MEDIA TREND: Paparazzi publications find plenty of readers

News

Celebrity gossip now a boom industry as more publishers and journalists join in

When the trickle of regular news about celebrities is too sluggish, several gossip magazines decide to take over and generate some news themselves.

Spying on celebrities is nothing if not a growth industry in Thailand, with numerous entertainment reporters trading their pens and notepads for cameras with powerful zoom lenses. Off they go, shadowing stars with frequent clicks of the shutters.

“Paparazzi journalism is quite a new trend in Thailand and it’s a boom industry,” said Siri Luengsa-wat, editor of Gossip Star magazine, the first openly paparazzi-style publication in the Kingdom.

The mainstream entertainment magazines, he explained, like to display celebrities only in their full regalia and “officially sanctioned” poses alongside interviews in which the stars deny all negative rumours about themselves. Yet readers, Siri insisted, prefer to see stars in their natural, undisguised, unstaged manners. Not only that, but paparazzi photographs can help confirm unsubstantiated rumours about stars, he added.

Gossip Star, a weekly launched last year, has been modelled on several foreign paparazzi magazines with the aim of providing a gossip format suitable for Thai people’s more prudent tastes, Siri said.

“In many countries, paparazzi photographers are too aggressive, and magazines often publish scandalous pictures of stars,” he said.

Contrary to that approach, he explained, his editorial choice prefers furtive shots of celebrities in which they appear likeable and attractive. “Only flattering pictures of celebrities and their sweethearts are suitable for me and my readers,” he stressed.

Siri failed with several magazines before he hit it big with what he calls “the greatest success in my life” – the ranking of Gossip Star among Thailand’s top-10 most popular entertainment magazines.

Gossip Star has since blazed the trail for a host of similar publications in Thailand. One such is Star News, whose editor, Pantipa Sakulchai, said paparazzi journalism is a global trend simply because by nature people are curious about celebrities’ secrets. As a result, she is aiming for nothing less than a home-grown take on the wildly popular Hello magazine in the UK, she said.

“Our sales already totals more than 100,000 copies a week, which is great,” Pantipa said.

Although most paparazzi are professional entertainment reporters, Pantipa said, numerous readers try to join their ranks by taking pictures of celebrities they run into and sending their photos to gossip magazines. “They hardly ever ask for a honorarium,” she said. “People just get a kick out of it.”

(Gossip Star offers Bt3,000 to any reader for publishable photographs and Bt7,000 for a cover-worthy shot.)

Yet being a good paparazzi photographer is not child’s play, Pantipa insists. “Inexperience and inadequate equipment make it hard for a non-professional to take good pictures,” she said, adding that it’s hard enough even for seasoned professionals.

She has eight paparazzi working for her, but still gets only six sets of publishable pictures for a weekly issue. Some paparazzi, she adds, stalk their “marks” for almost 24 hours a day throughout a whole month and still wind up with nothing.

A paparazzo working for Star News explained that she follows her marks on assignment from the editor. She starts by setting up camp in front of her target’s house. She then stalks the star everywhere, taking secret photographs at any given opportunity.

“The most prized shots are of the star with his or her sweetheart,” the paparazzo said. “Yet some stars just drive away when they realise I am following them. Some even become livid and come over to confront me. But this is my work, so I have to hang in there.” The editors of both Star News and Gossip Star insist they have never had complaints from celebrities. Pantipa of Star News said that although most celebrities are displeased with being shadowed, no one is dissatisfied with the actual pictures that get published of them in the magazine.

“They generally enjoy it because it’s free publicity for them,” she said, insisting that paparazzi have a right to photograph celebrities in public places.

Perhaps, yet ex-beauty queen Areeya “Pop” Sirisoda, for one, doesn’t like it all that much. “Once a paparazzo disguised himself as a monk and started stalking me,” she said. “I don’t feel safe in my private life any more.”

Recently, an entertainment magazine published secretly-taken pictures of Areeya and comedian Udom “Nose” Taepanich in front of a house. The magazine also printed a rumour that the two had recently married in secret. She denied the allegations.

Yet readers like Chuleeporn Yamnin, 23, are titillated by such juicy gossip. She says she buys gossip magazines with the express purpose of reading salacious revelations about celebrities and seeing them pictured in unexpected situations and poses.

“I want to see beyond their celebrity persona and look at the real character of my favourite stars,” she said. “I guess, though, that if I were a celebrity myself, I wouldn’t want people sticking their noses into my private affairs.”

Published on January 24, 2005

Chatrarat Kaewmorakot

The Nation

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