“Any press is good press” has long been an adage echoed by public relations (PR) professionals. Equally important is the notion of staying in the news cycle. Long before President Trump followed these two doctrines to tweet his way into the White House, the Kardashians dominated news for more than a decade by adhering to the same concepts. Not only that, in many cases, they were able to control the message and reshape the discussion. This is a PR professional’s dream, a great case study to learn from, and in the case of Northern Arizona University graduate student Cordero McMurry, the inspiration for an academic career.
McMurry is using the Kardashian family’s social media presence and influences as the subject for his thesis “A New Age of Broadcast News: Popular Culture, Social Media and the Transformation of Broadcast News.”
The University Network (TUN) spoke with McMurry to find out more about his interest in pursuing the Kardashians as his research topic.
We were informed that he was inspired by the way the Kardashians have changed “news media coverage and social media interaction worldwide for the young generation.”
McMurry was intrigued by the Kardashians’ domination of the media, even as the country became embroiled in a sharply divisive election last year.
“What interested me in pursuing research on the Kardashians is how they are always in the media and their pop culture influences,” he said. “I am focusing my research on the Kim Kardashian robbery and ‘hardcore news.’ Back in early October 2016, she was robbed in Paris. Breaking News locally, nationally and worldwide. At the same time, the United States of America was eagerly waiting on who was going to be President of the country. My question that I want to figure out is, how are these two polar opposites, news?”
McCurry’s question echoes the public’s concern of what constitutes news today. It also confirms the Kardashians’ grasp of social media and their ability to shape the news no matter what.
So, what makes the millions worldwide keep up with the Kardashians on TV and social media? McCurry has a simple answer. “What I think the Kardashians mean to the media is an escape from our reality,” he said.
This is not the first time McCurry has been inspired by the Kardashians. Earlier this year, he used Khloé Kardashian’s TV show “Revenge Body” as the subject of a term paper—“How A Kardashian Changed My Life”— he wrote for his critical methods class. In his paper, he argues that the show capitalizes on Khloé Kardashian’s media presence to motivate viewers, including himself, to make changes in their lifestyles.
“What I concluded is that Khloé utilized her celebrity resources to motivate and change the participants’ lives through a mind, body and soul experience,” said McMurry. “With Khloé’s show, she capitalizes on her resources and uses them to uplift others. From an academic standpoint, the show uses Burke’s guilt, purification and redemption cycle as a method to push the participants to have a revenge body,” referring to a theory on political and social power advanced by literary theorist Kenneth Burke.
McMurry expects to graduate in December 2017 with a Master of Arts in Communications. He is a full-time reporter/writer for NAUTV at the university, and teaches a public speaking course to NAU undergraduates.