Ian Monk: Should we worry about fantalism?

Time now, surely, to move on from the churnalism debate with honours more or less even.

If anyone seriously wanted to identify an area of collusion indicative of manipulative PR professionals and lazy journalists, they should examine the growing phenomenon of 'fantalism'. By this I mean the acres of fantasy journalism that now fill, and often run beyond, celebrity pages of tabloid newspapers, magazines and websites.

Twenty-five years ago Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster was a seminal Sun headline. It was a sensational rarity, a piece of showman's genius that equally drove the career of Freddie Starr and the renown of The Sun.

It was totally untrue. Nevertheless it cheered the nation and deservedly entered the British psyche.

Now with the proliferation of celebrity culture, purists may feel that the joke of made-up stories is being taken too far.

Pick up any handful of celebrity weekly magazines. Often rival titles will carry diametrically opposed stories about the lives of the same celeb. They can't both be true and often neither is.

Flick through the showbiz gossip pages and columns of newspapers on and offline. Does the discerning eye not detect the slick hand of imaginative publicists behind numerous stories promoting talentless 'celebrity' individuals?

Count the number of coy photographs suggestive of sexual liaison that litter celebrity pages, only for the participants later to deny romance. ITV was recently caught out faking what was neatly tagged a 'faux-mance' between a couple of C-listers to promote a show.

A Daily Star reporter apparently confessed last week to making up a story about Kelly Brook's use of a hypnotherapist to cut down the time it took her to get ready. Air-brushing regularly creates images that are unrecognisable as those they depict.

Fantalism is the daily parade of fame-hungry celebs created through the connivance of publicists and journalists. It is 'popular journalism' foisting false idols on the young and impressionable. Should anyone care?

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