The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Monday, August 09, 2004

CELEBRITY BYLINES AND STAR POWER
If you're a struggling scribe trying to break into the exciting world of journalism, give up on submitting clips. To prove you have the proper writing chops, you have to first make it big in the movies, music or any other glittery entertainment field.

That's how it works of late, with stars like Ben Affleck, Julia Stiles and Alicia Keys leading a new trend in celebrity magazine and newspaper work. Ah-nold Schwarzenegger's part-time stint at editing a couple of fitness magazines also represents this mini-phenomenon.

What's the reason for this transference of star power to print?
... Star-written stories draw readers as well as advertisers, particularly in the overcrowded magazine field, says Richard Botto, editor in chief of Razor magazine. Editors there are working with Willie Nelson for an upcoming piece on Ray Charles.
That's basically the heart of it. For every writer that achieves household-name status, there's probably a hundred actors and musicians that are already in that position. The buzz factor a publication gets from having some Hollywood prettyboy or glamour girl pen a piece is like pure gold. The unique access that some of these celebs have with their peers is a strong secondary lure.

That said, let's not kid ourselves: Celebrities aren't going to take over all reporting. Using them as authors and editors is a pure publicity stunt. Overuse will kill the novelty and the cool factor, so doing it annually or so keeps it effective. The well-known names are what are doing the work, not the actual editorial content produced. I daresay that a mag like GQ could run Matt Damon's monthly grocery list under the star's byline, and it would sell.

In many ways, this reminds me of Wil Wheaton's announced book deal last year, and the false claim that his blogging got him the contract. As I said back then, his name and his Star Trek pedigree are what got him a book contract. Those same things will probably get him one of these bylines, too...