thousands of pages of court documents, or whatever is necessary. Often there are scores of highly paid obfuscators in the path of the story. They increase the thrill of the hunt. Willing subjects with high-paid lawyers often get court records sealed; law-enforcement authorities cover their mistakes; any number of spinmeisters or fawning acolytes steer reporters clear of the truth. That is their job. Mine is to find the reality behind the façade.
Oooh. I can almost see the spinoff now: Law & Order: Hollywood. Maureen Orth played by Tyne Daly.