Columbia News Video Forum

First Amendment Panel Questions Whether Gossip is News

Are gossip columns verifiable and legitimate news? Gossip is a form of entertainment and often the source where hard news originates, says a panelist at a First Amendment Breakfast sponsored by the Graduate School of Journalism.

Floyd Abrams
 
Floyd Abrams

Schwarzenegger's Election Scandal Shows How Gossip Becomes Hard News, Says Floyd Abrams
With the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger to the governorship of California, the former actor's groping scandal is an example of what once had been gossip is now hard news, said Floyd Abrams, the William J. Brennan Jr. Visiting Professor of First Amendment Issues, and moderator of the discussion.

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Neal Gabler
George Rush
Caroline Miller

 

Neal Gabler

George Rush

Caroline Miller

Gossip Is so Powerful Some Might Say It Has Overtaken Legitimate News in America, Says Panelist Neal Gabler
Gossip is both a form of entertainment and a form of empowerment, and when the two are combined "you come up with something that is extremely powerful -- so powerful, in fact, that one might say it's overtaken legitimate news in America," said Neal Gabler, author of a biography of New York gossip pioneer Walter Winchell. He added that one reason people find gossip exciting is because it is "always provisional." Daily News gossip columnist George Rush joked that, "we have this certain phrase that some stories are just too good to check, that it would only spoil it by over reporting." He said the first rule of gossip is to be entertaining, and gossip is where hard news often originates. He quoted former President John F. Kennedy that "all history is gossip." Rush added that gossip is "often true despite the initial reaction you get when you call spokesmen, who tell you 'that's gossip' or 'that's not a story.' That's when you know you have a story, of course," he said. New York Magazine's editor, Caroline Miller, defends gossip columnists as "heroic." She said they are up against a huge industry that seeks to control and spin the news, and in that sense, they are "fighting something of a small battle for freedom of the press." She said the standards for fact checking gossip at her publication are the same as for every other story. The difference is that gossip items are fragmented, she said. "They're small bits that could be, and in many cases have, at some point, been developed into stories."

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Production Number: 253
Shot: Oct 14, 2003
Published: Oct 24, 2003
Last modified:Oct 23, 2003