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Star news is hard to ignore

September 23, 2007|By BILL KOHLER

O.J., what were you thinking?

Paris, can't you afford to pay someone to drive the car after a night of clubbing?

Lindsay, didn't six weeks of rehab teach you anything?

Michael, didn't you realize that killing dogs was wrong? And that the word was going to get out?

Every week day, the editors of the paper meet to discuss the top stories of the day. We assess their value and where they should appear.

With more and more frequency, we are discussing the merits of celebrities in the news.

They are the stories that in the past we would leave for the tabloids or the entertainment pages in one of the back sections of the paper.

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"That's not news," a hard-boiled editor would say between smokes, grunts and obscenities.

However, that all changed when O.J. began his search for the real killer 12 years ago.

America's fascination with celebrity news is nothing new. Movie stars from the years of the studio days constantly dodged the press (see Frank and Ava, Marilyn and Joe D.) and sometimes had to fight and bribe their way out of the scandal sheets.

What has changed since the O.J. trial is our desire to hear more about the rich and famous - even the most mind numbing of details will find a reader or listener - and the avenues by which to get that information.

As members of the media constantly looking to find the most interesting stories and pictures for our readers, we would be naive and remiss to ignore the fact that entertainment news is important to a lot of people.

My wife loves it. My mother loves it.

The millions of people who tune into shows like Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood love it.

So back to O.J., Paris and the gang.

Why do we care so much?

For some reason, we like the bigger-they-are, harder-they-fall storyline. Some have fallen harder than others, and some are just young adults making very stupid decisions.

Most of us have been there, done that.

We also like to know when our heroes are heroic as well as human.

And then there's O.J.

He trumps all the rest. The media feeding frenzy that swarmed Las Vegas this week for O.J.'s arraignment rivaled that of the Super Bowl.

Larry King devoted an entire show to O.J.'s charges.

There is little room for waffling on O.J. You either love him or hate him and you're not afraid to say it. Check the Internet if you don't believe me.

We still care so much because O.J. made us angry. The court system made us angry.

And now, this person is charged with (and apparently caught on video) 10 felonies.

That makes us even angrier.

That combination of celebrity and emotion makes for a story that's hard to ignore.

Bill Kohler is Tri-State Editor of The Herald-Mail.

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