You know, I laughed out loud when I popped open the first email asking me what I thought of this story. Then I did what any news junkie would do in this day and age. I slapped a silly headline on it and sent it to some of my friends. My headline was, of course: What would happen if Pat Robertson had said this?
What am I talking about? Click this.
For those who have been out of WiFi range for 24 hours or so, actress Sharon Stone has made some headlines by saying that the horrific May 12 earthquake in China may have been the result of bad karma due to the government's treatment of Tibet. The story immediately showed that it had, well, legs -- with the leader of one of China's biggest cinema chains saying that Stone's movies were off limits on his screens.
My wisecrack about Robertson? You know that if the evangelical pundit that mainstream reporters love to hate had said something this off the wall ("China earthquake caused by government's refusal to let CBN cover the Olympics") we would be watching the aftershocks on CNN with commentary on how it will affect Mike Huckabee's chances of being Sen. John McCain's choice for vice president.
But, I am told by a veteran Hollywood journalist, that Stone is already, in her own way, that town's version of Robertson, an out-of-date actress who is a few tacos short of a combination platter. No one is very upset about this, because there is no content to the story. As opposed to, let's say, Robertson saying something similar?
Meanwhile, the story is everywhere, but only through a short, chatty Associated Press piece. And that's where I would like to make one other journalistic comment about this silly affair. Here is a key part of the follow-up report:
During the brief interview, which has also surfaced on YouTube, Stone also said she cried when she received a letter from the Tibetan Foundation asking her to help quake victims.
"They wanted to go and be helpful, and that made me cry," she said. "It was a big lesson to me that sometimes you have to learn to put your head down and be of service even to people who aren't nice to you."
Stone's words created a swell of anger on the Internet, including at least one Chinese Web site devoted solely to disparaging her comments.
So what is missing? How about a motive? Is Stone, in fact, a Hollywood convert to Buddhism? Is she a New Age holdover from the late 1980s, early '90s, and active in a New Age-style church? Has she been into Scientology?
If the story has a religion hook, it really helps to include the basic facts. Whether you want to take her serious or not, Stone was speaking out about her faith. If you are going to quote her, then tell us why she felt led to say what she said.