Off the Bookshelf: The Problem With Celebrity Profiles

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Short excerpts from long reads

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"There is nothing wrong with writing about famous people. Celebrities are often very interesting, but you don't want to talk to them at the moment of their celebritydom. The problem with "celebrity journalism" is that any profile of a celebrity at the moment of his celebrity is a profile of the condition of celebritydom. There is a certain philosophy of magazine editing, which is that you describe which fancy restaurant you took the celebrity to, the logic being that the fancier the restaurant the fancier the scoops you'll get.

"Another metaphor for the problem of celebrity journalism is flash photography. All flash photographs are bad. The flash from the camera distorts the photo. And all flash photographs are the same: everybody's skin looks the same. And everybody has those same little red dots in their eyes. Celebritydom distorts and obscures whatever might be interesting about the celebrity subject." ~ Lawrence Weschler being interviewed by Robert Boynton in his book The New New Journalism


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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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