May 2014
Volume 34 No. 4

April 2014
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My 2¢: Gossip Has Become An International
Industry And Television Is The Main Clearinghouse

By Dom Serafini

Years ago, with a few exceptions, only the professional TV industry had an international media. Today, everything seems to be international. If a gossip story breaks in the French papers, it becomes international news. If the governor of New Jersey makes news in the U.S., he becomes internationally known — even more so than those elegant folks of Jersey Shore.

Then, take any movie, TV or music personality; for every little (or big) transgression, the rumor mills go into overdrive worldwide. Witness the antics of Canadian pop artist Justin Bieber, the tribulations of Angelina Jolie, the corruption scandal of the son-in-law of King Juan Carlos of Spain, the trial of Oscar Pistorius in South Africa broadcast around the world, and even the sex videos of Greek model Julia Alexandratou or British actor Abi Titmus, which are now all the rage after the initial tape made by Paris Hilton.

Compare this to similar antics in Hollywood or Rome of years ago, and one can easily see how media has internationalized. First of all, as indicated in the book by American actor Robert Wagner titled You Must Remember This (Viking Press), in the past most misdeeds committed by Hollywood performers and Washington, D.C. politicians were covered up by the media. In Italy the juicy private lives of actors such as the last Marcello Mastroianni (featured on the official 2014 Cannes Film Festival poster) and Alberto Sordi were never exposed publicly. In the U.S., the wild parties at the White House under President John F. Kennedy (JFK) were never mentioned in print.

Today, for artists, athletes and politicians alike there isn’t a “local” anymore, and for most of them mass media has become an international mess media. As USA Today media critic Michael Wolff reported, “Media have become like banking: They’re an international business that is no longer contained by separate markets or local regulations.”

I remember that, in the early 1980s, in order to get information on the escapades of leftist French president Francois Mitterrand, one had to read some obscure far-droit press. Today, when the other Francois leftist president (Hollande) was discovered taking a motorcycle ride to visit a girlfriend in Paris, world coverage was assured (for the French, the scandal was that he was riding an Italian bike, for the rest of the world it was the fact that he was cheating on a girlfriend who, outraged, destroyed his office at the Élysée).

Media experts can argue that the international press coverage began with JFK, but the global rumor mills started spinning with the Monica Lewinsky White House scandal that made gossip into an industry. The Internet subsequently made gossip’s reach larger.

Now, when Italian politician Antonio Razzi, from an obscure region like Abruzzo (my birthplace), was ridiculed on Italian TV because of his wackiness by comic Maurizio Crozza, the politician proudly reported that he’s now even recognized in China and Dubai.

And speaking of obscure places, Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s scandal with drug and alcohol abuse has put Canada back in play after many international news organizations pulled their correspondents out of the country.

Nowadays, the media reports malfeasance by public figures, especially if it’s entertaining, often providing more entertainment than TV dramas and reality shows. Everyone has to be aware that scandalous news is a commodity: it is harvested, stored, distributed, sold and avidly consumed by the paying public.

The interesting aspect of all this is how some savvy public figures have learned to leverage and take advantage of the global gossip industry. Take for example England’s Queen Elizabeth, who made global front-page news by making public her desire to have granddaughter-in-law Kate Middleton wear skirts with longer hemlines!