page considers the often fuzzy boundaries between public
and private space in the 'surveillance age', including
questions about celebrity culture, tabloid journalism
and community expectations.
It covers -
Community ambivalence about privacy is demonstrated by
what is claimed as the rise of the 'tabloid tv generation',
with a supposedly insatiable appetite for information
about the private lives of other people - whether celebrities
or demons (eg terrorists and paedophiles).
In fact the 'gawker culture' is apparent from at least
the 1890s (with the rise of Yellow Journalism in the US,
Germany and elsewhere) and arguably from the 1750s or
elsewhere. What is different about our time is
for covert and non-covert surveillance by governments,
journalists, private investigators and others
emergence of mechanisms such as anti-paparazzi
legislation after disquiet over the complicity of consumers
and publishers in problematical media self-regulation.
As a starting point for thinking about community 'ownership'
of public figures see Leo Braudy's The Frenzy of Renown:
Fame and Its History (New York: Oxford Uni Press 1986),
Daniel Solove's perceptive The Future of Reputation:
Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet (New Haven:
Yale Uni Press 2007), Clay Calvert's Voyeur Nation:
Media, Privacy & Peering in Modern Culture (Boulder:
Westview 2000), John Thompson's Political Scandal:
Power & Visibility in the Media Age (London: Polity
2000), Janna Malamud Smith's Private Matters: In Defense
of the Personal Life (Reading: Perseus 1997), Rod
Tiffen's Scandals, Media, Politics and Corruption
in Contemporary Australia (Sydney: Uni of NSW Press
1999) and Richard Schickel's Intimate Strangers: The
Culture of Celebrity in America (Chicago: Dee 2000).
Notions that celebrities are fair game post mortem - either
because any property rights expire or because they are
no longer in a position to bite back - are identifiable
from at least the Roman era. 18th century pornographer
and publisher Edmund Curll, notorious for publishing the
correspondence of literary celebrities while the authors
were fresh in the grave, provoked a sardonic comment from
Alexander Pope's friend John Arbuthnot that "Mr Curll
has added new terrors to death." The Flash Press:
Sporting Male Weeklies in 1840s New York (Chicago:
Uni of Chicago Press 2008) by Patricia Cline Cohen, Timothy
Gilfoyle & Helen Horowitz demonstrates that some scandal
sheets did not wait until the celebrity was dead.
It is a terror that has remained. Authors such as James
and Mann thus conducted pre-emptive bonfires of letters
and manuscripts, a tactic captured by William Golding
in The Paper Man (London: Faber 1984). Keepers
of the Flame: Literary Estates & the Rise of Biography
(London: Faber 1994) by Ian Hamilton extends the discussion
in Smith's Private Matters. It complements his
In Search Of J D Salinger (London: Heinemann
1988), an account of how the famously reclusive author
stymied an attempted biography by refusing permission
to print his letters or publish extensive quotes. Hamilton
could read the letters - in academic archives and private
collections - but not publish.
Janet Malcolm's The Silent Woman (New York: Knopf
1994) more strikingly compared the biographer at work
the professional burglar, breaking into a house, rifling
through certain drawers that he has good reason to think
contain the jewelry and money, and triumphantly bearing
his loot away.
loot is of course acquired by consumers such as anyone
reading this page.
the market for sensation
Although it is fashionable to decry an invasive media
- journalists often rate lower than used-car or insurance
salesmen in consumer surveys - respect for privacy alas
does not seem to extend to the lives of those enduring
the 15 minutes of fame.
Jeannette Walls' Dish: How Gossip Became The News &
The News Became Just Another Show (New York: Perennial
2000), Scandal: A Scurrilous History of Gossip
(New York: Atlantic 2002) by Roger Wilkes, Scorpion
Tongues: Gossip, Celebrity, and American Politics
(New York: Morrow 1998) by Gailand Collins, Secrets,
Sex, and Spectacle: The Rules of Scandal in Japan and
the United States (Chicago: Uni of Chicago Press
2006) by Mark West and Media Scandals: Morality &
Desire in the Popular Culture Marketplace (New York:
Columbia Uni Press 1998) edited by James Lull & Stephen
Hinerman offer an introduction to gossip in US media culture.
There is a shorter but more thoughtful account in Tabloid
Journalism & the Public Sphere (txt)
by Anna Maria Jönsson & Henrik Örnebring, complemented
by Iain Calder's memoir The Untold Story: My 20 Years
Running The National Enquirer (New York: Miramax
2004) and How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World
(London: Fourth Estate 2004) by Francis Wheen.
For Australia an historical perspective is provided by
Kirsten McKenzie's Scandal In The Colonies (North
Carlton: Melbourne Uni Press 2004), David McNight's
'The Investigative Tradition in Australian Journalism
1945-1965' in Journalism: Print, Politics & Popular
Culture (St Lucia: Uni of Queensland Press 1999)
edited by Ann Curthoys & Julianne Schultz and Margaret Simons' The Contentmakers: Understanding the Media in Australia (Camberwell: Penguin 2007).
Tabloid Journalism: An Annotated Bibliography of English-language
Sources (Westport: Greenwood 1996) by Gerald Greenberg
is of particular value. For media ethics see the EU-centred
the Poynter Media Ethics Resources page
and the discussion in Claude-Jean Bertrand's Media
Ethics & Accountability Systems (Piscataway: Transaction
For tabloids see I Watched A Wild Hog Eat My Baby!
- A Colorful History of Tabloids and Their Cultural Impact
(Amherst: Prometheus 2001) by Bill Sloan, For Enquiring
Minds: A Cultural Study of Supermarket Tabloids (Knoxville:
Uni of Tennessee Press 1999) by Elizabeth Bird, Peter
Chippindale & Chris Horrie's Stick It Up Your
Punter: The Rise and Fall of the Sun (London: Simon
& Schuster 1991) and the deliciously neomarxist Grossed-Out
Surgeon Vomits Inside Patient! An Insider's Look at Supermarket
Tabloids (Venice: Feral House 1997) by Jim Hogshire.
Other insider accounts include Scooped! (New York:
Columbia Uni Press 1999) by David Krajicek, George Bernard's
Inside The National Inquirer (Port Washington:
Ashley 1977) and Sally Taylor's interviews in Shock!
Horror!: the Tabloids in Action (London: Bantam 1991).
Neal Gabler's Winchell: Gossip, Power & the Culture
of Celebrity (New York: Knopf 1994) and Herman Klurfeld's
Behind the Lines: The World of Drew Pearson (Englewood
Cliffs: Prentice-Hall 1968) complement Jack Anderson's
Confessions of a Muckraker (New York: Random 1979),
Drew Pearson's Diaries 1949-59 (New York: Holt
Rinehart 1974). Fred Inglis' uneven People's Witness:
The Journalist in Modern Politics (New Haven: Yale
Uni Press 2002) "offers to reorder a galaxy of starring
and not-so-starring, more dimly significant names in a
new historical constellation".
For tabloid/trash tv see Tabloid Television: Popular
Journalism and the 'Other News' (New York: Routledge
1998) by John Langer, Tabloid Baby: An Uncensored Account
of Revolution That Gave Birth to 21st Century Television
News Broadcasting (New York: Celebrity Books 1999)
by Burt Kearns, Live TV, Tellybrats & Topless Darts:
the Uncut Story of Tabloid Television (London: Simon
& Schuster 1999) by Chris Horrie & Adam Nathan and
The Money Shot: Trash, Class & the Making of TV
Talk Shows (Chicago: Chicago Uni Press 2002) by Laura
Michael Levine's The Princess & the Package: Exploring
the Love-Hate Relationship Between Diana and the Media
(Los Angeles: Renaissance 1998) explored claims that Princess
Diana was 'killed' by an intrusive media, suggesting that
exploitation was consensual.
taming the media circus?
Two starting points for considering industry self-regulation
and government regulation are Deborah Kirkman's thesis
Whither the Australian Press Council: The Formation,
Function & Future of the Council regarding the
fierce bad rabbit known as the APC and
Richard Shannon's A Press Free & Responsible
(London: John Murray 2001) regarding the APC's UK counterpart.
The Privacy guide points to studies of privacy principles,
reports and specific legislation in Australia and overseas.
A major theme is the tension between community and personal
Voltaire supposedly observed that media "scandal and scurrilities"
are the "bad fruits of a very good tree called liberty."
Lord Justice Glidewell in the 1991 Kaye v Robertson case
criticised media intrusions and commented that
is well-known that in English law there is no right
to privacy, and accordingly there is no right of action
for breach of a person's privacy. The facts of the present
case are a graphic illustration of the desirability
of Parliament considering whether and in what circumstances
statutory provision can be made to protect the privacy
1997 UK Privacy Act subsequently offered some protection
but, like the Australian Act, still relies heavily on
In Australia the November 2001
High Court decision
as part of litigation by Lenah Game Meats Pty Ltd against
(Lenah sought an injunction to prevent the national broadcaster
from showing unauthorised film
of possums being slaughtered in its abattoir) potentially
opens the way for a test case regarding damages for unjustified
invasion of privacy.
The Court commented that
regard to current conditions in this country, and developments
of the law in other common law jurisdictions, the time
is ripe for consideration whether a tort of invasion
of privacy should be recognised in this country, or
whether the legislatures should be left to determine
whether provisions for a remedy for it should be made
the US the First Amendment has been invoked to protect
online and offline media coverage of personal lives -
for example has been criticised as merrily peddling unsubstantiated
rumours. Most restrictions have been local, such as California's
1998 Personal Privacy Protection Act, promoted
as the first US law against overly aggressive paparazzi
Key Supreme Court decisions are those in the 1974 Cantrell
v Forest City case,
1967 Time v Hill case
and the 1975 Cox Broadcasting Corp. v Cohn case.
The most effective response to media invasions of privacy
may, of course, simply involve not favouring the particular
publication with your eyeballs. Gossip columnist Nigel
Dempster once gloated that "there is a holiday in
my heart when I discover another marriage breaking up"
- arguable consumers shouldn't go on the same package
Community ambivalence is also evident in proposals for
public access to crime registers under the auspices of
law enforcement agencies or 'concerned citizen' groups.
A more detailed discussion of those registers is provided
elsewhere on this site.
media and marketing ethics
Image Ethics: The Moral Rights of Subjects in Photographs,
Film & Television (New York: Oxford Uni Press
1988) edited by Larry Gross & John Stuart considers
the intersection between privacy, free speech and intellectual
The brief 1998 article (PDF)
The Developing Right of Publicity by Robert Labate
& Jonathan Jennings considers US state legislation
aimed at preventing the unauthorized commercial use of
an individual's name or likeness, giving that person (or
their estate) an exclusive right to license the use of
their identity for commercial purposes.
The media and privacy are discussed in our Privacy Guide
here; intellectual property
'rights of publicity' are discussed in our IP Guide here.
Questions of unauthorised photographs - covertly obtained
or otherwise - are explored here,
with a more detailed coverage of paparazzi here.
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