Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Privacy- What's the cost?

Journalism is a field of work that requires an individual to balance the ethical aspects of invading another person’s privacy with getting the information they need to cover a specific story. It is becoming increasingly common to find out what a certain celebrity has said or done yesterday in today’s newspaper and magazine tabloids. Our society has become so fixated in watching and reading about others, that sometimes we forget that celebrities should have some privacy of their own. Stories in the headlines can range from what a certain celebrity orders from a fast food restaurant to information concerning a divorce settlement between a couple. Every solitary move a famous individual makes in his or her life is documented in a photograph, editorial, or headline on a TV show dedicated to exposing their life. If famous celebrities cannot receive any amount of privacy, why should individuals like ourselves be guaranteed that our personal lives are not exposed to the world? Should not all human beings be able to keep certain aspects of their life personal? Journalists and photographers should realize that celebrities are human beings that would like to keep certain parts of their lives to themselves, and not have their lives consumed with photographs and editorials devoted to exposing all details of their life, good or bad.

Although numerous individuals think that being famous means being in the public eye on a daily basis, people do not understand how far some photographers and journalists will go to get a juicy story. Being famous does come with life altering changes that celebrities have to learn to accept no matter how drastic. Celebrities start to become familiar with people watching their every move from the minute they wake up to the time they will go back to bed. Journalists and photographers will literally stalk famous individuals down to simply get a juicy story or photograph that they can write about in the next editorial. Photographers seem to be the worst people when it comes to stalking celebrities with their cameras. Simply going out to run errands can turn into the biggest nightmare for celebrities. For instance, in a picture found on the NPR website about stalking celebrities, the caption for the photograph reads, “Ben Affleck hides his face from paparazzi as he enters the CNN building in Los Angeles for an appearance on Larry King Live” (Brand). As a result of being bombarded with cameras, the actor was forced to hide his face with his jacket and hands blocking the photographers from taking pictures of him. What some individuals fail to realize is that interviews and appearances are actual jobs for celebrities. In an interview about paparazzi, a celebrity publicist, Ken Sunshine, says, “It is crazy to have packs of people, whose full-time, quote, job, is to get the most embarrassing photo they can of a celebrity. How would you like to have a camera two inches away from your face, where the...the stalkerazzi is daring you to pushed away” (“Why Paparazzi Are Wrong”). How would anyone feel if when going to work they were surrounded with cameras and light-bulb flashes constantly?

With the amount of attention numerous celebrities receive from the media, invading their privacy is just another part of a journalist’s job description. Such actions as going through another individual’s trash can lead to the next big headline on tomorrow’s magazine. Some journalists will ultimately dedicate their life to exposing someone else’s in magazine editorials and articles. The media is certainly abusing the rights they are given by exposing details of famous individual’s lives. Anything from celebrity scandals and breakups to private matters like divorce are always shown on TV shows featured on E News, which show the latest and most up to date stories. These shows will provide viewers with hard evidence including paper documents and photographs that depict a certain story. Stories dealing with breakups, for instance, the popular divorce between Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston after seven years of marriage, are sold to specific magazines for a large amount of money. In an article from ABC News about celebrity media going out of control, the authors make a valid argument when stating “...beyond the personal tragedy of one couple's struggles lies an industry poised to reap hundreds of millions of dollars from misfortunes such as theirs” (Tapper and Morris). Even though paparazzi are most famous for selling juicy photographs to TV shows and magazines for thousands of dollars, celebrities can sometimes benefit from the situation as well.

Tabloids are probably most famous for exposing the dirty secrets and scandals of celebrities, true or not. This fast-paced industry has had a major influence on what the media shows to our society. The tactics used in more authoritative newspapers such as the New York Times are extremely different from the tactics used in celebrity gossip magazines like Star Magazine or the National Enquirer. Facts written in highly regarded newspapers are checked multiple times for credibility, whereas tabloids will say just about anything to get a juicy story. In an informative website about tabloids, the author explains the way tabloid writers come up with the material for articles and headlines as, “The key to tabloid story writing is that something doesn’t have to be true to print—someone just has to have said it was true” (Grabianowski). In essence, almost anything can be written about celebrities' as long as someone has said it is true. Although some stories and headlines may seem like they are true, almost anything can be made up to get people to buy and believe what the media is showing. Why should celebrities' be the target of tabloids? Why not expose regular individual's secrets to the world instead? Our society is not interested in everyday people's lives because they put celebrities' on a pedestal, desiring to know about their favorite celebrities’ daily actions through magazines, photographs, TV shows, etc.

Photography is a subcategory under journalism that focuses on the visual aspects of informing others about a specific story in the news. Many photographers will often stalk celebrities down on a daily basis by hiding out somewhere nearby and keeping a very close watch to their every move. In some extreme cases, some photographers will be so aggressive with celebrities that it often results in verbal abuse, car accidents, and ultimately death. The most famous example of violent photographers in action is the accident of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed. Jason Fraser, a prominent press photographer remains acknowledged for his attempts of getting images of Princess Diana and her newfound lover when the relationship first began. However, when things got out of control one night in the tunnel of Pont d’Alma, one selfish act to get photographs of the couple turned out to be the night that ended their lives forever. It is said that the photographer, Fraser, “is reported to have earned more than [pound]1m from a series of pictures taken this time” (Brown). Paparazzi must realize that even though pictures can be worth such an extreme amount of money, celebrities are people too, and such extreme cases like death can become reality if the situation becomes dangerous enough.

With fame comes its share of attention, no matter how much in amount or in what form exactly. All celebrities understand that when he or she becomes famous, people will become dedicated to watching their every move throughout their daily lives. Although celebrities expect what comes with fame, every single detail of their life should not be exposed in the next tabloid or magazine article. Celebrities should be able to keep some of their private information to themselves and not have to read it or hear about it the next day. However, what does that ultimately say about our society in itself? Our society is so interested in reading and watching about others’ that we forget that they should have some privacy of their own. Human beings should be guaranteed some limit of privacy no matter how famous they are. After all, if every solitary detail of our lives as regular individuals was exposed in the next magazine article published worldwide, no one would ever be happy.