Who Demands Garbage?

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North African fast-food café in the Latin Quarter.

Everyone Blamed for Scandal Except Publishers of It

by Ric Erickson

Issue 2.36:- Metropole Paris - Monday, 8. September 1997:- During the past week France's scandal-press was invited to explain itself on TV. Editors of photo-agencies and the editors of the 'rainbow' press were heard to say they do what they do because 'readers demand it.'

Last week I accepted that this is a 'chicken and egg' question and answer routine; you can't say which comes first. Since then, with a little additional thought I have decided everybody has a right to know the correct answer.

Readers do not write to newspaper and magazine editors to demand 'scandal' stories. The French editors repeated that their three million weekly sales proved otherwise, but this is dubious logic.

It is the publications' editors who decide what they are to publish; and the photo-agencies merely provide some of the illustrated material. Some 'enterprising' photographers propose photos or photo-features on their own, but mainly, the commands come from the editors.

If the editors did not provide these stories, there would be no demand for them from readers.

If this was the case, the editors would be out of jobs and the publications would not exist - and the, somewhat fewer, photographers would probably be getting the recognition they deserve for the risks they run by covering other world events, suchflame statue at Alma as famines, plagues, mayhem and wars. These other photographers in fact exist, but their photos are not highly rewarded.

France's 'scandal-press' publication of three million weekly needs to be put into perspective too. The population of France is roughly the same as Great Britain's, but France's production of this type of press amounts to nearly nothing in comparison.

Above the tunnel at the place de l'Alma in Paris.

Before coming to France, I worked for a paper which went in for this type of story - in a somewhat more minor way - and it had daily sales of 5.5 million and 2.5 million on Sundays. For a time it was number one in Europe, but has since toned-down and dropped in circulation. The British 'tabloid' press easily equals the above numbers today. Both as individual titles and collectively, it surpasses them by many millions.

In modern times one of the first papers of this type, was the USA's 'Confidential.' It was on newspaper stands everywhere and everybody talked about it. The paper itself was the scandal, but you could find few to admit reading it in person.

There is no doubt people do read the 'rainbow' press. In Spain recently, I bought '¡Hola!' as I usually do. However, King Juan Carlos was on Mallorca as usual and the Eurotrash were in Marbella as usual, just as in past summers. For reasons I know not, I didn't bother to buy the following weekly issues.

Even though it is perfectly clear that nobody has to read the 'scandal-press,' blaming readers for its existence is a really cheap shot by those who produce nothing of value in this world other than invasion of privacy - and make a lot of money doing it.

In France, with the strict privacy laws, some personalities who do not see invasion of their privacy as a form of self-promotion, have successfully sued and won judgements for large sums. Some editors consider this merely a cost of doing business - but if the judgement has been high enough to hurt, the targeted persons have been largely left alone afterwards.

There seems to have been no takers for the 'stolen' photos of Princess Diana, shot at the scene of the car wreck. The reported price of one to two million was probably not too high, but this time the moral price was.

Everybody has ordered a lot of extra paper for the funeral coverage press-run though.

Starting this week right here: the new Paris season.

If you have ever been in Paris and visited the official Paris Tourist Office on the Champs-Elysées, you poster: Guide to the Rentree will know that a monthly program called 'Paris Selection' is available without charge. I use this magazine for occasionally putting in a few coming events at the end of this column, and I use it for passing on the PTO fax number to readers who want to make reservations for various events in advance.

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