Paris Hilton’s Jailing is a Worthwhile News Story

High horses are one thing, readaz, but reality is anutha.

My journalism education came from the mother of all ivory-tower purist j-school institutions, that being the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. We were always taught that what matters in the media world is ethics, proper sourcing and the pursuit of objective truth without fear of those controlling the money or the power.

Tru dat; I can’t belittle that sentiment because the shred of a hopeful idealist in me still clings to it. It’s why I went into my chosen profession. But being in the real-world media market has taught me that two other things are just as important, and possibly moreso: a proper business model and a sense of cultural relativity.

That’s why, despite the usual cries of “Look at this garbage the media pushes on us,” media peeps are right to flog Paris Hilton’s arrest, jailing, release and subsequent re-jailing.

The lede from this story in the New York Times perfectly summarizes the knowledge I’m about to drop. This story is important because it’s a collision of the two aspects of the media that we learned in college: spinach and ice cream. (Quick explainer, and thanks to Prof. Craig LaMay for the well-named concept: Spinach is politics, foreign affairs, policy, science and economics, a.k.a. the stuff that’s good for citizens but they hate to consume. Ice cream is sports, fashion, celebrities, lifestyle and entertainment. We all enjoy it, but it makes you into a fat slug of a citizen if you consume it in more than moderation. Most of the ice cream could be construed as “chick crap”, but dudes, you need to stop lying to yourself about this “glory of human endeavor” bull and admit that sports coverage is the exact equivalent in frivolity.)

In the Hilton story, we have a direct trump of ice cream by spinach: Paris, embodying the frivolity obsession perhaps more than any other human ever, clashes against the spinach-fueled legal system and ultimately loses. The story here isn’t something normally in the realm of valid disgust with the media like “Paris Hilton insulted Lindsay Lohan’s genitals,” but instead is a larger lesson on eating only the ice cream of life: we have here the real world (jail and judges) ultimately proving more powerful than the celebrity world, which while built up in popular culture to the point that it seems to float above the real world on a cloud of great importance, proved in this case to be a defeated paper tiger.

Cynics up in this piece will note that the judge had no choice but to take harsh command of the situation: Al “I’m all up in everything, everywhere” Sharpton and John Edwards publicly questioned Hilton’s release, as did commentators and public moralists everywhere. (Holla back, New York Post.) This backlash represented the other side of the country’s celebrity-obsession duality, that being the part that wants to burn these muthas down and force them to live in the same world as the rest of us, instead of lifting them up high like we do otherwise. Regardless, the end result is the same: the subjugation of the celebrity world’s greatest “I’m rich, I do what the hell I want, and I’m famous for it” icon at the feet of the real world.

That is the type of story that symbolizes the clash of cultural paradigms. And paradigm clashes that are so easily embodied have sociological significance. Significance = media organizations should get their coverage on.

Say what.

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7 Responses to “Paris Hilton’s Jailing is a Worthwhile News Story”

  1. Well put, Pat. I was proud of the fact that World News with Charles Gibson did not cover “Paris Goes to Jail” on Monday but that it picked up the story on Thursday when it became “Are There Two Tiers of the American Justice System?” The former is tabloid crap, the latter is an actual story. Ah, Charlie’s my boy.

    I dig the spinach and ice cream analogy. Good for your prof.

  2. For a bit of Paris humor, I wrote a fun post on my blog about Paris Hilton…stop by and check it out:

    http://rickrockhill.blogspot.com/2007/06/dr-wang-channels-conrad-hilton-beyond.html

  3. Can I see Paris eat ice cream made out of spinach? What I am saying is that unless there is either Paris or Lohan involved in the story I am going to ignore it.

    Okay, not really. I think there is a movie here though. Instead of only eating McDonald’s, could someone be healthy only watching shit like E! and tabloid news. They would have to regularly converse with their friends who don’t know what they are doing. I wonder how long until they can’t make an intelligent comment.

    Posted by Craig | June 10th, 2007 at 7:18 pm
  4. Check out this link to see some spinach flavored ice cream. (Hint: the guy who took the non-iconic photo of Paris sobbing in the back of the police car is the same photographer who took the iconic photo of the vietnamese girl – Kim Phuc – whose clothes were burnt off by napalm).

    http://jezebel.com/gossip/portraits-of-grief/paris-hilton-the-kim-phuc-of-2007-267394.php

  5. Yeah and what a sweet clash it was. I never understood why Paris was famous, but all that gets chucked. That picture is one of the best ever! Props if dude got both of those pics.

  6. say paris hilton the good and the courage

    Posted by mullah cimoc | June 11th, 2007 at 8:08 pm
  7. Paris has worked very hard to get where she is, but few people believe that.

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