KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Photojournalism by traditional news media is not growing overly aggressive despite public concern stirred by Princess Diana’s death, a University of Tennessee photojournalism professor said Thursday.
Rob Heller said recent reports of heckling, threats and attacks against news photographers following Princess Diana’s death reflect public anger at the media.
Public perception may be that all news photographers are growing too aggressive and intrusive, but that is not true, Heller said.
“When you separate the tabloids from the traditional media, the trend is not toward overly aggressive photojournalism,” Heller said. “When you look at the best news photos over the decades — those that win awards in top photojournalism contests — you see the trends, styles and topics of photographs.
“Having reviewed those over the years, I can definitely say that traditional newspaper photojournalists has not gotten more aggressive.
“They do not stalk people, publish more gory pictures nor invade privacy. They photograph the news, sports and features in much the same way newspapers have done for years.”
Reports of photographers interfering with rescue attempts at Princess Diana’s crash prompted public outcry.
Ensuing incidents include arguments between security guards and news photographers at a recent Hollywood movie premiere, construction workers beating a news photographer in New Zealand as crowds cheered, and a news photographer in Pennsylvania being attacked by a crowd outside a magistrate’s office.
In each case, crowds shouted references about Princess Diana.
Heller said to ease public resentment, photojournalists must be more sensitive to their surroundings, wear proper attire and avoid causing disruptions.
“Photojournalists should always work to have empathy toward their subjects, but it is especially important with current public perceptions of the media,” Heller said.
“Journalists and educators must teach the public the difference between traditional news organizations and those that hire photographers to stalk celebrities, invade privacy and use none of the ethical standards of traditional journalists.”
Contact: Rob Heller (423-974-3463)