Is Botox Mom the Most Recent Example of Yellow Journalism In America?

Yellow Journalism: alive and well in the U.S. of A.

Maybe this is old news to you, but I’m a little behind the curve on non-political new, so it’s news to me: the “Botox Mom” story was a hoax.

Thank you, Yellow Journalism for putting fake news front and center.

You heard about it on ‘Good Morning, America,’ ‘Inside Edition,’ and, if you live locally in Utah, even from KSL’s Carole Mikita.

Yep. A hoax.

The mom (hereinafter “Botox Mom”) who was administering Botox to her daughter in order to keep her looking young, was paid $200 by British Tabloid The Sun to make it up.

“I was provided with the story, instructions, and a script to follow for a recorded interview.” She made $200. “The truth is I have never given my daughter Botox, nor allowed her to get any type of waxing, nor is she a beauty pageant contestant.”

'The Sun,' a tabloid not unlike the 'Enquirer,' broke the Botox Mom "story."

Er….um. Yeah. I’m speechless. Having your child taken away by state child protection officials for $200? Either Botox Mom is really cheap, or dumb, or…both?

Well, actually, Botox mom made a little more money than that. TMZ reports that  ‘Good Morning America‘ might have paid as much as $10,000 in connection with the story. No word on what or if ‘Inside Edition’ paid out, too. I can only guess that the media made even more. I have no doubt they made more than they did reporting on the battle over the federal budget or on Obama’s speech about returning Israel to 1967.

As early as March (well before the above story on KSL), BellaSugar was already crying fowl, after noting that even the source of the story ought to give us pause–The Sun, a British tabloid with questionable integrity that is reporting on a San Francisco story none of the local papers had heard of:

Then, there’s scarce evidence that the little girl and mother exist as they’re presented in the story. The pair, who are called Kerry and Britney Campbell in the piece, have almost no online footprint. The California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology has no record of a Kerry Campbell, and there isn’t anyone with a similar name licensed in the San Francisco area. […]

And if Britney is competing in Bay Area beauty pageants, she should probably show up somewhere on their websites, but I checked several and found nothing. Nanette Mathias of California’s Our Little Miss organization also told me that its pageants don’t allow girls to compete if they’re using adult treatments like Botox and waxing.

That post was in March. This was in May: “KSL: Too young for beauty treatments? Mom gives Botox to 8-year-old.”

So, let me just ask: why did the KSL, ABC, and every other reporter on this one swallow this story up, hook, line, and sinker, without checking it first? Even after others were questioning its veracity?

But more important (to me), why is this even news? Aren’t there more important and consequential things going on in the world than this?

Ken over at Popehat says it’s all about money:  people will get outraged about somethings, but not others, including “lies by politicians that require more than two sentences to explain[,] corruption of a sort that cannot be understood by a five-year-old[,] and political leaders making stupid decisions that cannot be described at a sitcom level (e.g. “Ha! He totally choked on a pretzel!”)”

There are plenty of genuinely outrageous things going on in America, and in the world, that we ought to be outraged about and that the media ought to focus on. But those things tend to be uncomfortable, controversial, complicated, and difficult and/or expensive to cover. Why spend $50,000 on a long-term investigation of government corruption when you can spend $10,000 to get some jackass to tell the world she Botoxed her eight-year-old, and get ten times the eyeballs that the corruption story would have gotten?

Emphasis added. As if it was needed…

For example, President Bush’s gaffs got a lot of play while he was in office…

…but a budget plan that tightens the belt does not.

It’s boring, it’s complicated, and it just doesn’t “sell papers” the way a good scandal does. It requires numbers and math and things that require effort to report. And did I mention it’s boring?

Sensational journalism makes  more money and that’s why it gets more time, and effort, than difficult, consequential reporting and analysis.

This isn’t first time. Remember the Balloon Boy? Or Geraldo’s look into Al Capone’s empty vault?

I don’t think we, the masses, are as stupid, ignorant, or incapable as the media acts like we are. On the other hand, we aren’t doing a ton to change their perceptions. As long as we watch what they program, they’ll keep programming it.  If we tune in to hear about the Botox Mom, there will be other Botox moms who will game the system, news outlets that will put the Botox moms at the top of the hour, and reporters who will pay $10,000 for pictures of the Botox moms and not Google the story’s facts .

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2 responses to “Is Botox Mom the Most Recent Example of Yellow Journalism In America?

  1. Craig Christiansen

    These kinds of stories drive me crazy. It is sad that our major news outlets are becoming more and more about celebrity lives, and less and less about the issues that impact ours. Great post.

  2. I can’t help but wonder if our news is becoming “more” about celebrity and sensationalism, or if it is just that we’re noticing it more when there are egregious mistakes like this one. Either way, it does little more than entertain (not that entertainment itself is wrong…I’m just saying.)

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