Friday, January 25, 2008

Editorial: Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams

I don't know if you know this, but I'm a journalist -- that's how I make my living. I also love going to gossip sites -- it is my 'mind candy' for the day, a short period of the day where I can just enjoy reading the gossip and keeping up on my fave celebs. I'm not ashamed to admit that. But this paparazzi stampede, shoving cameras into the faces of those who just lost their loved ones, is out of control.

it's especially apparent during the coverage of actor Heath Ledger's death. Yes, the media has been covering the deaths of celebs for years, but jamming a camera into the face of Lindsay Lohan who just lost a friend and yelling "Heath just died! What do you want to say?!" simply to get a photo, is pathetic. And trying to get a photo of his ex, Michelle Williams and their baby Matilda, while traveling is just too much.

Does any of the media know what it's like to tell your two-year-old that daddy isn't coming home anymore? I do and many of us on this site do. My youngest was two. She didn't understand, but she sensed my fear and emotions and just clung to me as my other two children wept.I know she was scared. I can't imagine having to have bodyguards to protect you from people who want to take your picture at your most vulnerable moment. I can't imagine how scared that's going to make both of them to walk out that front door and wonder what's going to happen to them or how you're going to frighten that little girl who just lost her daddy.

It's bad enough when I'm watching local news and they interview the mother of a boy who was just shot and killed and the grief is pouring out of her. What are you thinking, news producers, when you see that? "Gee this is a great shot?" Or does your heart break for her and you wonder if you shouldn't air this emotion on the six o'clock news and instead give her some privacy! Come on. I guarantee you that if she was in the right frame of mind, she wouldn't even have opened the door to you. You just don't get it.

While I want the media to spread the word about how hard the life is of those who lose a spouse, it takes on a whole new meaning when the only reason you're doing it is to make a buck and be the first one with the best shot.

After September 11, 2001, I had the opportunity to talk to some of the widows who lost their husbands during those tragic events (note: this was not for some story; it was because they approached me as founder of the site and they were looking for support). Some of them were interviewed for local papers and while they were glad that someone wanted to know about their husband, they said that losing someone in such a public way made it harder. Representatives from magazines, newspapers, television and radio were trying to contact them all the time. It made it hard for any kids that were involved too. Every anniversary, they are back again. Now, I want to repeat -- they didn't mind helping to keep the attention on those who lost their lives, but this media push can be very overwhelming.

Back to Heath Ledger and the media. Leave Michelle Williams alone. Let her get through the funeral. I doubt my blog is going to have any impact on of the major gossip media (as much as I enjoy them otherwise, I won't mention them now), but perhaps somebody might listen.

(Update: Ledger's publicist, Mara Buxbaum, said no details about the funeral would be shared with the media. Hopefully this will help, but you know how aggressive the paparazzi can be!)

For a brief time in 1991, I worked for a very famous paparazzi photographer. I quit a few months later because of his volatile personality, but this guy would do anything for a buck. We have thousands -- if not more -- like him today and enough is enough. Cover the red carpet, the dating scene, the clubs, but leave the funerals and the grieving spouse alone. Yeah, I know -- news is news, but I know there are lines as a journalist I won't cross. Maybe others will start to follow. And we, as readers and watchers of this stuff, can voice our opinions and say enough is enough.

My .02. Thank you for reading. Agree or disagree, but our heart goes out to Heath's family, Michelle Williams and their daughter Matilda. I know you weren't together anymore, but welcome to a club that you didn't ask to belong to, but that will welcome you with open arms and help and support you through this new rollercoaster journey in your life. We know only too well what you are going through.

And remember, you might be young, but you're not alone.



Anonymous said...

Great post! I think you offer a missed perspective in all of this. Thanks for sharing your own experience. Hopefully the paparazzi are listening.

Janelle said...

I have to say, I'm a college student studying journalism & the actions of the media in light of this have really scared me & made me wonder about the direction things are going in. This post was a help & was very refreshing.