Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Chav, Celebrity Culture and the IHT

Speaking of Chavez brings me to 'chav' (as best as I can explain it to non-UK residents, the new English vernacular for 'bling').

Can anyone tell me why the front page of the world's daily newspaper deems it necessary to headline, above the fold, the story of a coked-out master of the universe sadly drowning in his swimming pool in the 'wealthy enclave north of West Palm Beach' Florida? ('A case of fast money and even faster living' Front Page, IHT 4/12/07)

Personally I read the IHT in large part because I want to avoid what a retired Oxford professor recently described to me as the 'pages of guff one has to wade through to get to any real news' (speaking of the UK broadsheets, not even the tabloids).

But somehow, through the intellectual cut and thrust of IHT news meetings, driven by the debate of senior journalists to establish truly the most important world stories of the day, with a bit of lighter 'trend' snap shot reporting normally thrown in (on this day, trucks getting stuck on small English rural roads because of sat. nav. addiction), the death of wealthy investment banker gets the IHT front page treatment.

A few details from the IHT story in case you missed your edition of the New York Post: the poor bloke concerned died not on Dec.3rd 2007, but Sept. 4th; the story involves 'private jets', 'black-tie balls' (their relevance to the story being?), an investment banker 'floating face down in the swimming pool' (good original writing thus far) screaming, 'sobbing', 'unfolding drama' (please), 'lurid accounts of fast money', 'murder', 'cocaine', binges, 'sex', 'Tobias' the 'male go-go dancer' and you guessed it, 'the plot thickened' (now really, that's enough).

"I don't understand why this hasn't ended up on 'CSI: Miami' yet," said James Cramer, the host of CNBC's stock-picking show "Mad Money"' the IHT breathlessly (no pun intended) reported.

I don't understand why this story ended up on the front page of the IHT. Perhaps it's all part of covering Supreme Luxury. I suggest Mr. Oreskes assigns Suzy Menkes to find out what Mr. Tobias' widow was wearing when she pulled her husband out of the pool at the 'mansion' and 'cradled his head in her arms'. (I am not making any of this IHT coverage up.)

The story is headlined as some sort of random case in a world of supreme luxury, but the opening sentence reveals that the IHT seems to be as enthralled with the celebrity culture their columnists and news coverage so often looks down on: it turns out that the investment banker wasn't just any old investment banker but 'a familiar face on CNBC'.

OK, right, that's fine then, all explained.

Which would seem to make this something of a first for the IHT in its recent history as far as I can recall: a celebrity front page story.


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