Pat O'Brien: Why I Am Ashamed of Tabloid Ghouls Who Prey on the Carcass of Celebrity

Media viewing Kate through the lens of Diana.

By , Columnist

David Livingston / WENN, WENN.com

The day after Princess Diana met her tragic death in the streets of Paris, I took over as the anchor of the entertainment show, Access Hollywood.  The show had been struggling. That night, the ratings skyrocketed with me at the helm and the entertainment press headlined, PAT O'BRIEN SAVES ACCESS HOLLYWOOD.

Well, I certainly did not save Access Hollywood, Princess Diana did. Period. And so it began. All these entertainment shows and magazines discovered through this set of unfortunate and horrible circumstances that when you want ratings there are really only two go-to topics: celebrity deaths and celebrity weddings.

wenn244355.jpgThe people who run these shows don't exactly wait around for these events, but when they happen, a little ratings Devil wakes up and says YES!  Even the prospect of death, as in "IS MICHAEL JACKSON GOING TO DIE?" "IS OPRAH GOING TO DIE?" "IS (FILL IN THE BLANK) ON A DEATH JOURNEY?" And so on.

Nobody goes undefeated and nobody dies with dignity once an entertainment show smells the inside of a funeral home, or sees a lonely hearse carrying a celebrity on the final ride.  

But it doesn't stop there. Even the happiest of moments also brings out the worst in the coverage, and so they are now faced with the perfect media storm. The marriage of William, whose mother died, to a woman who they can report is the next Lady Di. The possibilities have become endless.

I've been watching the coverage for about the last 50 days, and have seen the likes of:

"IS KATE DOOMED?"

"KATE'S SECRET FEAR"

"IS KATE TOO SKINNY?"

"IS KATE TOO FAT?"

"DO THE ROYALS WANT KATE DEAD?"

"IS WILLIAM MARRYING HIS MOTHER?"

"WHY THE QUEEN DIDN'T LIKE LADY DI"

"WHY THE ROYAL FAMILY LIKES KATE"

"WILL KATE EVER BE QUEEN?"

"WHERE WILL THEY LIVE?"

"WHERE WILL THEY EAT?"

"WHERE WILL THEY SLEEP?"

The list becomes an endless display of tabloid "reporting" that not even the OJ Simpson murder story could match. The Kennedy's don't even come close when you get REAL royalty involved.

And all this couldn't come at a better time for Entertainment Tonight, The Insider, Extra, Inside Edition, and the like. It's no secret that the television business is struggling and it's really no secret that these shows are heading south on the ratings Richter scale. With one exception, Access Hollywood, they are all losing their viewer bases.

wenn1113897.jpgEither people have figured out how shallow their presentations are, or they are simply unwatchable, as they seem to connect everything with death, plastic surgery, drugs and alcohol, depression, suicide and failed love. I, personally, was part of the squad that followed Anna Nicole Smith to her death and took orders from my bosses at The Insider to "FOLLOW THAT CASKET" as we tragically watched Heath Ledger make the headlines and the ratings. In those instances, yes, I followed orders. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?  

A wedding of this magnitude is no different; really, because, like death, the promise of 'til death us do part brings out the same bells and whistles. Especially when they can (almost with a straight face) connect everything that's going on this week to the beloved Princess Diana.

Here are two poor kids who are about to take the walk of their lives and pretty much all we get is another interview with Elton John about what it was like to sing to Diana for the last time. We get who was snubbed: death in social circles. We get as many behind the scene battles as they can make up, and if you just read the headlines or watch the graphics, you would think this is the biggest mistake Kate and William can make.  

There's an old saying: the good news is that television gives people what they want. The bad news is just WHAT people want. I understand how and why we're at this place. And fortunately, so does the Royal Family. They paraded Kate and William out just ONCE for a carefully conducted interview and that was enough to keep the dogs away for two months.  But with only a few words from the actual participants - it gave everybody a chance to report doom and gloom and "what ifs" for about two months.  

Thank God the networks are sending their star news anchor people to make sense of all this - those people have some standards and sensibility when it comes to story selection. But when you get to those little half-hours before prime time begins: watch out.  You might even wonder is Kate getting married or did William's mom die again?  

It will all be over this weekend (how DARE they get married out of the weekday news cycle) and then the entertainment shows and magazines will be back to normal.  

Like, who's next to tie the knot? Or better yet, who's next to die: Lindsay Lohan or Charlie Sheen? Stay tuned.

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Pat O'Brien, Emmy-award winning reporter and anchor, joined FOX Sports Radio and the Loose Cannons in August, 2010. O'Brien is widely known for his 16-year association with CBS Sports, where he worked from 1981 until 1997.

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