Shakira gets star on Walk of Fame, AP reports it cost $30K
Earlier this year, I wrote a rather contentious commentary in which I spilled the beans on how celebrities today get stars on the famous Walk of Fame in Hollywood. And I asked the national media to start reporting the back story to the Walk of Fame “awards,” since they are not really awards at all, but paid public relations events. And that’s cool. Paid public relations events have always been a part of Hollywood culture, and the Walk of Fame fits well into that picture, too.
“For more than 50 years, the Hollywood Walk of Fame has been handing out stars to stars, from Joanne Woodward in 1960 — she was the first to land one — to Charlie Chaplin and Dennis Hopper and Bill Maher and Penelope Cruz,” I reported in June. “It’s a time-honored tradition, makes for great photo opps, fits nicely into marketing and PR campaigns, and it’s fun. Everyone in Hollywood knows the back story to the Walk of Fame, how the events are part of the Hollywood tourism industry and are paid for by the studios themselves to the tune of $30,000 per star now. The money covers sidewalk maintenance, the award event itself, media outreach and other things.”
“But while the film industry and the news media know that the stars on the Walk of Fame are part of a savvy PR enterprise, and not actual awards or honors themselves, news outlets from AP to Reuters to CNN and AFP continue to play along with the award events and cover the day’s speeches as if it’s a big honor,” I added. “And the news photos that go out on the wire the next day, reprinted in thousands of newspapers and blogs and websites, make it appear as if Star X actually won a new award. Isn’t it time to stop this hypocrisy on the part of the news media? Isn’t it time for AP and Reuters and CNN to report the real back story behind the awarding of the stars each time the wire photos go worldwide, just as a truth-in-reporting service to readers and fans? It sometimes seems as if the media keeps running photos of celebrities no matter what they do, even if what they do is not so newsworthy at all. When does this news charade stop, and when
does better reporting begin?”
I asked the Associated Press wire service in New York and Los Angeles if its reporters could start covering the Walk of Fame ceremonies and star awards more accurately, by at least inform readers that the sidewalk stars cost $30,000 and are paid for by the stars themselves or their studios. An AP editor heard me out and wrote back in July, noting: “You’ve made an interesting point about how the media reports the Walk of Fame ceremonies. If your facts are correct, you’re exactly right that we should add that context [that the star ceremony is a paid publicity event]. I’ll pass along to our entertainment editor.”
And today, as I was reading my daily print newspaper about Shakira recently getting her star on the Walk of Fame, the very last paragraph of a very thorough news story by AP reporter Edwin Tamara said: “A committee selects celebrities eligible for a Walk of Fame star and those who accept pay US$30,000 in costs and fees.”
I did not write that. The Associated Press is now reporting Walk of Fame stories with this note appended to all articles. Thank you, AP editors in New York and Los Angeles for listening to my lobbying efforts on this issue, and I was very glad to see you are now reporting the truth about the Walk of Fame events. It does not diminish the public relations value of the unveiling event, nor does it diminish the celebrity’s reputation or image. It’s a win-win situation for everyone: the studios, the stars, the Walk of Fame committee, and most importantly, readers not only in North America but around the world as well.
“Isn’t it time for the news media and all media outlets, print and online, to at least print one brief sentence that characterizes the Walk of Fame events as PR and not as actual honors?” I asked in June. And now, a few months later, the wire services have improved the way they report all Walk of Fame events.
But you should have seen the comments in June that took issue with my lobbying efforts. Here are some of the comments readers lobbed my way:
“Your argument is specious,” said one commenter at the Wrap. “It is founded on the false assumption that an award cannot be both a real honor and a promotional event. The fact is that most awards are promotional in nature. The Miss America pageant began as a way of publicizing the Jersey boardwalk. The hand-prints in cement at Grauman’s began as a way for Sid Grauman to promote his new theatre. The Emmys began as an attempt by the new television industry to promote its product. And how much money do the studios spend on those full-page ads touting the fact that their productions won an Oscar? The stars on the Walk of Fame are genuine honors. No, they are not on a par with an Oscar, and yes, one doesn’t have to be a huge star to get a star on the Walk. But it’s also not as if any Tom, Dick or Harry can just walk in off the street and ‘buy’ the award.”
Another commenter said:
“I agree that the media’s glossing over or ignoring the use of Walk of Fame stars as typically promotional is fairly irresponsible. On the other hand, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce deserves greater responsibility for degrading the historic value of the stars on the Walk by allowing them to be, effectively, bought. I lost all hope when Britney Spears got one. I’m not saying she’s completely undeserving, but she got one almost as soon as she met the minimum criteria, which is a shame. I was there last year, and while I didn’t recognize every name, I waxed nostalgic about many of them. Somehow, I doubt my 20-year-old daughter would look at Britney’s star 20 years from now and think to herself, ‘I remember her, and she was awesome’.”
A third commenter noted:
“I think you’re dwelling too much on the point that they have to pay $30,000 for a star. It’s not like anyone can have a star. I don’t think it’s an Earth-shattering scandal that celebrities appear on Leno, Conan, Letterman and Kimmel shows only when it’s time to plug something. Publicity is just embedded into the way Hollywood operates.”
This is minor victory for truth in reporting, and especially for truth in Hollywood reporting. When I told film critic Roger Ebert about my lobbying campaign on this issue, he told me by email to forget about it and focus on more important things, like the way studios “buy” Oscars with full page ads in the trades and other expensive marketing campaigns.
So okay, Roger, I will start focus on more important things, now that the wire services are reporting the cost of the stars on the Walk of Fame, and my next lobbying campaign is going to be directed at the Academy Awards ceremonies. Wish me luck!
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