This is possibly a bit narccisistic, but it’s my blog.
I was recently contacted by Jordan, a journalism student from the S I Newhouse School at Syracuse U in the USA.
He was interested in my comments on the paparazzi coverage of Britney Spears. He sent me some questions via email, so he could put some quotes in an essay he’s writing. I have posted his questions and my comments here, fyi.
1. Do you think journalists are compromising their ethics in their coverage of Britney Spears? Especially in
terms of invasion of privacy?
I’m not sure that we can say the paparazzi covering Britney are necessarily journalists in the accepted professional sense. They are totally driven by the fact that a good snap of her (particularly the “rude” shots) are worth millions of dollars. It is a purely mercenary transaction and Britney has bought into it with her recent bizarre behaviour. Psychologists are speculating that she’s got some mental health issues an attention-seeking disorder that feeds her other addictions too. For example, the weird scenes where she let the paps drive her car, her relationship with the sleazy Euro guy who appeared to be exploiting her illness, and so on.
Are the paps invading her privacy? yes, and no. She’s a star who lives by her celebrity which is a valuable commodity. she thrives in the public eye – even launching a new perfume at the height of her child custody and mental health issues. There’s an argument that she is also operating like a brand/franchise that needs any kind of publicity just to survive.
Her right to privacy is compromised by her public persona.
2. Do you think that her situation is “newsworthy,” or is she taking away from
other more important issues? If so, which ones?
Certainly she is only newsworthy because of her bizarre behaviour and her pre-existing fame. So, no she’s not really newsworthy in a a public interest sense. She’s newsworthy to the extent that “celebrity” is now a postmodern news value and that stories about her are commercially attractive to publishers.
In terms of what stories don’t get coverage, the list is endless, but let’s just mention the whole mental health thing, A huge social issue that gets only token coverage.
3. What do you think journalists should do when it comes to covering celebrities such as Britney Spears as to not compromise their ethics?
Stop doing it for money. Only cover her when absolutely necessary and turn their attention to more worthy subjects. In general, the issue for me is the commercial imperative to sell the news, Britney’s behaviour feeds the machine.