This is a clarion call to stop the growth of the Paparazzi, those annoying so-called "photojournalists" whose only goal in life is to snap an unflattering photo of a celebrity so they can sell it to a tabloid newspaper or magazine and make a lot of money.
One would think the death of a much-loved British princess, Diana, who died in a car that was being chased by paparazzi (paps) would have done something to curb the dangerous activities of these vermin. Instead, it seems only to have fueled their imagination and their interest in capturing the grotesque, the titillating and the unbecoming candid photos of those people whose private lives the public is constantly invading.
It is well time to lower the volume on the overwhelming public interest in celebrity, which will, in turn ,diminish the the power of the paparazzi. I have no greater wish than to see tabloid, rumor-monger publications serve their best purpose: to line the trays of bird cages and cat litter or to wrap the fish. The people making money on these tabloid rags (and websites) have compromised their integrity and moral sensibility in the name of making money - no matter what the cost to the celebrities or famous people they attack. The list of villains include the editors, publishers, writers and the infamous paparazzi who often drive their "prey" to distraction, or in the case of Princess Diana, to death. As members of the consuming public, we have a responsibility to stop subsidizing them by reading or viewing what they produce. Although most of us already turn away from tabloids and tabloid journalism on TV and on the internet, there are still millions of people who crave the latest celebrity gossip the way some people crave chocolate or cigarettes. By buying tabloid, mostly made-up celebrity gossip, we are aiding in the proliferation of paparazzi, who continue to multiply like termites. It is time for us to pull back; to treat movie stars and the rich and famous (and infamous) like we did in the 1950s and 1960s. With some reserve, and at a distance. Clearly one photo was enough then to get the picture. Just like today.
I sampled just a taste of what intrusion feels like, at a recent major public event, whereI glimpsed, first-hand, the rude callousness of the photographers and reporters gaming one another to get a photo or a quote. It was annoying and disorienting to be photographed without giving my permission. This is always the case with paparazzi here. They never request permission to photograph or gather a signature customarily given for photograph release (something always required when I was a reporter). Certain European countries rightly require permission for photographs to be taken - among them Norway, Germany, France. It is time for the U.S. to follow their lead.
A family member who works in Hollywood, notes how the paps (as they are called) congregate outside any restaurant, shop or salon where they think a celebrity might be. They often stand in the middle of the street (public property) or crowd the adjacent sidewalks, making it difficult for "common, ordinary people" to get by. These photographers have no manners nor pretense of getting any. If you happen to be one of those passersby, you can recognize them by the quality of their cameras and size of their lenses - and also because they are usually speaking in a foreign language. They know a good photo of Lindsay Lohan will bring them the big bucks. And they are willing to wait, hour by hour, to capture the shot (and in one recent case, to beat up each other to get the best view).
Make the Paparazzi pay to play (photograph) through stiff licensing and regulation fees
Last year, a Los Angeles City Councilman discussed implementing an anti-paparazzi law that would create a "personal safety zone" between the paparazzi and their subjects of interest. As near as I can tell, his proposal went nowhere - largely, I gather, because the LAPD (and this IS surprising) did not support it. Rather than agreeing to a safety zone or to mandating a paparazzi license and regulations, the LAPD seemed to say if the tabloids clean up and the public loses interest in sleeze, the paparazzi will lose their income. So I ask, which comes first: the chicken or the egg? The tabloids are just as likely to start printing the truth and making nice with a celebrities as The Wall Street Journal is to print a front-page photo of Matthew McConaughy surfing.
No matter how much we all rant, I do not think these annoying beetle-photographers are likely to evaporate any time soon. And so, I propose a remedy, mentioned above in bold print, ( lest you skipped over it) and restated here: In order to shoot their photos, paparazzi must be licensed and regulated - paying a large fee to the City or County for the privilege of doing so (Los Angeles could surely use the revenue) . This license would also require a paparazzi's sponsor (say an Agency like X17 or a newspaper like The Enquirer) to pay a fee for each free-lance (paparazzi) photographer employed or used. The Office of Public Safety (or some related office) would be empowered to regulate these footloose photogs and to monitor complaints against them. Serious, proven complaints would require a large fine to be paid; a number of consecutive complaints would mean a paparazzo would pay an even larger fine and lose his/her license. Paparazzi would be required to wear their license badges and to comply with demands to see their name and their badge. Any celebrity, citizen or law enforcement official could demand identification. Regulation would go a little ways towards skimming off the fat of the hangers-on paparazzi (those hoping to get lucky and get rich) leaving the experienced paparazzi to contend with tough, new regulations and rules. Just as so many other "occupations" require licensing and regulation (one thinks of cosmetologists and stock brokers), the paparazzi would also be required to pass comprehensive paparazzi tests - in their case, tests about California (or where ever they are located) laws - i.e. The Civil Code of Procedure regarding paparazzi, laws regarding public safety and knowledge of recent litigation involving complaints against paparazzi. Many paparazzi will protest regulation- so will a small number of First Amendment activists.
The argument the paparazzi are covered by The First Amendment is a joke. Freedom of press is one thing; freedom to harass is another. The Founding Fathers never envisioned a time when the press would be used to hurt people - scandalize and traumatize them - as the paparazzi and the tabloids have done and still do repeatedly. The only "press" related to paparazzi is their tendency to press against car windows as a celebrity or famous person tries to drive away. I guarantee you that no paparazzi will ever be nominated for a Pulitzer Prize or find themselves in the Photographers Hall of Fame. There is the argument that some celebrities' managers or entourages tip off the paps so the "stars" can be photographed coming and going. I buy this with a grain of salt. Those who would court the paparazzi would be those celebrities desperate for notoriety and coverage, and these are the celebrities least interesting to the paps.
I also believe the frenzied activities of the paparazzi and their invasion of privacy is one reason some A-list celebrities are driven to escape through alcohol or drugs. Others, hoping to avoid a feeding frenzy, simply move away to more isolated locations like Montana and New Mexico (not that relocation stops the IPhone paps - an entirely new and mostly younger version of the more experienced paparazzi). Having your privacy constantly invaded takes its toll on everyone but the photographers and the people who employ them. And also the reading public who likes to see the famous taken down a notch or two.
And so it goes: paparazzi will continue to denigrate and destroy everything that covering the "news" once meant. A wave of public sentiment to regulate these leeches could get the ball rolling. Unless the government licenses and regulates then, they will continue to be fruitful and multiply. Requiring they pay up to photograph and to get permission to do so is one good way to start their ending.