Ethics in the media

Isabella Finn

Laura Whitmore was a guest of Jaguar at the reveal of the new XE in London, Monday 8th September 2014.

Irish TV presenter and radio host Laura Whitmore has criticised a paparazzi for not respecting her privacy as she reunited with her boyfriend Iain Stirling at Cape Town airport.

Less than a week after Laura Whitmore and Iain Stirling’s friend and colleague Caroline Flack took her own life, the pair were left to defend themselves during an altercation with a paparazzi at the South African airport. 

Whitmore posted a video of the confrontation on her Twitter with the caption “I asked the photographer to please stop taking pictures as I hadn’t seen my boyfriend since my friend passed away and we wanted some privacy”. 

The video, recorded by Iain Stirling, shows Whitmore asking the man to stop taking pictures of her and her partner, the man says he is taking a picture of them because he assumes that they are talking about Caroline.

While it is perfectly legal to photograph someone while they are in a public setting, intrusion into grief or shock is a violation of the Independent Press Standards Organisation Code of Practise. While IPSO only handles complaints about publications that are members of the organisation they do represent popular gossip magazines Chat and Hello!. 

Tabloids and gossip magazine have circulated into the public interest following Caroline Flack’s suicide. Many people believe these intrusive magazines may have derailed Caroline’s life, resulting to her sadly taking her own life.

Shortly after Flack’s passing the hashtag #BeKind starting trending worldwide on various social media platforms. The hashtag was inspired by one of Flack’s more recent Instagram posts that read “In a world where you can be anything, be kind”. This is linked to Flack’s response to the media that were deciding her guilty before her domestic abuse trial she was to face against her boyfriend. 

Reality television personality Jade Goody also received similar treatment from the press before she died of cancer in 2009. While contestants on Channel 4’s Big Brother, Goody faced criticism for her racist behaviour towards Shilpa Shetty. 

Goody, and two other contestants who participated in the racist bullying, were slammed by the media for their behaviour and were found on the cover of the most popular gossip magazine for months after the incident. 

This hatred continued all the way up to and including Goody’s diagnosis of terminal cervical cancer.  Goody attempted to recant her hurtful statements numerous times but the media didn’t forgive her until she died from her illness on Mother’s Day 2009.

While it could argued that Laura Whitmore’s video was to raise awareness about the invasive behaviour of the media, her video has had the opposite effect of #BeKind towards the paparazzi. Comments below the Twitter post show celebrities and various members of the public cursing out the man involved and questioning his mental capability. 

While the paparazzi’s justifications for taking pictures of Whitmore and Stirling were extremely insensitive towards their state of mourning, the video has had the adverse outcome of spreading kindness. 

Isabella Finn

Image Credit: Wikimedia