Magazine article USA TODAY

The Anticelebrity, the Media, and the Public. (Words & Images)

Magazine article USA TODAY

The Anticelebrity, the Media, and the Public. (Words & Images)

Article excerpt

IN THE AGE OF CELEBRITY JOURNALISM, the anticelebrity--the celebrity who won t behave like one--is the villain the media love to hate. All most of us know about celebrities is what we read and see in the press and on television. The sports or entertainment writer and the gossip columnist are our main conduits when it comes to the larger-than-life superstars we see on the screen or the playing field. If that celebrity isn't nice to celebrity journalists, if he or she doesn't answer all of their questions and act kindly toward them, then those writers and columnists will be offended, and hell hath no fury like a celebrity reporter scorned.

Celebrities may have achieved greatness in their profession-earned an Academy Award, won Most Valuable Player, won Olympic gold but unless they become the media's friend, they risk the wrath of journalists who don't like to be ignored or dismissed. The public's right to know is distorted to become the celebrity reporter's right to be treated as a cohort, a buddy, an equal. Celebrities who fail to do this do so at their own risk.

Take the case of Barry Bonds. There is no question that he is among the greatest baseball players in history, arguably the second-best player ever, behind Babe Ruth. His last two seasons are arguably the best two seasons ever put together by one player. He has won the National League's Most Valuable Player award five times, is one of four players ever to hit more than 600 home runs, and, in 2001, at 37, he hit 73 home runs, obliterating Mark McGwire's record of 70 set in 1998. Then, at 38, he batted .370, becoming the oldest player ever to lead the league in hitting. He is so feared as a hitter that he has walked more times, intentionally and almost intentionally, than even Ruth, who held the single-season record for decades.

Yet, Bonds is one of the most hated men in sports because he has committed the ultimate sin in this age of celebrity journalism--he ignores and often ridicules sportswriters. In the words of one sports columnist, Bonds "basically views reporters as cockroaches who have invaded his throne room." Angry sports reporters wasted no time in telling the public what an insensitive, arrogant multimillionaire Bonds was. By ignoring or yelling at the media, Bonds, the celebrity journalists write, is really not insulting them, but insulting the public. It doesn't matter that Bonds performs brilliantly on the field. All that matters is that he doesn't do what celebrities are expected to do off the field--treat the press with respect and affection.

Recent headlines summarize a decade of abuse: "Bonds' Contempt for the Media Only Hurts His Own Image," "Barry Bonds: The Baseball Superstar the Media Love to Hate" "Hot and Sour: Barry Bonds has redeemed his reputation as a postseason performer, but has done little about that surly personality...."

Years of vitriolic prose about Bonds has had its effect. Listen to any sports talk show in America and the mantra is the same: Bonds is an ungrateful, terrible person who won't take the time to talk to the fans via the celebrity sports journalists. None of the callers has ever met Bonds. For many, the only contact they have with Bonds is watching him perform on television and reading or listening to reports about him in the media. …

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