Paparazzi give Therese Rein the Princess Diana workout
Well, not quite. While it doesn’t compare to Fleet Street’s notorious hidden camera shot of Princess Diana pumping iron at a London gymnasium, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is apparently filthy that Woman’s Day has put a paparazzo on Therese Rein’s tail to chronicle her weight loss program.
It’s a story which goes to the heart of the privacy tensions within journalism - the difference between the public interest, and what the public is interested in.
It’s a story which will also confirm how the reading public has it both ways - illustrated most dramatically when the same people who bemoaned the media’s role in Diana’s death, were often the same ones who had every edition of Hello! magazine in chronological order at home.
As with the edition of The Australian Womens Weekly earlier this year which featured a slimmed-down Magda Szubanski on its cover, this week’s Woman’s Day will walk off the shelves, because so many of its readers will respond to the tenacity and commitment of a woman who’s battled and beaten a weight problem.
So the public is interested in it alright, chiefly the 51 per cent of the public that is female.
But the fact that a tremendous number of people want to read it doesn’t of itself satisfy the public interest test.
It’s easy enough to establish that Therese Rein is a public figure. Despite being admirably and independently wealthy, her life and that of her husband is underwritten by the taxpayer, and when he ran for public office he did it with her input and blessing, so they surrender the right to complain about intrusions other people would not expect.
If its pre-edition publicity is to be believed, Woman’s Day has got credible, on-the-record quotes from Rein’s trainer, Al Forsyth, who talks proudly about the personalised program he devised for her.
That just leaves the photographs. It’s here that people may ask whether there’s something too private, and possibly even too embarrassing, about a topic such as weight loss, that it fails to pass not only the privacy test but the fairness test.
The paparazzi style shots show the 51-year-old in a polo shirt and leggings working hard on the bike for a cardio session, doing sit-ups, step-ups and crunches, followed by a power walk, www.news.com.au reports today.
A brave editor could argue, speciously, that with so many women battling weight problems, the magazine was boldly doing its journalistic duty in bringing every vital detail of Therese’s story to other fuller-figured women.
Well, good luck with that line.
The best argument is that it’s an established fact that Mrs Rein has been doing a terrific job getting the weight off, and that the mag was simply interested in following it up, did the right thing by speaking to the trainer, and went to the gym where the first lady (to use that excruciating term) has been shedding all the kilos.
Fine, but the mag will have to contend with the fact that the PM’s wife can probably no longer use this gym for security reasons, and may also have to explain why it employed the services of a chain-smoking South Londoner with 17 different lenses who likes disguising himself as a shrub to bring you pics of the PM’s better half bouncing on a Swiss ball.
Difficult questions, but ones which can be assuaged by the circulation spike which an interested public will deliver, be it in the public interest or not.
My point then: blame the media all you like. But blame yourselves too.
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