Following the death of ITV presenter Caroline Flack the UK public has formed a petition in attempts to end media harassment of celebrities.
Signed by over 600,000 people, the petition has been titled ‘Caroline’s Law’ and gained huge support after it was confirmed that the 40-year-old Love Island host had taken her own life.
South Shields’ man Dennis Patton started the petition and said that it was time for new laws to come into place, stopping sections of the media from what he describes as “harassing” and “bullying” people.
Dennis said: “I started this petition calling for Caroline’s Law because the media seem to act with impunity. They’re quite happy to drag someone’s life through the wringer purely in order to sell a few more papers.
What price a life? This isn’t the first time this has happened, and I’m concerned that without a new law, it won’t be the last.”
Reality Titbit has always strived to avoid certain journalistic techniques and will take extra care in their content going forward in hope that other media outlets follow suit, if not through government force but by moral choice.
In particular, there are five problems with celebrity coverage that we believe need to change.
The use of negative sensationalism
The problem: The use of negative sensationalism, particularly in headlines, has had an adverse effect on our culture.
In terms of celebrity news, all news has become ‘shocking’. The use of heightened emotive language forces the reader into the same opinion of the writer or publication.
Flick between BBC World News and a report on war-torn Syria and a MTV bulletin on Charlotte Crosby and you’ll likely hear the similar descriptive language used from ‘catastrophe’ to ‘horrific’.
How are we supposed to feel or understand empathy when dangerously opposing subjects are described with the same language?
The solution: Nobody has a problem with positive sensationalism. In fact, we’re not sure it’s even a real thing.
The world could always do with a boost of positivity and describing a 12-year-old’s Guinness World Record attempt at eating 30 ketchup packets in 30 seconds as ‘incredible’ has plenty of feel-good benefits.
Publications should be taught to drop negative words placed in titles when they’re specifically used to add sensationalism and grab attention.
How we portray beauty
The problem: We all know that beauty is subjective. Everybody has different preferences and tastes in everything from style to beauty and basic human aesthetics.
Yet in the case of celebrities, they’re all ‘stunning’. A culture has been formed where every celebrity is described as ‘beautiful’ on the sole principle that they have to be drop-dead gorgeous because they are a celebrity.
With a huge portion of celebrities flourishing in their looks through cosmetic and surgical procedures there has become a very narrowed vision of beauty.
Personally, I don’t find Geordie Shore star Holly Hagan attractive. However, a quick Google surfaces articles on her ‘jaw-dropping tiny waist’, how she ‘stuns’ in new bikini pics and suddenly my vision of beauty is wrong.
The solution: Publications need to make it clear that articles on beauty are opinion based, while also ensuring there is more diverse coverage in this area.
There is nothing wrong with writing an article on how amazing Dani Dyer looks in her most recent Instagram snap but this is not a factual story. It is a piece of opinion and this needs to be highlighted.
Media access to celebrities
The problem: There is a classic headline that always surfaces when the UK’s celebrity coverage comes under fire.
The story came from the Daily Mail in 2014 and read: Lauren Goodger narrowly avoids walking into a puddle during day out in Essex.
Yep, not only is this a real story but it received more online engagement than all of the articles on Reality Titbit put together. However, it’s these sort of stories which highlight an unfair hounding of celebrities and their day-to-day life.
In this instance, the article was harmless. But in the case of Caroline Flack, the media coverage that followed every minute aspect of her life as the 40-year-old attempted to retreat into hiding and quietly rebuild her career is exactly what Caroline’s Law has lamented as “bullying”.
The solution: Celebrity press coverage is not an easy issue to tackle and it is full of loopholes and special circumstances. After all, many celebs use the press to enhance their life from financial gains to status, and therefore media outlets reverse the favour for news coverage.
However, if it is known that a celebrity may be under significant mental stress, such as losing their job, then isn’t it fair from a moral point of view to leave them alone for a while?
The problem: Many readers will never pick up on stat manipulation as it is sewn into not only the media but every other aspect of life.
That diet fizzy drink you just picked up because it now has 50% less sugar? Well, the only reason they say it has 50% less sugar is that despite this seemingly huge drop in sugar, it’s still going to be dangerously over the daily recommended allowance.
They’ve simply manipulated the stat in the best possible way for marketing.
Our celebrity and news coverage is no different, with stats and facts gifted the spotlight in whatever fashion best fits a clickable headline.
Take the many articles online Ofcom complaints. Sure, reading that 62 people have complained about a comment on Love Island sounds significant when you’re sat at home with just your mum and a cat.
But proportionally, 62 people is just 0.001% of that night’s viewership, making it very much a non-story.
The solution: Common sense and the logic to pick apart stats like these would be great, but few of us are mentally switched on when flicking through Facebook looking for something easy to read at 10 pm.
Nevertheless, publications know what they are doing when they form an article. It’s their decision on whether a fact is worth telling to the public, or whether the fact is only worth telling when manipulated in a certain way. There’s a big difference.
Giving the wrong people voices
The problem: We all enjoy a Twitter reaction piece. They’re easy to read and help to both understand others’ views or feel at home knowing that someone else shares the same opinion.
However, social media is full of trolls and the press needs to be held accountable for the voices they give platforms to. Trolls are particularly ever-present on Twitter, maliciously making remarks on celebs’ looks and lifestyles. Yet these trolls still manage to find a way onto supposedly ‘professional’ and ‘journalistic’ articles.
Ten people may tweet about how a celebrity looks overweight on a new TV show and publications often decide that this warrants an article. In reality, the publication is just running the story for viewing figures and deflecting the damaging opinion within the story by shunning it off as ‘the voice of Twitter’.
The solution: The press needs to be held accountable. They need to be penalised if caught promoting bullying or unnecessary hate because ultimately it is their decision on who they give voice too.
Comments and thoughts are welcome below – this article was written by Liam Curtis, head of content at Reality Titbit.