The new celebrity journalism: Norton interviews the Boss

As the last bits of TIFF-induced celebrity haze lifts from Toronto, one journalist reports that he discovered the future of celebrity journalism – in an interview with Bruce Springsteen.

Journalist and director Mark Leiren-Young, in an article for The Tyee, writes about Springsteen, in town for the Toronto INternational Film Fesitval. He’s here to promote The Promise: The Making of Darkness On The Edge of Town, and his only “media time” was an interview with Edward Norton for a story that will appear in Rolling Stone. Norton, himself a mega-star, is a long-time friend of the musician.

Maclean’s dubbed the interview the “hottest ticket at the festival”, noting that “Norton’s questions were long, rambling and tangential; he tended to answer them by the time he got to the question mark. But at least they were intelligent, and informed by his friendship with Springsteen.” The Toronto Sun reported on fans flying in from as far as Hong Kong to catch the spectacle of a movie star interviewing a rock star.

Leiren-Young writes: “When the audience was seated, they were told that the first rule of fight club was that texting, tweeting and cellphone photography were prohibited. Surprisingly, journalists watching in the overflow room were also prohibited from recording the event in any way other than that old stand-by — writing verrrrry quickly.”

He notes that celebrities interviewing celebrities isn’t a new phenomenon (“most TV talk show hosts have far more fans than any of their guests”). But in a world of shrinking newsrooms that rely more and more on press releases, access to interview subjects has never been more important. He notes that “a songwriter whose career was arguably launched by journalist John Landau had found the perfect way to avoid granting access to journalists — by turning an onstage conversation with an old friend into a mainstream media must.”

Leiren-Young worries that there might come a day when the Boss decides he’ll only be interviewed by long-time friends. He writes “I hope if that ever happens, the media — who are supposed to be the proxy interviewers for the public — won’t be blinded by the light, will refuse to cover him and he’ll be on radio nowhere. But I suspect he’d be more likely to make the front page of every paper, blog and website in the promised land and leave us all remembering the glory days when journalists got to ask questions.”