Features editor Alex Casey introduces Gossip Week, a week-long content series exploring the role of gossip in Aotearoa’s past, present and future.
“Gossip is a plague worse than Covid. Worse. Let’s make a big effort: no gossiping!”
– Pope Francis, 2020
A thousand apologies to this Pope, but all week long The Spinoff is going to be running a couple of pieces a day devoted to the good, the bad and the ugly sides of gossip in Aotearoa. Because, depending on who you talk to, gossip is either the glue that holds society together or the rot that erodes it. While the so-called Pope clearly doesn’t care for it, others will open a conversation with “got any goss?” and will not stop digging until you’ve spilled all.
We hope there is something for everyone during Gossip Week. In the lead-up, we’ve spoken to people who have had their careers ruined by the gossip pages, and others who have had their livelihoods sustained by them. Academics who have devoted decades to studying gossip. Lawyers who can explain the complexities of name suppression in plain English. And journalists who have seen the real-world impact that paparazzi and women’s magazines can have.
That said, many gossip week stories have already fallen over due to their very nature. Gossip is sensitive, personal, sometimes traumatic, often attached to powerful NDAs. So we might not have tonnes of fresh goss for you, but I do hope this week will be a chance to examine gossip as it has evolved and changed, and the unique role that it has played in everything from te ao Māori to the MeToo movement. All of this, along with some good, splashy, gossipy fun.
Because we wouldn’t be The Spinoff if we didn’t pour one out for The Feeneys. The Ferrets. The Scouts. I’m sure you’ve all had it marked in your calendar – it’s been five years since the Mediaworks gossip site Scout closed down for good. On The Spinoff, we farewelled the site with 10 of our favourite scoops, ranging from Grand Designs host Kevin McCloud’s tackling the housing crisis, to the Briscoes lady doing a gratuitous “running man” dance.
“I’m not gleeful to lose Scout, in fact I’m a little glum,” I wrote at the time. “The site has long been a pitch-perfect Clickhole parody of what a plucky wee country might try to make of its prominent folk, except it’s all real and it’s all bloody fantastic. You can’t write this stuff – yet somebody did, over and over over again.” Ironically, there was actually a fair bit of good gossip going on behind the scenes, as Duncan Greive dug up in his Anatomy of a Corporate Disaster.
You might see some of this content reshared – The Spinoff was a lot smaller back then than it is now – as well as some thrilling new gossip-based audiovisual offerings from podcasts The Real Pod, Remember When and our delightful video series First. Finally, we would love to hear from you: what do you think about gossip in 2021? Have you got a story to tell about the impact gossip has had on your life? What’s the best piece of gossip you’ve ever heard? Popes needn’t apply.
We kick off Gossip Week in earnest later this morning. Contact acting Head of Gossip Alex Casey at firstname.lastname@example.org