Letters to the Editor
SEPTEMBER 22, 1997:
To the Editor:
Your editorial of September 4th, "The Passing of a Princess" was a bit too flippant and simplistic to go unrefuted. The bottom line in your assertion is that Princess Di was asking for it. Why legitimate journalists so eagerly defend the paparazzi is something I do not understand.
These "freelance photographers" are nothing more than extortionists. Their pursuit often goes well beyond the limitations of public places as their long-range lenses peer tirelessly over fences and through windows.
Their targets are not merely those who choose a public life, but the families of those who excel in the arts, the political arena, and sports, as well as non-celebrities unwittingly caught in the news loop because of a tragedy.
After living in Los Angeles for nine years, I have seen firsthand the mayhem that they create. Their reckless pursuit endangers not only the person in their camera's eye, but the public as well.
Citing public demand for tabloid journalism as rationale for this free-for-all is flawed logic. There is a demand for crack dealers as well, but we do not legalize their services. One hundred years ago the public payed to attend sideshows featuring children with genetic disorders. People by nature have a peculiar sense of curiosity. If our society is to remain civilized, we cannot look to the lowest common denominator for our social and legal parameters.
My hairdresser and realtor must hold a license and be brokered to work. Why not require licensing and brokering of these "freelancers" as well? Freedom without accountability is not freedom for all.
Caroline Zarlengo Sposto
Your editorial about Princess Diana's death disgusts me. While her driver is partly to blame for the accident because he was drinking on the job, the "journalists" attempting to photograph the princess are equally to blame. Maybe the driver would not have crashed if he had been completely sober, but he would never have been driving so fast if the princess and her entourage were not being chased by several reckless and irresponsible photographers. The actions of these maniacs on motorcycles directly caused the deaths of three people, and they should be held accountable, for moving violations and for involuntary manslaughter. (I would say that the driver should also be held accountable, but unfortunately he is dead.)
To say that what happened is Diana's fault because she chose a life in the public eye is more than just complacent; it is smug and arrogant, and an attitude all too typical of journalists. Why do you think that you, or any other journalist, have the right to harass people and destroy their privacy? "They chose a public life" doesn't give you that right. "It is legal to photograph people" doesn't give you that right. You can't forgive the photographers who chased Diana and countless other celebrities with a lame excuse like "[they] were merely servants of a sort, fulfilling her needs." They didn't fulfill her needs; they killed her.
You can say that there is no privacy in a public place (it isn't true), but that does not excuse journalists from having common courtesy, or respect for others, or the decency and dignity required in our civilization.
To the Editor:
Thank you, very much, for Bruce VanWyngarden's stunningly perceptive Viewpoint on "The Royal Mini-Series" [September 11th issue]. Nothing has so pointedly underscored the sadness and irrelevance of contemporary news reporting as the media frenzy over Diana's death. One can understand the coverage of O.J.'s trial. It was, after all, a tabloid story to begin with. But there would have been only one tribute appropriate for the media to give Diana -- silence.
To the Editor:
Bruce VanWyngarden's Viewpoint column "The Royal Mini-Series" is a cynical, mean-spirited, uncalled for take on the media coverage of Princess Diana's death and funeral.
Granted, the media coverage of Diana was and is unprecedented, but then again Diana's hold over the world's consciousness has never been equaled. In this sense the media helped to create the image of Diana, but her true essence of compassion and goodness came through the television camera and news pictures touching people's hearts. After her untimely death, this massive outpouring of grief we have seen demonstrated the enormous impact she had on the world.
It is too easy for the world's cynics to dismiss the extraordinary showing of genuine human emotion and feelings about Princess Diana's death as mass hysteria, or worse, mass delusion. Cynics cannot comprehend that people felt a real human connection with Diana, a woman most people never actually met, but their empathy and trust of her is what makes their expression of sorrow so genuine and heartfelt. Princess Diana's tragic death and emotional funeral were stories of such magnitude that the world's news organizations struggled to cover them with the sensitivity and completeness they deserved.
Correction: The monthly subscription price of The Commercial Appeal is $17.50. An incorrect figured was reported last week in a City Reporter story.
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