Celebrity Skin

I know no one cares about this but me. Still...

When Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt negotiated with People and other celebrity magazines this summer for photos of their newborn twins and an interview, the stars were seeking more than the estimated $14 million they received from the deal. They also wanted a hefty slice of journalistic input -- a promise that the winning magazine's coverage would be positive, not merely in that instance but into the future.

According to the deal offered by Ms. Jolie, the winning magazine was obliged to offer coverage that would not reflect negatively on her or her family, according to two people with knowledge of the bidding who were granted anonymity because the talks were confidential. The deal also asked for an "editorial plan" providing a road map of the layout, these people say.

The winner was People. The resulting package in its Aug. 18 issue -- the magazine's best-selling in seven years -- was a publicity coup for Ms. Jolie, the Oscar winner and former Hollywood eccentric who wore a necklace ornamented with dried blood and talked about her fondness for knives before transforming herself into a philanthropist, United Nations good-will ambassador and devoted mother of six.

In the People interview, there were questions about her and Mr. Pitt's charity work and no use of the word "Brangelina," the tabloid amalgamation of their names, which irks the couple.

For the record, People denies this, but I'm not sure what else they'd say. Unlike a lot of other celeb mags, People still holds on to a some sense of journalistic ethics. Or maybe not. I think this sort of thing is good in the short term, but bad over the long-term. Frankly, I've stopped reading celeb profiles in all magazines. What are you really going to learn? What really is the point? Why not just send the press release directly to the fans? Someday soon, Hollywood  will figure this out and publish its own magazines--if there are any magazines still around.



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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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