Off the Bookshelf: The Problem With Celebrity Profiles

Short excerpts from long reads

celebrity full.jpg

"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


Photo credit: Reuters
Presented by

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.

Why Principals Matter

Nadia Lopez didn't think anybody cared about her middle school. Then Humans of New York told her story to the Internet—and everything changed.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A History of Contraception

In the 16th century, men used linen condoms laced shut with ribbons.

Video

'A Music That Has No End'

In Spain, a flamenco guitarist hustles to make a modest living.

Video

What Fifty Shades Left Out

A straightforward guide to BDSM

More in Entertainment

Just In