Monday, September 1, 1997

Week of 09/01/1997

Media Hounds
- by David Matthews 2

I went to bed last night after a lengthy time on the Internet to hear the news that Princess Diana of Wales had died. It struck me as odd, especially since the last news report I got from America Online was that she was injured in a car crash, but no further details were known. Then, at six in the morning, the details were starting to get clearer, and to me they were shocking.

By current accounts, Princess Diana was being pursued by members of the Paparazzi - essentially picture-happy media hounds who tail celebrities endlessly. All she wanted was some time to herself, and the hounds wanted to get pictures of her and her boyfriend. The pursuit went on into a Paris tunnel, where the car was wrecked. Her boyfriend, millionaire Dodi Al Fayed, was killed on the scene, as was the driver of the car.

Now we’re not talking about your average Chicken Little reporter looking for a story to blow out of proportion. Those folks will find a story, exploit it, milk it for all it’s worth, and move on. The Paparazzi are a rather notorious breed of media hound. These are the folks who will stalk out celebrities at their homes, their hotel rooms, in their cars, in restaurants. It doesn’t matter if there’s a story - the very existence of these people MAKE it a story for the Paparazzi. When celebrities get married, unless it’s a full-blown media event, the Paparazzi will make it one. They’ve been known to storm wedding ceremonies in helicopters like Robert Duvall in "Apocalypse Now," the only thing missing being the music from Wagner to complete the scene.

Now I know some of you might expect some crack about the "freedom of the press" or something like that. Sorry. Not this time. This was not a case of the freedom of the press here. This was a clear-cut case of the media acting not only irresponsibly, but also with apparent reckless disregard.

Worse yet, the Paparazzi who were pursuing the Princess took pictures of her as she lay in the car, bleeding, and apparently dying. These pictures are already on the market and no doubt SOME publication will purchase and use them in their "exclusive" story. The good news is at least ONE tabloid company has openly refused to purchase them, and is strongly encouraging the others to do the same. This was a brutal scene that didn’t have to happen and could have been prevented if the Paparazzi weren’t actively stalking the couple. The fact that Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed were together was not news, nor is the fact that they went to a restaurant. What, are they expected to live their lives in a fortress with razor wire and armed guards with orders to shoot to kill?

If justice was at all poetic, the French officials would release the names, home addresses, and pictures of each and every member of the Paparazzi involved in the death of Princess Diana. Let the media hound them for a while. Let’s see how they like it if they like having photographers take pictures of them in their homes, at their workplace, in their cars, in restaurants. After all, THEY’RE now the news.

The press pass is not a license to stalk and harass. The camera is not physical permission to strip away a person’s private life and leave them naked for the world to see. In any other circumstance, the actions of the Paparazzi would lead to prison. Perhaps it’s time to remind them that like all other freedoms, even the freedom of the press is not absolute.

Meanwhile, the world will mourn the loss of a dedicated and beloved member of the English nobility. Her care and concern for those who were suffering almost rivaled those of Mother Theresa. Her causes were noble, much like her life. The way she left the world, however, was undeserving.

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