|Oct 15 2009
In Great Britain, controversy is building around an upcoming documentary depicting the loose journalistic ethics of London tabloids. Entitled Starsuckers, the movie is the brainchild of Taking Liberties director Chris Atkins and a group of colleagues, whose goal was to prove, in a comical way, that modern tabloids cannot be trusted to print the truth. To do this, they decided to anonymously call tabloid tip lines with fabricated stories. Their first test involved ringing up the Daily Mirror claiming to have seen singer Avril Lavigne passed out in a nightclub. The story appeared in the Mirror the next day, embellished with a few taunts to the effect that the singer was a “lightweight.”
In the next few weeks the Starsuckers team planted false stories in the Daily Express, the Daily Star, the Sun, and most of the other London tabloids, all using the same method—anonymous tips that were not in any way questioned. The planted stories often spread from one tabloid to the next with no evidence any attempts at corroboration had been made. One fabrication about Amy Winehouse’s hair catching fire spread to all the daily tabloids, a New York Post blog, and even to the Times of India.
Starsuckers promises to show not only that Rupert Murdoch-style sell-first/ask-questions-later journalism has infected the entire tabloid industry, but that it has spread to mainstream media, and in turn made consumers vulnerable to social, economic and political manipulation. The London tabloids have thus far declined comment on the claims made by Starsuckers and Atkins. Later this month the public will have an opportunity to judge the truth of these matters for itself when the movie debuts at the London Film Festival.