Sorry, Bono, but if Good magazine had to live “with or without you,” it appears the publication would choose the latter.

In an editorial titled, “We Were Offered 10 Minutes with Bono—Why We Didn’t Care,” Good senior editor Cord Jefferson writes about the typical banality of celebrity interviews and why he won’t put up with it. Specifically, Irish rocker Bono’s publicist offered the magazine a 10-minute interview with theU2 lead singer and activist, but the magazine decided to decline. It isn’t so much that Jefferson has a problem with giving attention to famous people—in fact, he says he’d happily discuss some less flattering issues relating to Bono’s charity work—as it is that he has a problem with the walls these celebrities are forced to put up. It seems that most interviews with famous people become stale before even getting the chance to ripen.


The problem, Jefferson suggests, lies largely with the publicity team that stands behind each star: “The celebrity-industrial complex is a real phenomenon, and a big part of the problem is the droves of publicists and PR people whose sole job is to shield their famous clients from saying or doing anything to tarnish their reputations,” he writes. “This means hawking out 10-minute, highly regulated interviews to newspapers and magazines in the hope that some of them won’t care that they’re being condescended to.”

I wrote a feature on entertainment journalism that will be out in our upcoming Summer 2012 issue, so I’m no stranger to these ideas. And a large part of me agrees with Jefferson’s diagnosis, especially when he goes on to say that many of these publications’ reporters don’t care that they’re getting synthetic answers to their questions “as long as they get to chat on the phone with a rock star—who won’t tell them anything they wouldn’t be able to find in the press release his publicist sent along in advance.” And these publicists seem to be getting more creative with their strategies. Take, for example, the May 10, 2011, Africa-focused Globe and Mail that was guest-edited by Bono and fellow activist Bob Geldof. (Granted, in that case, theGlobe probably benefited from the partnership as much as Bono.)
Jefferson finishes off by saying that “to be sure, there are some great reporters who do beautiful work on the entertainment beat. But most of the time these interviews result in canned answers to pre-approved questions, and they’re worthless.” It’s true, and it’s unfortunate. Perhaps, though, if enough publications take the same stance as Good when it comes to superstar interviews, the norm will change. A celebrity who willingly gives interviews where his answers are spontaneous and genuine? That will be a “beautiful day.”
Lead image via Reuters. 
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About the author

Sara Harowitz was the Editor of the Summer 2012 issue of the Ryerson Review of Journalism.

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