Tuesday July 10, 2012
In the news
By S. INDRAMALAR and ANN MARIE CHANDY
Do couch potatoes care when the newsmakers make the headlines?
FOR well over a decade, Anderson Cooper has been taking viewers beyond the headlines, reporting news from the frontlines on Anderson Cooper 360° on CNN. Since he joined the network in 2001 and became anchor of the show two years later, the handsome silver-haired newsman has covered most of the major news events around the world.
Yeah, Cooper is the man who delivers the news. But early this month, Cooper was himself in the news when he revealed publicly that he was indeed gay. Actually, this isn’t really breaking news – many had guessed the sexual orientation of the dapper Cooper even though he’d never addressed the subject before. Cooper has always been adamant about keeping his personal life private. So why come out? Television personality Star Jones said on the Today show that she reckons it was a publicity stunt to boost ratings for his show. Could be. Or maybe it was time – after all, one’s sexual preference isn’t such a big deal anymore and there is virtually no way this would affect his career – he is the golden boy of news, either way.
After all, so many top rated American television programmes these days have openly gay characters in lead roles, such as Glee, Modern Family, Smash, Revenge, Brothers And Sisters and Grey’s Anatomy. The problem is, when the news came out, Cooper made himself scarce. He was, according to the network, out of the country on a news assignment and was therefore unavailable for comment. Oh! Mr Cooper, as a newsman, surely you realise how unprofessional that was. Make a big announcement and run? Well, it wasn’t that big an announcement and he did it so unspectacularly: he e-mailed a gay blogger Andrew Sullivan with his statement and allowed him to publish the news.
Now when Richard Quest, CNN business reporter and presenter, made the news in 2008, that was spectacular. The British reporter, known for his boisterous style of questioning, was arrested for possession of drugs in Central Park, New York, in the early hours of the morning, after the park was closed. Quest paid the price for his mistake – his face was plastered all over the news for weeks, with some reports adding a sex scandal to the mix; and, he had to undergo court-ordered counselling and was away from work for six months. Quest didn’t shy away from interviews after the incident though: he didn’t always tell reporters what they wanted to know, but he never ran away from the issue. As a journalist he realised that he was the story and he graciously allowed himself to be interviewed.
And then you have Oprah Winfrey. Remember the Hermes incident? Well, apparently in 2005 on a visit to Paris, Winfrey was turned away from one of their stores because she’d arrived just as the store was closing. There were some stragglers left in the shop but no new customers were allowed in. Even Winfrey. The talk show queen was apparently incensed – a BBC news report quoted the talk show host’s best friend Gayle King as saying that “Winfrey will no longer shop at Hermes ever again”. Talk about a tantrum. The luxury brand issued an apology but it apparently wasn’t enough. Winfrey invited Robert Chavez, the chief executive officer of Hermes in the United States, on her show some time later.
She said: “I just want to say shame on anybody for thinking that I was upset for not being able to get into a clothes store and buy a purse,” said Winfrey. “Everybody who’s ever been snubbed because you were not chic enough or the right class or the right colour or whatever – I don’t know what it was – you know that it’s very humiliating and that is exactly what happened to me.”
Winfrey said she wasn’t playing the celebrity card. Erm, ok. Next time someone won’t let us into a shop after closing hours, we’ll call the CEO and have him over to our, err, office and demand an apology. How’s that?
Even here in Malaysia, our newsmen and women make the headlines sometimes as was the case with Ras Adiba Radzi recently. The TV personality, who works on a freelance basis for a TV station, cut her hair to show her solidarity with the National Cancer Council’s Jom Botak cancer awareness campaign. However, it was reported that the station had a problem with her new look, and told her she could no longer appear on air for now.
Similarly, NBC news correspondent Ann Curry very much made the news when it was reported that she would be replaced as co-host of the Today show. Though we don’t even get the show here in Malaysia, reading about the Curry drama was interesting to say the least. Would NBC let her go? Would she be able to neogotiate a profitable exit agreement in her favour?
At the end of last month, Curry announced in an emotional broadcast on the show that she was leaving the Today show. Interestingly, after Curry left the show, Nielsen data found that the TV ratings for the Today show immediately dropped by 280,000 people the following day, when Savannah Guthrie – Curry’s replacement – made her debut. Looks like viewers really did care about the deliverer of the news after all.
Ten years ago, celebrity news personality Giuliana DePandi was a relative unknown public figure. Today, television viewers the world over are privy to all sorts of information about her and her very cute husband Bill Rancic. The Italian-American anchorwoman on E! News even has her own reality show (with hubby) where she shares a lot about her life with the world. At some point accomplishing her life-long dream of becoming an anchorwoman must have suddenly seemed inadequate for Giuliana, and the lure of reality TV got the better of these two very likable personalities.
You have to wonder, though, what would possess such an amiable couple to discuss their fertility issues on TV. If you’re a fan of Giuliana And Bill, you’ll know that the duo have been trying to have a baby for the last few years, and have been through quite a harrowing time – with in vitro fertilisation, a miscarriage, and then finally the inadvertent discovery that Giuliana had breast cancer. Not so long ago, however, they announced that they were expecting their first child (a boy!), via a gestational carrier (the headlines read: “We hit the gestational carrier lottery!”). Giuliana’s case is a classic one of where the newsmaker, and she was a pretty good journalist in the world of entertainment, has very much become the news.
We’re still unsure about whether or not these anecdotes and vignettes are truly newsworthy or just marketing campaigns for the stations/celebs in question. What’s for sure is that viewers seem to fall for it, hook, line and sinker.