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'Hollywood Nation' Newsrooms
August 16, 2005

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

Artist and filmmaker Andy Warhol predicted that every person would be world famous for fifteen minutes.

As I reflect on Warhol's words I can't help but think about our present news cycle. It seems that things are playing out in a way that even he may not have anticipated.

In my latest book, "Hollywood Nation" (September 2005 release date), I demonstrate how Hollywood is influencing the news and vice versa.
The way I see things, story selection in the news biz is simply a harbinger of the docudrama to come.

It makes sense in this "Hollywood Nation" of ours. After all, you wouldn't expect a made-for-TV producer to be excited about the latest energy bill, Social Security reform or the renovation of Fort Marcy Park. But when a young, beautiful, college-bound blonde disappears while vacationing on the island paradise of Aruba, why, that's got miniseries written all over it.

Each evening on the cable news channels we've been witnessing a reality show of sorts. From Greta Van Susteren on Fox News to Nancy Grace on CNN's "Headline News," the programs have been scoring big in the ratings with the Natalee Holloway story. Other shows and networks have taken note and altered their programming accordingly.

Just as in Hollywood, casting of a starring role is critical to an ultimate production. Consequently, in the news and entertainment hybrid programming that's going on, the news story selection seems to be favoring the telegenic victim.

Runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks, who faked her own abduction, has also been a media fixation favorite. No doubt you saw the same clip of Wilbanks as I did.

As part of her community service, and our supposed info-tainment proclivities, the media enabled us to relish the grass-mowing moment with Ms. Wilbanks outside a probation office. The words on her embroidered cap, which, incidentally, stylishly accented her orange vest, said it all: "Life is good."

Not that long ago, images were etched into our memories via news coverage and a made-for-TV movie of another beautiful young woman, whose life and that of her soon-to-emerge baby boy were cut short. Laci Peterson's husband, Scott, was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Laci and her unborn son.

Now Scott's former mistress and witness for the prosecution Amber Frey is launching a new career as a motivational speaker. Perhaps Frey will get the chance to do an infomercial or hit the road with Anthony Robbins.

No one would deny that news exposure can be extremely helpful to families who are searching for missing loved ones. But something strange seems to be going on.

Somehow the news media casting directors appear to be limiting their focus to victims who are young, attractive and white.

For instance, we haven't heard much about the disappearances of two 24-year-old women of color: Tamika Huston and Latoya Figueroa, who is pregnant. Both women have been missing for a while and their families desperately need the same assistance and comfort that has been shown to the families of other victims.

Most would agree that their stories are newsworthy. But evidently, in "Hollywood Nation" newsrooms, not everyone agrees that they have the prerequisite star quality.

Reproduced with the permission of . All rights reserved

Copyright © 2005
James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

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