Dear Gossips,

Once upon a time, Tom Cruise was interviewed by a gossip columnist. When the interview was over, he told his publicist he never wanted to speak to her again – because “that woman is a psychologist. I felt like I had been through a session with a doctor.” It was a gossip columnist, asking a gossip columnist’s questions, who made Tom Cruise feel like he was … known. Celebrities want to be understood, on their terms, but they don’t actually want to be known. That’s why they’d rather answer the questions they tell you to ask them – not the gossip columnist’s style.

The gossip columnist who asked the questions you want answered was Rona Barrett, the trailblazing gossip columnist of the television era, and an early crusader for the value of gossip – arguing that gossip can often reveal more about who we are and hold a mirror up to how we’re collectively shaping the boundaries of our society better than any “hard news” conversation, a fact that academic researchers have only recently started to validate, well after the time of Rona Barrett.

Rona Barrett is no longer in the business of gossip and, for some reason, doesn’t have the recognition of Hedda Hopper, Louella Parsons, or Walter Winchell. But her impact on gossip is no less significant and should be studied by all the gossips who have come after her. Click here to read Anne Helen Petersen’s fascinating new profile of Rona for Buzzfeed.

Yours in gossip,