Paris Hilton is news. That is a fact, like evolution. What kind of news depends on the day: Attending a premiere in a low-cut dress? Celebrity news, for Star and Us Weekly. Premiering another season of "The Simple Life?" Entertainment Weekly and TVGuide. Having a nip slip? Okay, maybe that's no longer news. But otherwise, Paris Hilton makes news — and it's not just for existing, either, it's for constantly doing things. Stupid things, but things nonetheless. Like being engaged to someone with the same name. Like recording an album with a single that was actually pretty sticky (oh, come on, you toe-tapped to "Stars Are Blind" too). Like eating a hamburger lasciviously for Carl's Jr. She even makes news when she flops, like with her infamously terrible Vanity Fair cover. Dies theatrically in a horror flick? Launches a perfume? Loses her dog? News, news, news. And of course, she was something of a sex-tape pioneer (but nice try, Kim Kardashian). Plus, didn't she pee herself in public or something? So like it or not, what Paris Hilton does makes the news — or some subset of the news. Perhaps not for being smart, but still.
Originally, Hilton was famous for being famous — a creation of Page Six, which catalogued her table-dancing antics from her arrival on the social scene. And as she got more famous, the outrage at her fame grew: "What does she do?" So, as she "did" more things, that outrage remained and our collective incredulity grew, in step with her worlwide marketing muscle and the skyrocketing value of her brand (worth even more in Japan!).
By the time Paris Hilton was actually busted for something real — a DUI is not a small thing, it is an act of surpassing selfishness, a fitting offense for a spoiled heiress who has never had to answer for anything in her life — the outrage, and the schadenfreude, was off the charts. So when she was busted, it was news. Real news — breaking news on the cable nets and headline news in the papers (though more the New York Post than the New York Times). And when she was released after three days for a paltry house arrest (and concomitant house party), it was even bigger news — so when she was dragged kicking and screaming back to the slammer, it was the biggest news of all.
That last bit would have been news for any celebrity — news is man bites dog, anything out of the ordinary, which is why Anna Nicole Smith got so much damn attention. For Paris Hilton — a truly sui generis case in the world of celebrity — this was a sui generis situation, and a story, on many levels. Celeb comeuppance? Check. Twisting, turning, developing case of crime and justice in the thank-god-there-is-actually-news-to-fill-this-late-afternoon timeslot? Check. Meditation on the differential treament of celebrities in the legal system? Check. There is even a debate: Was Paris treated too lightly — or punished too severely? Check, check, check.
So, Paris is news. Maybe not round-the-clock-all-the-time-this-just-in-
she-took-another-breath news, but news nonetheless. News across the board, as news itself and as news about the news, i.e. "Did it need to be news?" and "How was it covered?" vis a vis the news decisions (and public statements thereon) of Katie Couric and Brian Williams. During the Anna Nicole whirlwind, I wondered if it wasn't news, the "why is Howard Kurtz putting it at the top of the hour?" Guess what led "Reliable Sources" today? Paris, Paris, Paris. Like it or not, it is news — just not to the exclusion of everything else.