Thursday, June 21, 2007

The worst celebrity profile ever written?--and some reflections on research ethics

By Ron Rosenbaum - Slate Magazine:
...The contract demanded that "the interview may only be used to promote the Picture. ... The interview will not be used in a manner that is disparaging, demeaning or derogatory to Ms. Jolie."...

But the joke of it all—the Angelina Jolie contract and the revolt against the contract—was that anyone was foolish enough to think a written contract was really necessary. When was the last time you read a celebrity profile that was 'disparaging, demeaning or derogatory'?

The rules of the game, as established by the glossy magazines and the stars' PR reps, ensure that 'access' (well, a half-hour chat in a restaurant that enables the magazine to proclaim it has an 'exclusive' interview) and the all-important exclusive cover shot are granted only to those magazines and journalists who will refrain from anything but fawning prose. It works out well for everybody. Celebrity journalists who play along get a good payday, magazines get newsstand sales bumps, and the rest of us are inculcated into the received myths of Celebland, the legends that sustain the illusion that it is somehow truly important."

One might have thought this was about contracts between research scientists and Big Pharma regarding publication of research results unfavorable to the research sponsor. University ethics committees (I served on several such) insist that contracts cannot give sponsors the right to veto publication of deleterious results, but (insert qualifier of choice here) researchers are all too aware of how their bread (and likelihood of receiving future contracts) is buttered. Efforts to establish research registers are a recent effort to address this reality.

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