Dismiss it all you like, but audiences have shown a deep desire for news about the entertainment world and celebrity gossip. Samita Nandy, a broadcast journalist with a PhD on fame from Australia's Curtin University, is the founding director of the new Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies. The centre is the first of its kind in Canada and is housed in Mississauga.
J-Source: How will this centre be a resource for journalists?
Samita Nandy: The Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies (CMCS) is a significant resource for contemporary journalists. Celebrities are often constructed by tabloid journalism. In this respect, gossips, rumors and scandals about celebrities have played a role in integrating society on moral and ethical grounds. Yet, consumption of celebrities and their talent often occurs in unethical ways. I believe journalists, like many celebrities, are highly talented in being a voice for the public. CMCS will offer scholarly resources, critical insights, strategic guidance and deep inspiration for journalists to create cutting-edge content that carries ethical and educational values. The study of celebrities has developed and cohered into one of the major growth industries in social sciences and humanities as well as in the media and creative industry. The increasing number of scholarly books, journal articles and conferences on celebrity culture attests to the growing trend in critical studies of fame in higher education. Since the Routledge-sponsored journal Celebrity Studies in the U.K. and inaugural Celebrity Studies Journal Conference at Deakin University in Australia in December 2012, there has been increasing attendance and collaborative research at conferences on celebrity studies.
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J-Source: What does the media industry need to understand about fame and tabloid journalism?
SN: The media industry needs to understand that there are effective ways to represent authenticity of celebrities. Often, commodification of body and emotions in fame turns celebrities into standardized and simplistic objects of trade in an “affective economy.” In such commodified practices, tabloid journalism mediates and removes the authenticity that they seek to restore. The media industry needs to be assured that celebrating journeys of diverse talent is a stronger and more enduring cultural asset than simply sensationalizing physical and emotional expressions in temporary fame.
Currently I am writing a chapter for Mira Moshe’s The Emotions Industry that journalists and all media consumers should consider. It sheds light on authentic ways in which celebrities and our sense of identification with them can be reconsidered.
J-Source: What are some of the future projects you have planned for the centre?
SN: The launch of the Centre of Media and Celebrity Studies takes place at The Inner Garden on 401 Richmond in Toronto on August 29. We are also working on a feminist performance art called The Sacred Eco-Feminist Move and forthcoming events, lectures, performances, seminars, workshops and exhibitions will officially begin in 2014.
This interview has condensed and edited.