Wednesday on CBC Radio’s Q, Jian Ghomeshi interviewed Chris Atkins, creator of the film Starsuckers. Through a series of media hoaxes, Atkins’ documentary depicts the celebrity-hungry culture that dominates certain British news organizations. “Atkins and his team called up British tabloids with made-up frivolous celebrity stories, and they ‘just printed anything,'” states British news site journalism.co.uk. “He was flabbergasted by the speed with which completely fabricated stories flew around the world.”
In Atkins’ most memorable stunt, which he’s dubbed “Amy’s Hair,” his team called a newspaper’s tip line and told them Amy Winehouse had been jamming with friends at her place when they blew a fuse. When Winehouse tried to turn the power back on, she got an electric shock that set her hair on fire. The story was picked up by a slew of British and foreign newspapers including the Times of India, the world’s most widely read English newspaper.
Atkins was trying to kick-start discussion about western celebrity-obsessed culture, which has been built up through the media. With old-fashioned media in the tanks, newspapers are trying to ensure some sort of survival, which is why we’ve seen so much entertainment news creep into the pages of serious newspapers over the past few years. Apparently, journalists are now so worried about scooping rival publications that they print rumours without verifying information. A necessary evil or just unacceptable?