Public Figures Shouldn't Expect Privacy

Bonnie Fuller, Floyd Abrams and Others Discuss How to Cover the Famous

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NEW YORK ( -- Bonnie Fuller, whose Star magazine reports this week that "Vince Cheated," said during a panel on privacy yesterday that celebrities are the ones to blame when the media covers intimate details of their lives.
Bonnie Fuller on the 'Newsmakers' panel
Bonnie Fuller on the 'Newsmakers' panel Credit: Reuters

"It's not really about the press," said Ms. Fuller, exec VP-editorial director at American Media, whose titles include Star, The National Enquirer and National Examiner. "Celebrities are deciding to use their own private lives for whatever gain they can get."

Not that the gossip doyenne could say there's anything wrong with that. But if you use positive coverage of your relationships and family to get ahead, then you have to expect stories like this week's on whether actor Vince Vaughn cheated on his girlfriend, actress Jennifer Aniston.

'Newsmakers' panel
Ms. Fuller was speaking at a Reuters "Newsmakers" panel, assembled to debate how far the media should delve into private figures' lives. Other panelists included Floyd Abrams, the first amendment lawyer who is himself famous in certain circles; Jacob Weisberg, editor in chief, Slate; Gary Morgan, CEO, Splash News and Picture Agency; and Hilary B. Rosen, the business and political consultant who led the Recording Industry Association of America for 17 years.

Mr. Abrams asked Ms. Fuller about those invaded stars who don't, for example, sell their baby photos to national magazines. Ms. Fuller's retort: Everyone knows that fame has an upside and a downside. And she isn't bothered when gossip columns write about her life, she said, because she's "kind of" a public figure herself.

The whole question may be beside the point, Mr. Weisberg said. The world in which a few media titans could decide whether the country found out about FDR's polio or JFK's women, after all, has been obliterated by blogs and other new-media outlets that operate by their own standards. "The elite press no longer plays a gatekeeper function."

Proud paparazzo
Mr. Morgan, the former Fleet Street reporter turned proud paparazzo, agreed. "We're merging now between celebrity and politicians and public figures," he said. American reporters may have refrained from reporting on affairs or sickness for a while, but that reflected a lack of competition in local newspaper markets, while England's papers are all national and always at each other's throats.

"I don't think any of us are capable of stopping where we're going," Mr. Morgan added, without evident regret.
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