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Gossip Magazines & Ethical Missteps

The obsession with knowing everything about the lives of celebrities has manifested in many areas.  From the boom of reality television shows, to the access of social media sites, to the nonstop production of gossip magazines and websites, the demand for this type of information is clear.  This obsession brings up two main issues.  The first being celebrities’ rights to privacy and the second being the purposeful slandering of celebrities in an effort to sell magazines, regardless of the truthfulness of the stories.

Take the National Enquirer as an example.  Just reading the headlines on the cover makes the average person question the truthfulness of the statements.  Yet this does not seem to discourage fans hungry for gossip about their favorite celebrities from purchasing the magazine.  With the amount of magazines producing untrue articles, it seems many celebrities have given up trying to protect their reputation and just accepted this type of defamation as part of their job.  Yet sometimes it goes to far, causing the victims of false stories to file libel suits. Tom Cruise is currently threatening to sue the magazine for publishing “false and vicious lies” about the actor’s divorce from Katie Holmes, and in 2005 Cameron Diez won a suit against the magazine.

But these are far from the only cases.  Natalie Holloway’s mother recently sued  the National Enquirer claiming the tabloid “published knowingly false stories about her daughter’s 2005 disappearance in Aruba in order to profit from the tragedy.” According to her, the false stories persisted for more than 7 years, and this was the only way to even attempt to stop the inaccurate reporting.  Gossip magazines across the world are demonstrating a trend that says that passing off hearsay as fact and not using reliable sources can be an acceptable standard.  This brings up questions about the future of “journalism” and the ethical implications of not fact-checking or verifying information received.  After all, wouldn’t the magazine expect to get false accounts considering they pay their sources for tips?

It is sad to see that these magazines are still not discouraged from reporting false information and slandering celebrities, despite the number of lawsuits filed.  I can’t help but question our role in creating a lack of ethical standards amongst gossip magazines.  If we weren’t so desperate to uncover every detail about celebrities’ lives, perhaps accurate journalism would be more widespread.