Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson at the Cannes Film Festival on May 25, 2012 after Pattinson's film Cosmopolis had just screened

Robert Pattinson And Kristen Stewart: Media Driven Scandal Abhors A Vacuum

And so it begins. The avalanche of sources claiming to have the “inside scoop” on how Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart “got back together.”

While US Weekly and People arepresently trumpeting the “exclusive news” Elaine Lui at Lainey Gossipbroke over a week ago, some say it’s early days for reconciliation talk, while others maintain the couple’s “reunion” may well be a professional arrangement to smooth and even boost upcoming promo for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2.

Whether Pattinson and Stewart do go on to build a workable future together or, for that matter, whether they actually split up in the first place are the wider questions. But it’s unlikely that anyone who works for a media outlet has the answers.

The truth is no-one but Pattinson and Stewart (and those they trust) knows what’s going on between them. But if Pattinson’s departure from his Los Feliz home and later interviews during a press blitz for Cosmopolis proved anything, it’s that after US Weekly’s bombshell “cheat” story Pattinson (and his team) locked down to wait out the storm until it passed.

Now it appears it has.

But not before two months of the media largely dumping sole blame on Stewart for a dual lapse of judgment on her part and that of Snow White and The Huntsman director Rupert Sanders. But if Pattinson and Stewart are reconciled, it also exposes the fact that most of the media’s coverage since July 24 can — at the very least — be described as unmitigated fiction.

From initial, incorrect claims in the New York Post that Stewart first told Pattinson about Sanders at the Teen Choice Awards; toRadar Online’s ‘reports’ about Stewart’s “second affair” with Welcome to the Rileys producer Giovanni Agnelli; florid tales of “not showering” and hysterical texting; Pattinson eyeing Kate Upton, Katy Perry, Rihanna and the rest of the blah; it’s clear that when Cosmopolis director David Cronenberg told HLN’sShowbiz Tonight, “people think they know what’s going on but they don’t really know” — he was right on the money.

Yet bottom feeding reporting that scarcely deserves the name journalism is hardly new. Nearly every outlet that ran stories about the ‘scandal’ based them on unattributed sources that were — and are — nothing more than constructs. These were then repeated by countless outlets in order to stay ahead or keep up with a story they had no control over.

Ridiculous conspiracy theories aside, from the start the ‘scandal’ was hyped to death because that’s what entertainment media does. While Stewart and Sanders’ abject apologies shouldn’t be whitewashed into revisionism, the question remains: Is their public excoriation freedom of speech or just sanctioned schadenfreude?

In these cynical times when a greater proportion of the public knows how tabloid media operates, it is surprising that more questions about the context of those photographs were not asked.

Few outlets have broached the clear anomalies in how thosephotos entered the public domain for one simple reason: Most tabloid outlets — and many non-tabloids — benefit from paparazzi and/or private investigator sourced content either directly or second-hand.

As the recent furore over Kate Middleton’s topless photographs ably demonstrates, all is fair when the prize is getting the dirt on celebrities and public figures. How quickly the somber lessons of Princess Diana’s death in 1997 have been forgotten. Effectively hunted through the streets of Paris, Diana died at the age of 36 because paparazzo who, in turn, sell their wares to media outlets, wanted their money shot.

Whether Pattinson and Stewart can — or want — to rebuild trust and a future together is their business. But they will remain fodder for tabloids who won’t relish the prospect of them moving past what is probably the greatest test to their relationship so far. Drama and crisis are the lifeblood of gossip media, responsible fact-checking or just a simple ‘we don’t know any more than you do‘ — not so much.

And for the uninitiated? Hillsborough, Shirley Sherrod, Max Mosley, Amanda Knox and the plethora of abuses heard at the UK’s recent Leveson Inquiry into media ethics, culture and practices may serve as reminders of what can happen when a story is shaped beyond all recognition with the truth.

To forget that, is to remember nothing.

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