The Paris Pledge

Jun 9, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Maybe now it is news —
I was just sitting down to write my inaugural blog entry for TelevisionWeek when the news hit. My plan had been to talk wistfully about what I call “The Paris Pledge.” It was a pie-in-the-sky idea of mine that all of us in the media business would place our rights hands on the Nielsen Bible and pledge NOT to cover any comings and goings of Paris Hilton. (To the list one might also consider adding such ‘luminaries’ of the night scene as Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Nicole Richie and others less front page/section A material to mention.) To such party princesses, publicity is oxygen and perhaps, I fantasized, if we deprived them of a few column inches and a couple of minutes of TV time — they might– just MIGHT– suffocate a bit and slink back into whatever alcohol-soaked VIP section from which they came.
Okay. I said it was pie-in-the-sky. I, as well as anyone, know the party princesses are ‘crack’ to which we in the syndicated magazine world had become addicted. “We” may think the Paris/Lindsay/Britney story beneath us and hold our nose as we broadcast it — but we know if we don’t do the story, our competitors will — and the viewers will lunge for the television remote to change to THEIR channel. So we show the princess preening for the cameras …and feel uneasy for having broadcast it.
With Paris in jail, I thought, ‘We don’t have to do a Hilton story!’. And thanks to a cosmic alignment of the paparazzi stars, Lindsay Lohan was in rehab and out of the limelight too. ‘Had Christmas come early,’ I naively wondered?
An informal poll of my friends both in syndication and at the network level revealed they shared my queasiness at these kinds of stories. One likened the feeling after putting the party princesses on the air to that horrible feeling one has after doing more than just kissing on a first date: you feel just awful about yourself but the dirty deed is done.
With more than a touch of Pollyanna, I mused, “Perhaps since we in the media created this Paris phenomenon … we could also make it go away.” At the very least, my plan with this column was to give a second variation of the “Paris Pledge:”. If TV shows can’t promise NOT to air vapid stories about Paris/Lindsay/Britney, then let us pledge that for every “party princess” story we air, we ALSO find time for a piece about a young person who’s doing the RIGHT things. Have you heard about 18-year-old Henry Schwartz of Menomonie, Wisconsin? He started a skateboard business when he was 15 and turned a profit his first summer in business. Or what about Michael Holeman from Gainesville, Georgia? He’s the youth president for a group called Straight Teen which gives kids an alternative to hanging out on the streets. Michael’s given more than 1100 hours in community service. Henry and Michael – now THEY are role models to believe in.
But that was before Thursday’s headline. At 2:09am LA time, Ms. Hilton was released from jail, remanded to house arrest at her Hollywood Hills home. Whether it was a rash, a near breakdown or some other medical condition was uncertain. What WAS immediately clear was that the rules for the rest of the world don’t apply to Ms. Hilton.
In a weird way, maybe Christmas HAD come early after all.
Now FINALLY, for the first time in her red carpet laden life, Ms. Hilton is a legitimate story.
+ Why did LA County Sheriff Lee Baca feel 72 hours behind bars in solitary was sufficient? A personal note, I spent 5 days in jail for Inside Edition and would have given ANYTHING to be in solitary — the most frightening thing about jail is the other inmates.)
+ Was her psychiatrist instrumental in persuading the Sheriff to alter the terms of her confinement? How does Paris mental state differ from that of any of other inmates in the LA County Jail?
+Justice department statistics reveal a large percentage of inmates suffer from medical maladies — very few receive a discharge from a lock down facility as a result. How will the Department defend itself against accusations of a double standard? Rene Seidel, a director of the LA County Department of Health Services is quoted as saying he “never heard” of an inmate getting a release for medical reasons.
Paris Hilton’s famous for … well, being famous. Her efforts at singing and acting have been, well… efforts. Especially for the audience. But she is very good at finding the spotlight, drawn to a photographer’s flash like a moth to a porch light on a hot summer night. But when a moth gets too close to that hot light, it doesn’t always end well for the moth.
It is a cautionary tale for Ms. Hilton. She may find her latest actions attract so bright a spotlight that even the glittering ‘party princess’ finds herself wearing rags. Because THIS time … perhaps for the FIRST time … Paris Hilton is a story.


  1. TMZ.com is reporting that Paris Hilton has not eaten, slept, been crying a lot and is acting withdrawn since arriving at the medical ward of a Los Angeles jail. Wow! That’s what my 5 year old does when I send her to her room.
    I do have a question about all this Hilton business. If Nicole Ritchie ends up going into the slam, could we end up with parparazzi photos of Hilton and Ritchie going over the wall?

    The Twin Towers professional staff has positively diagnosed Paris Hilton’s condition.
    Miss Hilton has been confirmed to be suffering from an advanced case of HUTAS (Head Up The Ass Syndrome). Hilton exhibits acute symptoms related to a patient with their head clearly up their ass. It is known that if HUTAS isn’t diagnosed and treated in its early stages, the condition suffocates the brain and leads to irreversible systemic damage. Symptoms are characterized by a lack of intelligence, muffled hysteria and blind arrogance which enlarges the head making it more difficult to cure the disease.
    Treatment for HUTAS includes applying repeated and sufficient force to each side of the buttocks with one’s foot. Having the patient walking or running while their buttocks is booted builds psychological remedy for the patient and satisfaction for the treatment specialist. Most professionals agree that in Miss Hilton’s case, several hundred treatment sessions will be required to obtain full remission. Due to the expected long and arduous recovery period, it is recommended that the public at large be recruited to administer treatments.

  3. Ahhh.., thank you Ms. Norville – finally a voice from the side of sanity. Your 3 points about the LA Sheriff’s decision making are valid and I’d like to read or watch more on that angle. About Paris, though? No thank you
    I hate it when I hear reps from the networks or tabloids who say they only give viewers/readers what we want. I do not, nor have I ever asked, for non-stop coverage of Paris, Anna Nicole, Lindsey etc. I was ashamed when MSNBC cut away from their story on the Joint Chief of Staff to show me Paris getting into a cop car. I was angry when the guest host of Glen Beck’s show Friday night on CNN Headline News admonished me for gobbling up the crap he was feeding me on Paris. I couldn’t get away from Paris coverage on Friday…I finally had to turn the TV off knowing that if any real news happened, none of the networks would give it to me anyway.
    Leave Paris, Lindsey, etc to People Magazine and Entertainment Tonight. Cleanse the television news outlets of this star crap or limit it to what it should be…a side note. When a vapid heiress can’t pee for 3 days cuz’ she’s locked up…who cares?

  4. Deborah,
    I had just talked about your idea of a moritorium on news regarding the new generation of Brat Packers: Paris, Lindsey, Britney. Turn off the spotlight for even 30 days; let them cool off and settle down. It’s not like they’ve been contributing anything positive to society or setting good examples for the youth of today. Instead, they’re examples of what NOT to do. I applaude your idea and would love to see it happen.

  5. Deborah, I appreciate your talk about airing one story about an unknown “good” person for each one about Paris/Lindsay/Britney, but that’s the real polyanna in all this. You are in a business that is basically a giant gossip mill. The business is fed by the viewers and they won’t give a rat’s patootie about unknown people. I guarantee that a story about such people will be the first thing that your producers will cut to make room for another celebrity gossip/rumor story. Deborah, you made the decision to sign on to a tabloid TV show. You’re a veteran of the biz and certainly knew exactly what you were getting into. If it bothers you so much to feed the Paris/Lindsay/Britney fever then put your money where your mouth is and leave that world. You were a good news reporter and a good morning show host. Maybe you should send your resume to CBS. They could use someone new to bail out their sinking ship named The Early Show. Good luck.

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