Publishers control the narrative. There was a time, not that long ago, when the public wanted to see celebrities depicted as they imagined them - glamourous and happy - even if that wasn't really how it was behind the scenes.
Things have changed. Publications have proliferated. They cost next to nothing to launch. They are all striving to be different. They have realized that there is a market for anything.
Some tabloid "big sellers" have been around for a while.
- Look how ugly/fat this person has gotten!
- Look who is cheating on who.
- Look who has been arrested.
- And sadly, look at who has died.
But things are changing. Now popular narratives include:
- Look how similar your fav celeb is to you.
- Look what she's wearing
- Look at what he's eating
- and my favorite, Did you hear what that paparazzo said to her? Can you believe the nerve of him? (with the implication that maybe it's true). So, either a question from a paparazzo qualifies as a newsworthy event, or it's just another vehicle to publish the latest outrageous speculation/gossip.
Why is this going on? The short answer is that publishers have figured out that they no longer have to wait for a story. In fact, they can't afford to. Publishers have realized that people will consume anything. If mainstream publishers don't respond to the ever increasing "Baby Pap" and other niche publications, they will continue to lose market share. They excuse their behavior by saying, "if you don't like it, don't click on it".
Internet publishing has taken over. Advertising dollars no longer require a salesforce. Advertising revenue is only a click away, and can be set-up in minutes. You don't even need educated journalists. "Copy and Paste" journalism is rampant. Just pick your favorite celebrity quote that was reported elsewhere, throw in a few observations of your own (even though you weren't there), and presto, a largely un-plagiarized "news event".
There is a market for virtually anything. Especially when it is considered "free" by the consumer.
Photojournalism too has gone from a profession to a quick way to make a buck (for some). Professional photojournalists resent this more than anyone. Next to the celebrities, they have suffered the most. They are tarnished with the stigma of "paparazzi".
While professional photographers (the ones with ethics) are left bewildered on the sidelines, the general public has now entered the game. They didn't plan to, but they have heard that a celebrity photo is worth money - potentially a lot of money. They are are attracted by the crowds that now surround celebrities when they are out in public. They now carry a decent digital camera with them at all times. They get drawn in. They become #FanTurnedPaparazzo.
Picking fights with publishers just gives them something else to talk about. Something else to make money off. They love drama. What is more dramatic than a celebrity picking a fight? You can make your pleas. You can try to appeal to their humanity. In the end, they will just use your concerns to make more money.
So what can be done?
- Understand what is going on and why.
- Inform people.
- Encourage them to think critically.
- Use your voice.
- Demand what you deserve - Respect and Privacy.
Publishers can only go so far in controlling the narrative. We have many tools at our disposal. Changing the law is fine, but it also happens to be the slowest option available to you.
So don't hate the tabloids. Use them. Have a message ready, but don't pick a fight. Don't focus on their lies. Expose their half-truths and speculation instead. Reveal the truth by asking questions and honestly sharing your perspective. That is how you win.
I don't have the truth, I'm just in pursuit of it.