by CJ Garrett
Part of the problem with being a celebrity is the fact that people will often believe things about you that are simply not true. Up to this point, it was considered to be something that comes with the territory, like slightly crazy fans and hate mail. Now, however, Sir David Tang hopes to change all that with a new plan and a new site called ICorrect.com.
The premise is simple — to give celebrities a place where they can set the record straight about rumors, tall tales, and other gossip spread around by newspapers or the Internet. $1,000 a year is the fee for using the site, and every user must show proof of their identity, but anyone can read it for free. It’s already got a number of high-profile celebs signed up, including Stephen Fry, Tommy Hilfiger, Sienna Miller, and Cherie Blair. In every case, the accusation and the correction are placed side by side, ostensibly so the public can see both sides of the story.
First of all, $1,000 a year is a high price to pay for a few corrections placed on one site. There have been many famous people who do not have access to such a lump sum, so I would have to say that the site is not designed for just any celebrity. But more than that, it’s important to look at what kind of service they’re supplying for that money — and to be honest, there’s not actually that much there in comparison to other, free sites.
If we assume that the site is being targeted at celebrities who can pay, then it’s likely that they will also be able to command the attention of newspapers or news sites for free. They have a story, after all, because a rebuttal or correction to something said about them is certainly newsworthy, and the news media already have networks in place to get that information out and to the public far more efficiently than a site that’s just been created.
I suppose there is the added knowledge that anything placed on ICorrect.com is verified as coming from that particular celebrity, but that’s never been an issue before, so why the concern now? Twitter, for example, has a number of verified accounts, including Barack Obama. Newspapers regularly conduct interviews in person, then post them online. Youtube allows easy dissemination of video and audio. Now more than ever, celebrities can talk directly to their fans if they want to clear up any confusion about their actions or words, and they don’t need to pay $1,000 for the privilege.
One example given by this article from Switched.com is that of ‘an inaccurate Wikipedia entry’. This is really laughable, considering how focused the Wikipedia editors are on accuracy and truth. If any celebrity were to contact Wikipedia with new information on how certain facts about them were wrong, it would be corrected in a heartbeat — and, as of this writing, Wikipedia is the eighth most popular site in the world.
Connections and Fairness
The ICorrect.com website is not without its own structural problems. Each rebuttal is static once posted, unless the celebrity chooses to update it. There is no option for a normal, interested Internet user to discuss the correction on the site itself, which seems like a glaring omission when so many other sites are striving to integrate themselves into the social media landscape. Another problem is the fact that the celebrity presents both the accusation and the rebuttal, completely destroying the concept of a fair and balanced presentation of views. Consider this example from Cherie Blair:
An ‘astonishing outburst masquerading as truthful journalism’? I understand Ms. Blair may be upset at this article, but wouldn’t it be better to present it as is, and not in her own words?
A Flawed Concept
The final problem I would like to bring up is the fact that ICorrect.com is trying to be something that doesn’t quite work. Sir David Tang might intend for it to be a complete clearing house for corrections, but people generally are not interested in mere corrections, or celebrities as a demographic. They are interested in particular people. If they were really concerned about whether a story is true or not, they can go directly to that person through any of a hundred different avenues, most of which will allow them to discuss and comment with other fans and supporters. Those who are not really interested in that person are not likely to care about the minutiae of their lives, or who said what about them.
A collection of corrections seems to be aimed at only one demographic — the celebrities who can afford to pay $1,000 a year for the privilege of posting on a single site, and who are not especially technically savvy or aware of their options online. From what I can see, it’s certainly not aimed at the public. This is, I have to say, a site that may be trying to solve a problem that never really existed in the first place.
CJ Garrett is a freelance blogger and graphic designer who likes to rant about bad advertising over on his blog, I’m Not Buying That. He also likes vodka and wastes his free time playing Team Fortress 2.