"'The question is: how can we construct a story around a set of emotions that our readers are going to relate to? It can come from a genuine tip, or a photo. Or it can come out of our ass,'" says a gossip magazine editor speaking anonymously to the Guardian's Oliver Burkeman. Burkeman has a lengthy piece on celebrity weeklies and their flexible concepts of truth and reportage.
The frenetic state of today's celebrity news industry stems from one inescapable fact: the lives of real people – even people as volatile and wealthy as A-list movie stars – simply don't unfold fast enough to meet the appetite for information about them. Weekly magazines need weekly scoops, and preferably scoops different enough to distinguish them from their rivals. Sales of celebrity magazines are plummeting (newsstand sales in the US fell 11% in the second half of last year, and the situation in the UK is similar, though Grazia is an exception) but the decline seems only to have increased the desperation for exclusives.
There are only really seven Brad/Jen/Angelina stories, endlessly recycled: Brad and Angelina in love; Brad and Angelina obtaining more children; Brad secretly meeting or texting Jen; Angelina's fury at Brad for meeting or texting Jen; Angelina looking dangerously thin ("scary skinny"); Jen in love; Jen alone again. "You develop the narrative because you know it sells," the editor says. "And because selling is everything, you have to come up with the next chapter. But things don't move on that quickly."
There is probably nothing in here that you don't already know, but it's good to have it all in one place.