Gossip writing is a rarely discussed category for freelance writers. Sure, we all aspire to be published in The New Yorker and gossip writing is not taught in journalism schools. Almost everyone gossips. In fact, more people gossip now than ever before. Their medium is the blog, particularly Facebook and other social networking sites that have replaced the old-fashioned diary with personal gossip. Most of us gossip about people we know.
In the media, gossip is about celebrities. Hundreds of “commercial blogs” are devoted to celebrity gossip, notably Deadline Hollywood Daily, The Dirty, Gawker, Hollywood Life, Just Jared, Perez Hilton, PopSugar, TMZ and many more! Some of these blogs pay for tips and use freelance writers and photographers, but it’s the magazine category that provides the greatest opportunity for freelancers.
Celebrity News Magazines
The top-circulation celebrity news magazines are People, Us Weekly, Star and Entertainment Weekly. People, with a circulation of over 3.5 million, doesn’t call itself a gossip magazine, but it competes with the others for exclusives about celebrities.
Celebrity fashions are covered by In Touch Weekly, Life & Style Weekly (both published by Bauer, a German company), People StyleWatch and InStyle (both published by Time, Inc.) and all of the big-circulation monthly women’s, men’s and teen magazines. Advertising declines in recent years have resulted in staff reductions at most magazines. Editors increasingly turn to freelancers, including those at magazines that formerly were almost totally staff written.
Celebrities are not just in the entertainment industries. Famous people include VIPs in government, sports, food, real estate, business, media and other fields. All of these fields are superbly covered in Vanity Fair, a prestigious monthly published by Condé Nast that works with many of America’s renowned freelance writers.
You may not be ready for Vanity Fair but you should read it for insights about celebrity coverage. Cosmopolitan, the top-selling newsstand magazine, is a gossiper’s paradise, as are New York and other regional magazines, as well as Interview and other small-circulation magazines.
Perhaps your first thought about a gossip magazine is one of the supermarket tabloids. The National Enquirer pioneered in the placement of magazines in racks at checkout counters. Today, American Media, Inc. owns Star (its top circulation magazine), the National Enquirer and Globe.
You definitely should not be embarrassed about writing for these weekly magazines. The National Enquirer had accurate scoops about O.J. Simpson, John Edwards and Tiger Woods long before other media, and mainstream journalists give it appropriate credit.
5 Tips on Getting Started
Now that you’re convinced of the importance of gossip magazines, here’s how you can get started. It’s not likely that Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Angelina Jolie, George Clooney or Brad Pitt will grant an interview to you, even if you’re able to get the e-mail, phone or Twitter address. Here are five other interview possibilities.
A celebrity may be in your city promoting a book, touring a show, working in the production of a movie or TV show, vacationing or visiting friends and family. You don’t have to live in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Las Vegas or Miami to be a celebrity reporter. Not all celebrities live in major cities.
Many A-listers have primary or secondary homes in small towns, as well as such big cities as Atlanta, Chicago and San Francisco. Chances are you know that Sundance, Utah, is the home of a global celebrity.
It’s relatively easy to interview a relative, friend, former classmate, former boyfriend (or girlfriend), teacher or someone associated with a celebrity. Google and Wikipedia can provide biographical details. A “remembrance story” is always in demand.
Find a retailer, restaurant, fashion designer, architect or anyone who has a celebrity as a customer. You may find this source to be appreciative of the publicity and you can get great anecdotes about the buying, dining and entertainment habits of a celebrity.
Become a gossip columnist. Maybe not in the New York Post (home of Page Six and Cindy Adams) but a good place to start is a weekly newspaper in your area. Contact local theaters, restaurants, hotels, charities and their public relations representatives, and you soon will be receiving more than enough press releases to fill a weekly column.
You will be invited to social events so that your column can include your personal comments and descriptions of apparel worn by local socialites. As you develop friendships with local celebrities, keep in mind that they can lead you to national celebrities. Also, when a national celebrity comes to your town, your columnist credential puts you in the press corps.
Here’s an assignment for you. Find a person or group in your community who you can transform from an unknown to a celebrity. Examples: a translator of a foreign best-seller, winner of an offbeat contest (best pies, most hot dogs, spelling bee winner), American Idol loser, an octogenarian, triplets (also quadruplets and quintuplets, but stay away from the Octomom), tallest, fastest (but not thinnest)… well, you get the idea!
Get familiar with various writing styles
As with any magazine article, you must be familiar with the writing style of the publication. The weekly celebrity newsmagazines and supermarket tabloids are read mostly by women. College-educated upscale women read People and the supermarket tabloids have lower demographics.
Like the tabloid newspapers, the gossip magazines enjoy alliteration, colorful metaphors, puns and other humor, abbreviations, slang and coined words (usually combining parts of two words).
Most important, make sure that all your information and quotes are accurate! You may want to attach to your article the names of verified sources. The magazine probably will add sensational headlines and subheads, but that’s not your job.
During the last three years, I have been writing a book about gossip. Interviews of over 200 psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, historians and media people in the U.S. and around the world have increased my appreciation of the gossip media.
I have learned that gossip, as defined by social scientists, is oral or written information about another person that usually is true or has a strong basis in fact, and often is judgmental. A rumor, on the other hand, usually is false and unverified.