Nicholas Lemann: What does our interest in gossip say about us?

Nicholas Lemann: First of all a lot of these things it was effervesce. If you go to the . . . I don’t know who took the picture, but you know if you go to the Library of Congress web site, Thomas, which is very good, or LOC.gov, and there’s a site within that called American Memory that has these huge photo archives. And there’s all these wonderful pictures in there from the 1930s, the Depression era, of newsstands. And if you look at these pictures, you will see it’s 90 percent, or maybe 98 percent celebrity gossip and sensational crime. That’s kind of what people are interested in. There was never a time when there was a mass audience for journalism whose primary interest was sort of sober-sided public affairs reporting. So I just think it’s human nature, and you could say it’s the sort of democratic and classless nature of American society. Except if you go to class-ridden UK, the same very intense interest exists there.

 

Recorded on: 11/30/07

 

 

 

This is nothing new, Lemann says.

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