George Clooney thinks something has gone wrong when the media prints celebrity rumor and innuendo as fact.
The star, a journalist’s son, said a news story used to require “two reliable sources, and that doesn’t seem to exist as much anymore.”
Clooney spoke Thursday at the London Film Festival, where one documentary in the lineup reveals how easily some newspapers can be duped into running fake stories about the famous.
The makers of “Starsuckers” fed false tips to British tabloids and then watched as some, though not all, ran them as legitimate news. The hoaxes included a story about Amy Winehouse’s trademark beehive hairdo catching fire.
“Starsuckers” director Chris Atkins said he “wanted to answer one simple question … How far will tabloid journalists go in the pursuit of their stories?”
Clooney, no stranger to intense media attention, said he has sympathy for journalists as newspaper staffs shrink and online competition for scoops grows. But he says accurate reporting has suffered.
“The problem is that there’s so little reporting any more …. Somebody will write a story and it will be in 1,800 different outlets from one person’s story,” Clooney told reporters during a news conference to promote “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” a comedy about the U.S. military’s experiments with “psychic warfare.”
Clooney said he understood the pressures journalists face.
“I’m the son of a newsman, I grew up around news,” said Clooney, whose father is news anchor Nick Clooney. “It’s a tricky thing. You’re going to have to sell papers. I get it.”
In 2005, Clooney painted a heroic picture of newsman Edward R. Murrow, who faced off against anti-communist Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s, when he directed, “Good Night, and Good Luck.”
But he said false stories leave celebrities with “no recourse.”
“It’ll be false, and you’ll go, ‘It’s not true.’ And they go, ‘We’re not saying that, we’re saying that a London tabloid has said it.’ They’re just reprinting and reprinting things that aren’t necessarily true.
“I understand the problem with it, I understand why it happens. But it certainly is an issue.”
“Goats” co-star Kevin Spacey said there was not a lot celebrities could do about scurrilous reporting.
“There’s some people who choose to fight these kind of things in the courts,” he said, “And some who choose to just go, ‘You know what, it’s yesterday’s news, it’s fish wrapping and I’m not going to worry about it.’”
Clooney is the star attraction at the London festival, where journalists are expert at finding clever ways to ask questions about his private life.
On Thursday a journalist asked whether, like his “Goats” character, Clooney believed in paranormal phenomena. No, Clooney said.
So, asked the reporter, “You don’t think it’s fate when you meet someone like Elisabetta” — Italian actress Elisabetta Canalis, his reported girlfriend.
Clooney just laughed.
“This is such a beautiful move, I have to applaud,” he said.
On the Net: www.bfi.org.uk/lff