Talking heads …

The journalism industry is struggling to keep to silly season amid rising unemployment, price hikes and riots. When not completing reams of job applications, I’m kept entertained and amused by the celebrity talking heads coming out to remind us that silly season is not optional.

Many a celebrity is now taking the role of the journalist – Russell Brand wrote an interesting column and Terry Christian, who regularly fronts mini-documentaries, was passionate on Sunday morning telly about the UK riots.

This is not necessarily a bad thing but some could, perhaps, be taking the jobs of bona fide journalists – and it speaks volumes when television presenters and actors speak for the nation rather than its trained hacks.

I wonder who they think they’re being heard or read by and what motivates them to speak up. This is nothing new. I’ve had my fair share of interviews with celebrities but now find the hypocrisy of them trying to defend the people who looted their CDs, or who watch their programmes and films, irritating – especially if written while they sat by an eternity pool.

Riots, yells and laughter … but fewer celebs

I also think we have journalists trained well enough  to contribute to any national debate. Why is a pop singer needed to comment on riots? Should a film star be given column inches to rage about the economy? Does it contribute to or trivialize the news?

I met a certain comedian and television presenter, popular with music-loving, liberal urbanites, at a party at a posh race day hosted by a ‘downmarket Sunday tabloid’. Said comedian refused point-blank to be interviewed by the paper, as he happily sat quaffing free champagne and tucking into mini-sized hamburgers.

“I’ll write and be interviewed by the Observer but no, not this rag,” he said, looking to his friends for agreement.

I confronted him about this. I had downed a bit of alcoholic pop myself and my professional restraint had been swallowed with the last mini quiche. What is it with mini food as canapés?

“As someone who often claims to represent working class youth,” I slurred. “It seems bizarre that you wouldn’t want to be associated with a newspaper predominantly read by the working class.”

“I hate the paper and all it stands for,” he said.

“I genuinely enjoy writing for working class people. I get letters from people who have enjoyed what I’ve written. Do you not want them to read about you?”

“People who read this rag do not watch my shows!”

With that he got up and off he stormed. He saw no irony in sitting in a marquee with the staff who wrote every word in the paper. Sadly, I think many celebrities spouting off now about riots – whatever their cause – are not dissimilar.

Ultimately this was a celebrity not wanting to speak to or for the working class: despite their work being enjoyed and purchased by working class teenagers their words are read not by their fans, not by the parents of their fans, but by us seeking some insight into a national event.

Seeking insight from celebrities after riots in our major cities: What does that say about us as consumers of news?

I am consuming news about unemployment as obsessively as someone collecting Royal memorabilia or anything Chuckle Brothers-related.

My latest interest is research in Ireland into joblessness and its effects. Dr Liam Delaney, lead author of the paper, said: ““The sense of injustice was what leapt off the page for me. Researchers were coming in and saying people didn’t want to talk about their emotions, they were focused on political decisions.”

He added that the unemployed today are in a different situation from the long-term unemployed of the 1980s – because they are “coming from a background of sustained work”.

With one in five young Britons jobless (according to the Daily Mail) the situation is too serious for us to be easily distracted by job-hungry celebrities returning to Big Brother, surely? It is far too important for us to seriously consider Matt Damon’s position on President Obama’s economic decisions. Will tabloid readers only take the information in if Katie Price says a double-dip recession is a genuine risk?

As I consider donning my sandwich board stating “unemployed hack with cat to feed needs work” I hope we’re moving further away from celebrities popping into Number 10 and towards getting trained reporters to comment on the state of the economy – and, on doing so, perhaps even creating jobs for us.

What I have to do: Meet two employers who might be able to find me employment to fill in a space in my Looking for Work booklet

What else I intend to do: Go for a meal and drinks paid for by a former employer who, with the best intentions, simply can’t find me employment to fill in a space in my Looking for Work booklet

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