Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Who can't handle the truth?

Famous for his temperamental nature, affinity for starlets and a fondness for Colombia's leading export, legendary Hollywood producer Robert Evans wrote a spectacular tell-all memoir called 'The Kid Stays In The Picture'. The introduction sets up his warts-n-all approach to autobiography, explaining that "There are three sides to every story. Your version, my version and the truth."

So it's interesting to see that Dan Abrams, a TV host, legal commentator and web entrepreneur is setting up a new website called based on the same fundamental approach. The purpose of the site is to separate fact and fiction on celebrity-related stories, in the hope that it will shut down some of the erroneous non-stories that proliferate over the internet's garden fence.

The idea is that gossip-hungry celeb watchers can use the site as a fact-checker, the next time they see a story they want to know more about. So if you want to know the truth about Britney's role in a Holocaust drama or George Clooney's psychic connection to his dead pot-bellied pig, GossipCop will set you straight. There's even a handy little thermometer to help you assess the where the story sits on the rumour-to-real scale.

Unfortunately, this seemingly noble venture is just another tool enabling celebrities and their PR-mies to manipulate the meaning of the word 'truth'. We live in a world of CelebDaq, where coverage means value. If truth was what really mattered, there'd be no exclusive interviews, stories based on 'insider' leaks, or features that start with " rumoured to be..."

As this story points out, we don't actually care whether a story is true or not. We learn as much about celebrities from the false stories as we do from the official coverage. GossipCop may well prove to be a hit, but only because it aggregates lots of celebrity stories in one place. But for a site that represents itself as authoritative, it's weird that truth is a depicted as a sliding scale. Call me old fashioned but I always though that words like 'fact' and 'truth' were absolutes.

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