Tabloid Nation, Tabloid World

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NEW YORK ( -- Jennifer Aniston to the news media: Do some goshdarn reporting already.
Jon-Benet Ramsey
Jon-Benet Ramsey Credit: AP

American journalism in the double '00s has suffered a lot of fortune's slings and arrows. The seemingly never-ending diminishment of newspapers, long the backbone of the first draft of history, had gotten used to newer media (first radio, then TV) grabbing their stories and running with them in a much sexier way. But the acceleration of their diminishment by the sexiest of new media, the web, has eviscerated print newsrooms, leaving local newspapers panting for oxygen and national newspapers scratching their heads over how to get the same revenue out of web pages that they do out of print pages. Then there's the assault on the fourth estate from the politicians in the first, second and third estates that can be summed up as "You can't trust these folks." And there's the blogosphere of pundits, pouncing on MSM stories and tearing them apart for bias and misleading presentation of facts.

All of which makes the rise of celebrity journalism a bit more understandable. If every serious news report is viewed as somebody's spin, what's the point of trying to keep up? But stories on who's having a baby and who's getting married? Now those are easy to follow.

Or so we thought. What does it say about the nature of modern communication that we can't even believe that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes actually had a baby? Or that a seemingly still-unattached Jennifer Aniston feels the need to lecture the news media about how to be trustworthy? Or that Britney Spears thinks she can launch a celebrity magazine called Real that would do a better job than the tabloids?

After Us Weekly reported last week that Aniston was engaged to actor Vince Vaughn, the news exploded around the world, helped along by an appearance by Us Weekly editor Janice Min on NBC's "The Today Show" to trumpet the scoop. But today, Aniston talks to Time Inc.'s People to set the record straight, saying, "The only reason I'm saying something is because if we're listening to the news, we're supposed to be believing in the news. ... Tabloids are going to lie all the time. You're prepared for that. But it's the news. And you think, 'Well, we need to trust what our newscasters are saying when we have this horrific situation that's actually taking place in the world. I mean, we are getting reported the truth, right?' The American people need to believe [the news]. Please. Get it together. So that's all."

How'd we get here? The internet was supposed to free us from the mentality of pack journalism. With its endless pages it was going to be able to supply information on every nook and cranny of government. We were all going to be better citizens, a more informed democracy, with cogent citizens opinions nestled next to clear-eyed reports of the facts. Yeah, right. As the 10-year-old Jon Benet Ramsey murder case leaps to the top of Google News pages, it's a vivid reminder that the Tabloid-ization of American Journalism has been alive and well for quite a while now and the web ain't goin' to change it. In fact, it's just made it easier to globalize it.
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