“…news talks of things that are worthwhile such as politics, events that impact the community or environment, art,dance, music and the latest developments in technology.” [Google Alerts-April 26, 2014] It is transmitted, says Google Alerts, through newspapers, live television, news websites and radio.
If it’s about a person the publisher makes sure the news can be verified through the person him or herself or through a reliable source.
How is gossip, whether about a celebrity or the person next door, different? Google Alerts says that gossip usually isn’t verified and the issues aren’t the major issues of the day but issues that could be considered trivial and shallow.
I would agree that this is the general public perception of the New York Times vs. The National Enquirer.
However, two other factors not addressed in the Google Alerts story come into play when we’re talking about infidelity and affairs. Perception and reality may not be quite what we think.
Publishers of the stature of say, CBS News or The New York Times, can’t risk their reputations by publishing unverified stories whether they originally come in as news or gossip.
So if it can’t be verified they don’t publish it. If it’s not published we’re probably not talking about it.
If The National Enquirer or Star Magazine or the TMZ online magazine publishes it, it is out there and readily available but it’s disregarded. People tend not to trust the story because it’s “just” gossip or rumors, and likely not the truth and even if it were the truth it’s an issue of no lasting importance to the individuals involved or to society.
Some people may talk about what’s in the “tabloids” but they’re not in important positions is society, they’re not “educated” or “cultured”. Therefore if it’s just “those kind of people” talking about it it’s not important and of no consequence or impact.
The thing is that with affairs it usually can’t be verified from the person involved or from a reliable source. Whether movie star, politician or the man or woman next door, how many people will answer truthfully to the question, “Are you having an affair?” And how many friends or work colleagues of this person who know that the truthful answer to that question is ‘yes’ will risk their friendship or their job by telling the truth.
So even though affairs do have an impact on the community (part of Google Alert’s definition of ‘news’) and do have an important and lasting effect on the individuals involved, on their families and therefore on society, we’re not talking about it in a serious way.
P.S. Let’s remember that The National Enquirer broke the story that Senator John Edwards, a possible vice-presidential candidate at the time, was having an affair with Rielle Hunter and that she was pregnant with his child. That was in late 2007. Edwards and Hunter both denied that it was true. In August, 2008 Edwards acknowledged that he did have an extended affair with Hunter but denied that he was the father of her baby. In January, 2010 Edwards admitted that he was the father of the baby. ‘Reputable’ publications generally stayed away from the story until it was unavoidable, that is until it was official ‘news’.
Let’s also remember that it was a French ‘tabloid’ that broke the story about French president Hollande having an affair with an actress while in a committed partnership with a woman where the relationship seemed just like a marriage.
It was also a ‘tabloid’, online magazine TMZ, constantly referred to as a ‘gossip site’, that broke the story about Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, making racist comments. Mr. Sterling at first tried to deny a recording of these comments was his voice but then acknowledged it was. The story also involved publishing information that showed Mr. Sterling was having an affair. Racism and cheating–two topics that ‘reputable’ publications try to stay away from until it is unavoidable, which is what it became.