Taunting celebrities

Is it fair to use an unflattering photo of a celebrity to illustate a story about their mental health problems? Particularly when part of their distress is over unflattering photos? (We all have bad photos of ourselves. I have a charming series where it looks like my face is melting.)

A few days ago the Sydney Morning Herald ran a story about Mischa Barton, the 23-year-old American actress in hospital under a 5150 involuntary psychiatric hold order, with an unnamed “friend” saying “she is a suicidal, uninsurable mess”. Nice friend. News Ltd sites also ran the story.

Apart from implying that if you have problems, then suicide is the answer – not a very smart thing to do when writing about a tv star who has loads of young fans – the story includes a photo of Barton looking gaunt. It’s not a flattering photo and the camera angle no doubt makes it worse. The photo was taken months ago, so using it now is mean and irresponsible, and journalism should be neither.

And in the SMH Life & Style email, directly below the story on Mischa Barton – whose distress has reportedly been made worse by body image issues – is a 52 photo gallery on Miami’s hottest swimwear. It’s a little insensitive.

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