Paparazzi are symbols of media hype machine

Freedom of the press is one of the most important parts of American life. The press is the only occupation formally listed in the U.S. Constitution. It was originally intended to be the people’s check on the government. Throughout the growth of America people have manipulated this principle to make a legal living. Where should the line be drawn regarding ethical media coverage? If there is one section of the media that apparently has no concept of ethics, it’s the paparazzi.

The way I figure it, there are two types: those who photograph celebrities in their public appearances – such as the red carpet of a movie premiere – and those who become annoyances. You’ve seen them on TV. They smother Angelina Jolie by popping flashes on her daily trip to the grocery store.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been reminded of how the latter type of the paparazzi are the lowest form of media scum.

This is a two-part problem. The first part resides in the individuals who make it their duty to follow celebrities around with a camera every single day. It is apparent to me that these people have no sense of pride whatsoever.

I can’t imagine how I would feel about myself if it were my job to camp out in front of some celebrity’s mansion every day, waiting for that person to appear so I could get him or her on film.

The last couple of weeks have apparently been extremely profitable for the paparazzi. They followed Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to Mexico while he was on vacation with his girlfriend Jessica Simpson. There is never a shortage of these idiots at Britney Spears’ custody hearings. To top off the week, they harassed NFL MVP Tom Brady on his way to his girlfriend’s apartment and continued their pursuit of the record-breaking quarterback the next night at a Manhattan nightclub.

I in no way advocate violence toward the paparazzi, but I’m never surprised when I hear reports of a celebrity threatening one of these individuals. When these people get in the way of a moving vehicle in an attempt to get a photograph and end up injured as a result, the public would make an issue out of it.

I can only imagine how I would feel if I couldn’t do something as simple as pump gas without being harassed. To say I would be annoyed would be an understatement. Many people say that the advantages of being famous come with disadvantages, but some of this stuff has really gotten out of hand.

The other part of the problem is the tabloids and networks that purchase these photos and videos, giving the paparazzi incentive to continue this obsessive behavior. These entities act as if they are morally superior to the paparazzi but still purchase the sordid material for their program segments and Web sites, which makes them enablers. By law they must give credit to the photographer upon publication.

One situation that really disturbed me when I watched the news last week was a video of emergency medical technicians wheeling the late Heath Ledger out of his apartment in New York. As they transported his covered body to the ambulance there were hundreds of flashbulbs popping. My feeling is that the man is dead – what more do we need to see?

Since the law protects the paparazzi, the only way to stop this craziness is for individuals to have a sense of pride and consider themselves above this kind of behavior. Although TV makes these people appear larger than life, they are still merely humans with flaws, just like everyone else.

Ryan Watson is majoring in mass communications.