Images via Twitter and zacktaylor.ca.
Disney’s live-action tween projects, like High School Musical and The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, are some of the most lucrative entertainment franchises in recent history. Kids get to nurse their meaningless prepubescent crushes, while parents are comforted by Disney’s squeaky clean role models—and as Miley Cyrus and Vanessa Hudgens found out, straying from their chaste likenesses can be a career-limiting game of PR brinkmanship.
Enter Toronto tattler Zack Taylor, who posted a mild exclusive item last week about the alleged budding courtship between Demi Lovato (Camp Rock) and Joe Jonas (The Jonas Brothers empire). ZOMG, no wai, rite? Trust us: this is big news with the tween girl squad. Anyway, according to Taylor, this little piece of innocuous fence-talk got the Lovato camp in a lather, resulting in the gossip gadfly deciding to do a big no-no: reveal a source in an effort to prevent “losing credibility.” And what a source it was. [A note to readers: if you’re of the “Who cares about trashy celebrity gossip?” crowd, you’ll definitely want to move on to a different article at this point.]
The dirty little secret of the Hollywood PR industry is that a large proportion of what’s fed to the trashy mags and gossip blogs comes directly from the star’s representatives, and frequently, from the celebrities themselves. Paparazzi are kept on speed dial in the event that a celeb is eating at a restaurant off the beaten path, or in case they happen to be taking their new baby for a walk in the highly private Central Park. Like the Perez Hiltons and Ted Casablancas of the world, much of what Zack Taylor writes about is likely planted by flacks—with the caveat that nobody ever finds out where the information came from.
Now, obviously, many may resent gossipmongers for labelling themselves as journalists, but keeping the confidentiality of sources is one of the cornerstones of a free press. Over the last few years, journalists for the New York Times, Time, and the Los Angeles Times (among others) have been threatened and even convicted for not revealing sources. For a gossip columnist doing the same, the penalty is hardly as grave, but it may lead to an embargo on tips and leaks; the highly lucrative bread-and-butter of the scuttlebutt industry.
Photo from Zack Taylor’s Facebook profile.
Upon the news breaking on Lovato’s relationship, she allegedly became upset, demanding the name of the source and denying the romance on Twitter, “ruining my credibility and reputation,” according to Taylor. “I was put in a position where I could say the truth, reveal my source, and have a 50-50 shot at people trusting me again,” he told us, referring to his PR contacts. “I had to stand up for myself as an individual and as a businessman.”
So he did it: unbeknownst to Demi Lovato, the source who planted the information was revealed to be her own mother. A stream of convoluted Twitter drama resulted, with hurt feelings all around. “But that’s how this whole city works I guess,” Lovato tweeted. “It just makes me sad that people are that mean in this world.”
For his part, Taylor feels taken advantage of, claiming that he has always respected the confidentiality of sources and was subject to a misinformation campaign on another website popular with the Disney fan-base, spurred by Lovato’s team, and had to protect his reputation as a truthful authority on celebrity gossip. “My emotions went from feeling pissed-off, to feeling betrayed, lied-to, hurt, confused, to finally, a clear conscience,” he told Torontoist.
Taylor suspects fallout from the Jonas camp, and refers to Lovato as one of Disney’s tightly controlled “robots,” but still has kind words for Lovato’s mother, believing that she was doing what was best for her celebrity daughter’s career.
We’re still not entirely clear on the dynamics of this situation, or how much we even care, but the internet is srs bsns! Whether or not revealing the source will send Zack Taylor into a Disney blacklist somewhere remains to be seen, but the general rule in Hollywood is that bad publicity is still publicity. For Taylor, perhaps less so.