Last night Twitter was all a flutter when it was announced Beyoncé Knowles would be honored by the New York City chapter of NABJ for her July 2011 Essence magazine story “Eat, Play, Love.” In the article Knowles wrote, “I was going to give myself a year to do the things I never get to do. Simple things like play with my nephew, pick him up from school, visit museums, go to concerts, see some Broadway shows…”
From the moment it was published, many questioned whether Knowles “wrote” the article herself. Magazines are known to have celebrities be editors-for-the-day and sometimes pen essays, so most took it with a grain of salt. I mean, do you really believe Lauren Conrad and Whitney Port were lowly interns at Teen Vogue? Or that Kylie and Kendall Kardashian will be docked pay if they do not show up for their jobs at Seventeen Magazine?
But now that news of her getting an award from a respected journalism group leaves many questioning whether this is just another ploy from traditional media to stay relevant in the world of WordPress, Tumblr, Facebook notes and Twitter.
As a traditionally trained copy-editor, English literature master’s candidate and a member of NABJ, I sometimes wonder what message the profession is sending to celebrities and the public when they are “hired” to write.
These types of awards overlook the real journalists who write about insightful and sometimes dangerous topics. Beyoncé is getting an award along with Robert Naylor, a thirty-year reporter who chaired the Associated Press Diversity Council and founding member of the LGBT Task Force and the late Gil Noble, who hosted Like It Is since 1967 and interviewed Adam Clayton Powell, Muhammad Ali, Bill Cosby and Dr. Martin Luther King. Beyoncé wrote an article about a 9-month vacation.
Fans of the “Real Housewives” franchise on Bravo see how easily NeNe, Gretchen and Alexis have gotten news reporting gigs, despite their inability or any background in journalism or public speaking.
If traditional media blasts bloggers for cheapening journalism, then why this constant pandering to people who split verbs on national television weekly? People write the way they speak. That is a fact. Good writing stems from good reading and speaking, a talent celebrities are not known for. It is one thing to execute already written scripts and lyrics, but it an entirely different thing to create.
I will admit I got swept up in the James Franco trend and bought his book of short stories in hardback. They were terrible. And if he were not James Franco, he definitely would not have been published. Nor would there have been as much publicity surrounding him.
But what makes him different from Beyoncé is that it is written in his voice and after earning a BA in creative writing from UCLA, a MFA from Columbia and as a PhD candidate in English from Yale, I know he has at least put in the time and effort to learn his craft.
And that is all we are asking from our celebrities. Stop acting as though you actually did everything on your own. I guess Kim, Khole, and Kourtney Kardashian deserve Pulitzers for Kardashian Konfidential and Doll House?
In that case, Sheree Whitfield should win a Council of Fashion Designers of America award for She by Sheree. I mean, she had a fashion show, so that makes her a designer, right?