The packed auditorium buzzed with anticipatory chatter long before the lecture had begun. Ushers encouraged guests to move toward the front to make sure there would be enough room for everyone wanting to attend Tina Brown's lecture "The Culture of Celebrity in a Tabloid Era," this past Friday, December 5, at the PAC, 110 E. 2 St.
One of the most widely known editors in the Western world, Brown has excelled in the business due in part to her extraordinary ability to reinvent well established though stale publications, including Tatler, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. The common thread shared by these publications is the emphases on the human experience and its own social, political and media context, particularly celebrities.
Brown's lecture was drawn from her well received The Diana Chronicles, perhaps her most popular work to date. Published in 2007, the biography remained near the top of the New York Times' bestseller list for many weeks, occupying the number one spot for two alone.
Brown developed a professional and personal relationship with Lady Di over many years, watching her rise to fame through her courtship and eventual marriage to Prince Charles. Her role as a media darling for both British and American press fascinated the young journalist. Chronicles examines Diana's life in a holistic way, taking into account her upbringing entrenched in the British elite, already primed for media attention at a young age. As a result, Brown produced one of the most poignant explorations of an adored yet isolated woman, unable to live her life independently from public interest and scrutiny.
However, the entire presentation was a recap of Princess Diana's tragic relationship with both Prince Charles and the media. She never touched on the significance of the celebrity culture as it relates to society as a whole. For instance, why, in her opinion, are so many people obsessed with other peoples' lives? Sure, celebrities are fascinating, but fans often forget that the person in front of the camera is nothing more than a well preened puppet. Though eloquent, the lecture was somewhat one dimensional, lacking crucial analysis. Tulsa Town Hall Executive Director Kathy Collins agreed, "Her talk was very entertaining, but we wish she had spoken more about the "big picture" of covering celebrities in this tabloid culture."
At the press conference that preceded the lecture, Brown talked more about her latest endeavor, her first in online publication. She is often asked by the young and old alike if she thinks that print media will one day become obsolete and if journalism will one day reside exclusively online. Though Brown believes there will always be a place for print media, she pointed out that the primary outlet for journalism is online.
Not surprisingly, Brown unveiled her first project in the cyber-world, The Daily Beast, on October 6. She described it as a "polypartisan" news and social commentary site that, in many ways, is a culmination of her past experiences in journalism. Though initially unsure of her own passion for electronic media, she has found that the fast paced nature of The Beast coincides with her own desire to spontaneously post her opinions as well as the ability to obtain almost immediate feedback.
"After doing print, there is something really magnificently free about just having a great idea for a story, throwing it up online and seeing it happen and seeing readers' responses to it immediately is electric," said Brown.
Since the beginning of her career, Brown has always seen her role in journalism to be a "conduit for other peoples' stories and convictions." Indeed, The Daily Beast prides itself in its inclusion of diverse opinions from all points on the political and social spectrum, which sets it apart from most other news sites. Check out thedailybeast.com to learn more.
In its 74 year, Tulsa Town Hall is a non-profit, educational and cultural organization that brings nationally and internationally renowned speakers from the artistic and literary world to Tulsa. It began with a small group of intellectually minded Tulsa women in 1935 in the Crystal Ballroom of the Mayo Hotel. During the years, its membership has grown to more than 2,000 Tulsans, held in the Chapman Music Hall of the Performing Arts Center.
Lectures are held on Friday mornings from 10:30-11:30. Season subscriptions cost $60 and while single performances are not available, subscriptions can be purchased at any time. The Tulsa Town Hall Council offers a special price for school groups to attend single lectures at $5 for both teachers and students. A luncheon follows each lecture at a cost of $20 each for members. Reservations for lunch must be made in advance. To learn more about the Tulsa Town Hall, visit tulsatownhall.com.
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