Hard copy refers to A) a printout, a tangible form of something usually ethereal, especially web pages, newspapers, and the like. Essentially, information you can hold. B) A syndicated tabloid TV show which ran from 1989 to 1999. Pretty close to the National Enquirer via NTSC signal.

More about B: Hard Copy's intro began with the pounding of an IBM Selectric typewriter's 'golf ball' on the screen, a visual pun to say the news is hard-hitting and insightful. Hard Copy was hosted by Terry Murphy, Diane Dimond, and Barry Nolan and produced by Paramount Domestic Television.

Hard Copy did produce some actual investigative news, about sweatshops in Nicaragua, and the dangers of Aspartame, for example. However all too often, Hard Copy dwelt upon celebrity gossip and raised the ire of many by using intrusive paparazzi photography and video footage in gossip segments. Hard Copy finally stepped over the line one too many times. When it aired a segment about George Clooney's then-girlfriend, Celine Balidran, he was livid. An outraged Clooney announced a boycott of Paramount Television's tabloid TV shows, namely Entertainment Tonight and Hard Copy. As he put it, drawing a line in the sand,

"I understand I'm a celebrity. I make a good living, I don't ask anybody to feel sorry for me and I don't expect anyone to. But I think that we all should be afforded certain civil rights and some of them are you can't put bounties on people's heads, and have people try to jump in your window for $300,000 to get a picture of you and your baby," he said, referring to Madonna's recent childbirth.
Other celebrities, including Whoopi Goldberg, Madonna, Rosie O'Donnell, Demi Moore, Steven Spielberg and James Garner joined his boycott. The boycott affected Entertainment Tonight far more than Hard Copy, because ET relies on celebrity cooperation.

Paramount executives, anxious to avoid bad press, quickly tightened up their rules for accepting paparazzi footage. For a time Clooney taped every episode of Hard Copy looking for violations of the new rules.

Over the years Hard Copy dirtied the idea of TV journalism when it was sued by Michael Jackson for slander, and when it dumped runaway teens into questionable homes just so it could tape the dramatic reunion, among other things.

In 1999, When Hard Copy passed into the bitbucket of cancelled TV shows, (3 years after fellow tab TV show A Current Affair departed) it left a lasting impression on TV journalism. Today network newsmagazines like Dateline, 20/20 and others use Hard Copy-derived nifty eye candy, hidden camera guerilla tactics, sob stories and tales of chaos in place of actual helpful journalism. Today's TV news shows also now feature creepy music in the background audio and employ a "killer's-eye view" to vaporize whatever impartiality might exist in the reporting. Additionally, sensationalist, titillating coverage of events contributes to a general sense that today's society is far more violent and depraved than it really is.


Sources:
http://www.canoe.ca/TelevisionShowsH/hardcopy.html
http://www.spokane.net/stories/1999/Sep/3/S630750.asp (Dying 'Hard Copy' leaves legacy of tabloid TV, Brian Lowry, L. A. Times)

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