I recently read an article by Jim Schembri –from the entertainment section of theage.com.au— which is cleverly entitled “Even with De Niro on Menu, PR is hard to stomach.”  I feel as if this article hits the nail right on the head. Several times, actually.  It addresses the all-too-familiar phenomenon that is the public’s overzealous reaction to celebrities; only it does so with a very appropriate twist.  In the article, Schembri doesn’t differentiate the media from the general public by putting each of them into distinct subcultures of sorts. Instead, he actually owns up to the fact that, contrary to popular belief, journalists aren’t completely immune to the star-struck bug after all. Because of this, he suggests that journalistic duties are often compromised in the presence of Hollywood greatness.

As it turns out, prior to the start of a press conference for the opening of one of Robert De Niro’s restaurants, everyone in the room was instructed not to ask him any questions about movies. Schembri said it best: “This was like saying “ladies and gentleman, we’re about to bring out Jesus Christ. But please, no questions about religion or His dad.”  To Schembri’s surprise, every journalist in the room blindly obeyed these story-limiting instructions.  Did this happen out of fear? Was it out of respect?  Or was it simply a result of those in the room being completely star-struck?

Reporters asked Mr. De Niro all sorts of obscure questions about food as if he had unique taste bud receptors that could keenly detect the best flavors imaginable, when in reality, apart from being an A-list movie star, Robert De Niro is no different than you or me.  On top of this, as far as science goes, there is no proof that his taste-testing abilities surpass those of the average man.  So, why would people really care to hear his thoughts on the quality of his restaurant’s food?  Hmmm… I think even my six-year-old cousin would have a decent response to this rhetorical question.

People care about what celebrities have to say because they admire their work. With this in mind, wouldn’t it make sense to try to somehow weave news about De Niro’s upcoming career moves into an article about his restaurant?  I certainly think so. When journalists fail to address all of the appropriate questions then, in a sense, they lose credibility and compromise an otherwise great story.  Celebrity hype and the –often times– hollow spin that goes along with it, if reacted to improperly, does nothing more than taints media coverage.  It’s crucial for people in the PR industry to ask all of the right questions; it certainly doesn’t hurt to think outside the box and push the envelope from time to time… Even in the presence of greatness. 

When all is said and done, celebrity spin is deceivingly insubstantial when it stands alone. Believe it or not, it takes a lot more than an inflated headliner name such as De Niro to piece together an article worth reading.  Some names in Hollywood do indeed speak for themselves; but those names certainly can’t write decent articles or promote events all by themselves. — Zach Crantz