What the fuss is all about?

One of the on-going issues underlining the very existence of the paparazzi include their intrusive behavior that have taken away many individual's rights to privacy. This issue has caused many people to question the legalities and moral right of their profession: are they photographers or are they stalkers?

Many people have expressed their feelings for the paparazzi in various ways. Those who claim the paparazzi are stalkers say they have gone too far by trying to get that exclusive shot. It has been said that they "make a career out of pushing their way into other people's lives in a way that makes them repugnant." Such actions have given them the title of "modern-day bounty hunters," carrying cameras instead of guns, who go where the stars are in search of a photo that will sell.

Those who express disgust for the paparazzi have made extensive pleas to the government by lobbying for laws that will make it a misdemeanor to publish photographs taken without permission. Their argument for such laws reflect the ideal of equality, testifying that public figures are human beings also, and they deserve the right to privacy like everyone else. Furthermore, they shout that the paparazzi frequently use illegal actions to gain admission into the private lives of many celebrities. Such violations include breaking and entering, the use of trickery, impersonation, fraud and disguise.

Those who defend the paparazzi say they have a first amendment right to take photos of any celebrity. It lies within that realm of journalism we call "newsgathering," which is protected within the clause of "freedom of the press." But there are some photojournalists who contend that the paparazzi are not real journalists.

"The majority of professional photojournalists are highly educated, not only in the use of a camera, but also in journalism skills. Their training includes classes on communication, law and, most importantly, ethics.... To lump these dedicated individuals together with paparazzi is hurtful and unfair."

In defense of the paparazzi, many journalist figure that celebrities voluntarily surrender their right to privacy as part of an unwritten contract with the members of society who pay their salaries as fans. David Cuthbert, a reporter for The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, said that both celebrities and the paparazzi feed off each other. In other words, one doesn't exist without the other.

"Celebrities preen for photographers only when it suits their purpose. When it does not, they hide their faces, engage in public prowls and haul photojournalists into court. Each needs the other, but it's a love-hate affair, an apache dance lit by strobe light. (1)

Paparazzo Alan Zanger said that photographers are not at fault, but instead, celebrities invite the paparazzi attention through lavish lifestyles.

"These people earn lots of money. They are very promiscuous with their love affairs. That leads to these pictures being taken," Zanger said. "We don't provoke their affairs. We photograph it."(2)



1)Cuthbert, David. PAPARZZI: BIG NAME HUNTERS. New Orleans: The Times-Picayune, February 9, 1999

2)Horn, John. DIANA'S DEATH: ARE THE PAPARAZZI TO BLAME? The Associated Press, 1997