Entertainment v. Celebrity News: Professor and Student Exchange

Media ethics teachers deal with weighty topics from philosophy, history and jurisprudence. Occasionally a student asks a question requiring more research. Here’s an exchange about a Khloé Kardashian love scandal involving an NBA player and model with lessons about entertainment v. gossip journalism.

EDITOR’s NOTE: In case you haven’t kept up with the Kardashians, Khloé, 34, blamed Jordyn Woods, 21, for her split with NBA basketball star Tristan Thompson, 27. She initially blamed Woods; however, upon viewing the video above, changed her mind and blamed Thompson for a scandal that seems to hinge on alcohol and a kiss. You can read the details as reported by People Magazine.


Media Ethics Student:

I don’t know if you keep up with the news of popular culture and celebrity news, but there is a story that has been circulating the media–a scandal of celebrity entrepreneur Jordyn Woods assumed to cheat with Khloé Kardashian’s partner. Sometimes celebrity news can be very dramatic, exaggerated and often irrelevant, but this scandal has piqued my interest with the relation to ethics.

I think the ethics of falsehood, specifically exaggeration, as the headlines of the story seem to position Jordyn Woods as the villain. Though after watching a video on Red Table Talk hosted by Jada Pinkett Smith, there are two sides of the story, and the media is not portraying the assumed side of Woods. Some questions I had are:

How are ethics considered from different media outlets, specifically when covering the topic of celebrity news? 

Should both sides be considered before publishing something with a specific bias?

Also, the media has reported that “supposedly” Woods was all over Khloé’s partner and eventually ended up making out with him, though in the video Woods explained that none of that was true and that it was only a peck on the lips. Before knowledge of what has been circulating in the media, Khloé asked Woods how her night went and Woods said that it went well and did not speak up about the peck on the lips.

Would that also be considered a white lie or even a half-truth, if Woods did not reveal the secret due to not wanting to hurt Khloé’s feelings?

I apologize for this long email as this is something I was processing. Of course I don’t expect you to have a clear answer for my questions, but I just included them as thoughts. I hope to hear back from you in processing topics like this. Also, I know celebrity news is sometimes toxic; this is a case that just seemed to correlate with what we have been learning about. I look forward to your reply, have a great night! Thank you.

Media Ethics Professor:

I’m happy that you are making connections with our class about what you see and hear on media. That’s the goal. The real learning happens outside of class when we apply what we learned.

So I spent part of my Sunday trying to catch up on the Khloe/Jordyn/Tristan situation. I watched the entire video on Red Table Talk. What I liked about the video, including the beginning with Will Smith, is the focus on telling the truth and accepting consequences.

This not only is a situation about falsehood but also betrayal and manipulation. I suspect Jordyn may not be telling the entire truth about that kiss. Perhaps it was more than flirting and an apparent betrayal—both of them on Khloé. Alcohol was involved, and Jordyn doesn’t seem to associate that with her condition in allowing at least emotional if not physical betrayal.

But this is celebrity news, and we always need to take what we view or hear with the proverbial grain of salt.

Now for your questions:

How are ethics considered from different media outlets, specifically when covering the topic of celebrity news?

The celebrity news business is based on gossip, not fact. Everyone wants the gossipy lowdown and that’s why Red Table, TMZ, etc., are so popular. The audience wants to follow their idols and live the celebrity life. Then fan bases that fight for and over their celebrities. It’s a real media circus, but it keeps us hooked.

I almost got hooked, listening with some interest to this 25-minute Red Table video because, well, that’s the appeal … the very slow narrative that keeps us listening. For Pete sake, it shouldn’t have taken Jordyn 20 minutes to get to the kiss. So some of this seems programmed for entertainment value.

Should both sides be considered before publishing something with a specific bias?

Even bad publicity is good publicity when celebrities are concerned. Sympathy for Khloé. Condemnation for Jordyn and Tristan. Thousands of fans tweeting about a celebrity war! In sum, entertainment news differs from celebrity news. The former is more fact-based, the latter more gossip-based. There’s a long history of celebrity news in newspapers, appropriately called “gossip columns.”

Media Ethics Student:

I thoroughly enjoyed your response and even chuckled at some points. I really appreciate you for taking your time to dive into this topic with me. This email has given me a lot to reflect on. Thank you again! See you in class tomorrow.


Lessons

Entertainment Journalism: If you want to keep up with the Kardashians, you should visit this link by the Chicago Tribune, which provides 15 slides on the clan’s various members. The slideshow with descriptions also represents fact-based entertainment journalism, a field that covers celebrities, fashion, music, dance, arts, cinema and other similar cultural venues.

Top Entertainment Media (National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Award-Winners):

Gossip Columnists: The most important three, according to “The History of Gossip Columnists,” are Louella Parsons (born in 1881), who wrote for the Chicago Record Herald. Hedda Hopper (born in 1885), who wrote for the Los Angeles Times. And
Sheilah Graham Westbrook: (born 1904 in England), who wrote for The Mirror and The Journal.

Top Gossip Websites:

Living Media Ethics has a section about celebrities whom media treat as idols and icons with information on how audiences adopt their values and covet their lifestyles.

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