FAR be it for someone who has spent as long as me in local journalism to judge, but did you know that there are people out there who spend up to eight thousand pounds a year on training to be a reporter and then end up writing online caption stories for the nationals about what celebrities wear when they go out and get a cup of coffee? A pap wires through some pictures from behind a bush and the journalist frames some words about how the target is either overdressed for a simple trip to Costa, or conversely looks too bag-lady scruffy and has let themselves go, a million miles from the glamour of Hollywood’s red carpets. Hey, it gets a whole lot more hits than liveblogs about Camden Council.
I know these celebs have gotta lot of money and needed the press when they were on the way up and so on, but it’s possible to feel an ounce of pity for people like Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter, who were tracked through north London over Christmas after confirming that they had split up. The idea is that the readers then work out for themselves, from the pictures of them shuffling around north London’s leafy streets, just how sad the broken up couple are about being a broken up couple. Every worry line on their faces is a clue to consider.
There they were, ‘playing happy families’, the Mail Online reported on Christmas Day. Boham Carter was ‘pictured collecting groceries’ of all things. Later, we learned that they had ‘dressed for the cold weather’, while Burton ‘wore sunglasses’ and, wait for it, ‘carried a plastic bag’.
And yet, for all this high-mindedness about what journalism should and shouldn’t be, there is a confession which needs to be aired. For the clips have it, that it is my reporting of council affairs that really gets up Burton’s nose. In fact, the Independent once reported, in different times and a different climate, that this crazy plastic bag carrying man had declared “jihad” against the Camden New Journal.
After reporting on series of planning applications about the couple’s Belsize Park home, including a zany one in which the couple proposed to extend their living area by putting a ‘shepherd’s hut on wheels’ in the back garden, the film director complained in an interview with US Esquire magazine that the CNJ was not increasing public awareness about the planning process at the Town Hall, but making him out to be a ‘neighbourhood weirdo’.
“There was an article that Helena and I were trying to get permission to build a fantasyland in our garden, some kind of amazing gypsy caravan,” he explained in the interview. “Our garden is about the size of this sitting area. And the paper showed a picture of an area that looked like what a homeless person would stay in.” Hey, like I said, it gets more hits than liveblogs about Camden Council.