Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The mechanics of the thing

(This post will not, I repeat, not, garner 24 comments.)

After college, I spent a couple days as an unofficial intern for a PR firm in Manhattan, the inevitable result of combing Craigslist and similar for all writing-related entry-level work. The job (or internship; they were iffy about which it was and when payment would occur, thus why I stayed for a mere two days) entailed inserting information about the firm's would-be socialite clients into articles in the NYC press, getting the clients into photos in socialite magazines, and other such world-saving tasks.

The job--meant to be if nothing else a way to make some money before grad school--sounded at once terrible and kind of fascinating. In those two pseudo-workdays, the great mystery of why certain people who've done nothing and look average but have neither budgets nor shame are profiled and photographed. It's not that wealth lets you go to a certain type of well-documented party, or that people automatically write about you if you're a small dress size and went to an Upper East Side private school (hey, if that were the case...), but that you have to literally pay a firm to get people to write about you. This came as a surprise; jaded commenters who frequent speakeasies, feel free to point out what a fool I was not to have realized this sooner.

There's a part of me that wishes Gawker found my bloggings worth blogging about. It's a part that's greatly overshadowed by the parts that want to fully understand French Jewish history; to wear really great shoes; and to eat copious amounts of cheese, but it's a part that exists, I think, in all of us. So it's some comfort that those who are in the spotlight have, in a pretty direct way, in at least some cases, paid to be there.

6 comments:

JMR said...

Many news stories promoting companies or industries are planted by PR firms - it's not much of a leap to extend the technique to wannabe socialites.

Paul Gowder said...

But... but... but... what do the people who are paid to get one written about actually do to get one written about? And why can't one just do that thing oneself?

Phoebe said...

I think the people who are paid either write columns themselves (i.e. for socialite mags) or are very closely connected with society journalists. Is Gawker 'society journalism'? I would say yes--who else cares that Arden Wohl wears a headband, what she inhales, etc.

My sense was that there are some people who are simply photographed because they're beautiful, rich, and important, and that the remaining people in these same photos, the ones who are not famous except for appearing in these pictures, are the ones who paid their way in.

Petey said...

"This post will not, I repeat, not, garner 24 comments."

Given that you're essentially calling Walt and Mearsheimer moose-hunting abortionists who snort coke at bottle clubs with Nick Denton in this post, I don't how you can avoid it.

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"There's a part of me that wishes Gawker found my bloggings worth blogging about. It's a part that's greatly overshadowed by the parts that want to fully understand French Jewish history; to wear really great shoes; and to eat copious amounts of cheese, but it's a part that exists, I think, in all of us. So it's some comfort that those who are in the spotlight have, in a pretty direct way, in at least some cases, paid to be there."

Many do pay to get into the party. We are living at the tail end of a Gilded Age. But many get into the party through other means. I think the basic answer for you is being the Ana Marie Cox of French Jewish history.

Phoebe said...

"Many do pay to get into the party."

That's not the surprise. It's that they pay to be written about for having shown up.

kei said...

Personally, I think WWPD >>> Gawker. Gawker's self-important and snooty attitude often annoys me to the point of anger. All bloggers are self-important in a way, but some forms are unacceptable while others are earnest, interesting and/or endearing.