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Clarke, Bingle and the prurience of celebrity media coverage

Michael Mullins |  15 March 2010

Lara BingleHumans cannot resist celebrity culture. Many of us long to know all we can about the lives of the rich and famous.

For the past week we've been transfixed by the disintegrating relationship between a promising cricket vice captain and a famous model. By contrast, we didn't care much about what the Indonesian president had to say, despite the significance of his visit to Australia's most important bilateral relationship, and the fact that the Indonesian economy could eclipse ours within a decade.

On Friday, Sydney's Daily Telegraph disingenuously reported on its front page that 'the very public relationship troubles [between Lara Bingle and Michael Clarke] continued unabated in the Eastern Suburbs. There were car chases, media packs and even a bidding war.'

We ourselves are hypocritical when we point the finger at the media for such outrageous behaviour while continuing to consume the products of such behaviour. Indeed it's our appetite for such prurient content that puts them up to it.

An obvious response to the unsavoury and often humiliating nature of celebrity media coverage would be to establish that it is detrimental to our society and to push for legislation to control it.

But celebrity culture is not all bad. There are many examples of celebrity being used to improve the lives of the disadvantaged.

Former cricketer Glen McGrath co-founded the McGrath Foundation to raise money for breast care nurses in rural and regional Australia. The Shane Warne Foundation helps seriously ill and underprivileged children. Warne's celebrity is also being exploited to help heal the rift between Australians and Indians following the allegedly racist violence against Indian students in Australia.

It is an unpalatable truth that media reporting of Warne's infamous text messages undoubtedly contributed to the celebrity status that is now being used to improve the lives of others. However it is also true that the good that celebrities do receives scant media attention compared with exhaustive reporting of the details of their relationships and their wealth.

Media coverage of the Shane Warne Foundation serves to magnify the good that it is doing. Moreover the ABC TV program Australian Story has shown that covering the altruistic activities of celebrities can attract significant ratings. But sadly few other media organisations appear to have the will to follow its lead.

Michael MullinsMichael Mullins is editor of Eureka Street.



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Submitted comments

Michael, this particular human can resist celebrity culture. I believe we diminish ourselves if we recognise the very concept of celebrity. The media's behaviour throughout this episode has been hypocritical: it pretended to decry the pornographic photo alleged to have been taken taken by Bingle's partner, but lost not a single opportunity to republish it.

Peter Downie 15 March 2010

Let us simply pity the young woman concerned and pray that she can recover from the consequences of beauty and misplaced trust.

Moira 15 March 2010

Why do you comment on this media beatup then?

Let them alone. They both have enough to cope with.We all have thought the same as you have.

Why does media do this? It sells , I know. At least they do not have children who suffer through this type of thing.

Bev Smith 15 March 2010

why do you waste your time talking about these two non-entities. There are far more important things to discuss than these two.

Terry Steve 15 March 2010

Sorry I can't agree that people want to know all the ins and outs of celebrity's relationships. I couldn't have cared less. In fact I didn't even know who Lara Bingle was! (excuse my ignorance). I won't even buy our local rag because of most of the awful misleading headlines.

However in saying al this I think it's sad for Lara Bingle and the journos are irresponsible. She obviously can't handle all this pressure and sadly got herself into this situation through her naivity. Poor love.

KP 15 March 2010

I carefully read the first story because I didn't want to pursue some more Clarke and Bingle stuff. But the summary suggested more. I welcomed Michael's point that celebrity "status" can be used for good and that the media doesn't seem to be so interested - because the public - that's us, doesn't appear to be so interested.

Ann Long 15 March 2010

Michael I agree with all you write. I have NOT been consumed with the story and never will. I am surprise that quality journalists like yourself do not take the regular print media to task for their seemingly unethical and voyeuristic behaviour.

Rosemary Keenan 15 March 2010

I have been appalled at the media frenzy over this matter, but not surprised. Interestingly, the ABC can't be running much about it because all I have been hearing is what The Australian has been reporting, and generally I have the freedom not to read it.

All I can say about the people involved is that this says so much more about the character of Brendon Fevola than the people who want to hear the stories, and that Lara and Michael should be left alone to sort out their personal business - because sure as God it's none of our business.

John Clapton 15 March 2010

I'd have thought that the bungled Bingle affair, a fodder for the great unwashed, would not have surfaced in Eureka Street. While ES isn't exactly the New Yorker or (even) Vanity Fair, it is by far one of the most intelligent if not THE MOST intelligent magazine on the Oz market. What with Rupert dominating the airwaves and any other waves that we all have to put up with, at least ES is balanced to the point of correctness to the extreme. Alas, with the Bingle bungle, it has lost some of my respect. Like it or not, we're all victims to the kind of pursuit that we often condemn others for following. Please ES, no more popularism, your readership is far more intelligent than the readers of Rupert's stable of media outlets.

Alex Njoo 15 March 2010

I make the point with my purchasing power - I don't buy any of the print media that indulge in prurient reporting, celebrity culture or scandal mongering. My online and television consumption is similarly moderated. As consumers we can wield considerable power - IF we so choose.

Maureen Howland 15 March 2010

I'm not at all interested in the celebrity culture, but I am concerned about the way in which young women so often still seem to be treated as "sex objects" and "possessions" of more powerful men, and exploited like Lara appears to have been and her privacy invaded. It is bad enough for her seemingly unscrupulous boyfriend to circulate her nude photos to his mates, but the media should be ashamed for reprinting them and adding to her trauma.

Sandra Houghton 15 March 2010

A balanced article about celebrity. Most of the prurience of celebrity media coverage is done by the mainstream media and most of the content of this media is garbage and trivial nonsense. The mainstream media includes commercial TV and Radio, tabloid newspapers such as the Melbourne Herald Sun and the Sydney Daily Telegraph and ABC Radio 774. Most of the audience for these media outlets are intellectual morons and cultural philistines. People would be better informed by listening to ABC Radio National or Melbourne Community Radio 3CR or reading quality journals such as Eureka Street, Arena, Overland, Meanjin or the New York Review of Books.

Mark Doyle 16 March 2010

Michael, I feel for you about what has happened recently, as I would for anyone else. My judgment of you is a normal individual who hurts in situations you have just experienced, but so talented and mentally strong that you will rise above this and soon captain Australia. I do like Ricky though, but he's older than you.

Take care mate. Make lots of runs in the tests. I know you will cope with the shit the Kiwi fans will throw at you.

Make sure you get your ring back from Lara.

professor greg jackson 16 March 2010

Michael, I am involved with a Cricket E publication, Seriously Cricket Chronicles, where the writers give 30% of subscriptions to the LBW Trust (Learning for a Better World). This was the initiative of Peter Roebuck and the writers in SCC include Mike Coward and Gideon Haigh. So here is a case of journalists putting back into society. Cricketers like Steve Waugh, Rahul Dravid and McGrath are recognised for their charity work and there are many others who give willingly of their time like Greg Chappell. They choose to do their work unsung and without expectation.

vinay verma 17 March 2010

"famous!' give me a break. Like many other readers, why are you going here?

russell 18 March 2010

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