Give the girl some privacy

I’m not a very good journalist. Not because I can’t write or I’m too scared to ask questions, but because I think most journos forget they are writing about real people, and I refuse to be like that.

In today’s Sunday Telegraph, Elle Halliwell writes about model Catherine McNeil being on the cover of Vogue, and didn’t miss the opportunity to speculate on McNeil’s mental health. The story was picked up by News.com.au where it will have a bigger audience, and they continued the theme with the standfirst on the homepage:

AN Australian model talks about her comeback but still won’t comment on those forearm scars.

Actually, she doesn’t talk about her comeback at all, because she’s not interviewed for the story. There are some quotes from her agent at Chic Management which sound like they were lifted from a media release, and some stuff from her mum which was cut’n’pasted from an earlier article. It’s worth pointing out that today is RU OK?Day, a day of action to reduce Australia’s suicide rate, supported – apparently only in theory – by News Ltd.

The first two sentences:

MODEL Catherine McNeil will grace the cover of Vogue magazine next week, making her modelling comeback after months away from the industry.

The model confirmed that she would return to New York catwalks in January but refused to speak about eight horizontal cuts on her forearms that have been the talk of Sydney since they were photographed at a teen magazine event last week.

The talk of Sydney? Really? Must have wax in my ears.

McNeil refused to comment on the marks and her agent claimed they were from a skateboarding injury. But the model’s mum said she had fallen down the stairs.

“I never forced her into modelling,” Melissa McNeil said.

“But it’s not as glamorous as it appears. There’s a lot of pressure to maintain your looks and sometimes it gets her down.”

But she is set to put her emotional turmoil behind her back in New York next month.

Halliwell is none-too-subtly suggesting self-harm. Now, call me crazy, but if that’s the case then the last thing she needs is for journos to be pointing and saying ‘look at her, she cuts herself’. Yes, self-harm is something that should be talked about, but trying to force someone to do that in public is insensitive and arrogant. (There was a great article in the New York Times last year called Boys will be boys, girls will be hounded by the media, about how only male celebrities are given the space (and respect) to deal with personal issues.)

The answer always given when I complain about these things is ‘she’s in the public eye, she’s fair game’. It was the reason given for making a big deal about those Miley Cyrus photos, and no amount of ‘she’s underaged and all we’re doing is telling people what to Google to find underaged boobs’ from me made any difference. I’m not so cynical that I think journalism is an ethics-free zone. I just think they forget they’re writing about real people.

13 responses to “Give the girl some privacy

  1. As a recovered self-harmer I can thoroughly say there is nothing fucking worse than some asshole speculating on how you got your scars. Or mocking you when you tell them how you got them when they fucking ask.

    Shy of seeing someone who’s bleeding at that moment in time it’s really none of your fucking business…. ohh man.

    And zoundz that fudge recipe looks fucking sick 😀

    • It’s good to know you’re now in a place where self-harm isn’t something you need/want anymore. I imagine it takes a lot of strength to get there, which is why I’m so pissed off at Halliwell writing in such an insensitive way.

      • I’ll say! Actually being able to wear short sleeves and shorts in summer for a change is a fucking godsend.

        I can’t remember where I read it but I do remember reading somewhere that self-injury is more addictive than nicotine or heroin. And considering it took me seven/eight years to kick the habit it wouldn’t surprise me.

        Just join the countdown for the zombpocalypse with me. I swear, arseholes like Halliwell will be the first to go – I bet zir doesn’t check zie’s corners. Hahhahahahhaa.

        • Can I ask you about scars? My legs haven’t gone bare in public for years because they are scarred (discovered the hard way I’m allergic to penicillin and it fucked my skin up, then I got a skin infection), and while they are sloooooowwwwly fading, I’m always looking out for healing advice.

          • Sadly there’s not much you can do. I shredded my thighs and fore-arms to shits end when I was younger and stupider (hindsight’s always 20/20) –

            vitamin E oil can help, as can massaging moisturiser (i like st. ives or body shop) daily but it all depends on your skin type and how well your body usually heals. Some of my deepest cuts left no scarring whatsoever and some of the most superficial injuries have ended up looking pretty darn gnarly.

            But most importantly I think is to just be comfortable within your own skin. The less of a rats I gave about my scars and covering them – the less people seem to notice. Now, cruising around in shorts idgaf and no-one’s noticed, apart from the occasional dickhead, who is usually a dickhead anyway.

            Sorry to hear about your skin infection, my aunt is fighting one right now and they can be pretty painful and take a lot of out of a person. I hope you’re okay now.

            • Yeah, I’m fine now. But my slow-as-all-fuck healing and tendency to scar has left me with some ugly legs. Man Friend says I should proudly wear shorts and consider my scars conversation points. It’s funny, for all my talk about how crap photoshopping is, I still can’t wear shorts because my legs aren’t “perfect”. Isn’t that silly? I did hear Fiona Wood talking at a conference once about a way to treat scars from self-harm, but I didn’t catch all the details.

  2. It really is such a cruel and bitchy article. It’s almost like the author is delighted by how ‘scandalous!’ the scars are. The “eight horizontal cuts on her forearms” bit is particularly disgusting to me – How much detail does she want to give? The public shouldn’t even know about this let alone know *that* much about it.

    Am I reading too much into it in thinking that the author wants people to discuss a young woman’s (very private) difficulties and enjoy it?

    Sorry if nothing I’ve said makes sense. I actually feel really dirty now after reading that. What an awful article.

    • Or is she trying to make the scars scandalous? Because so many journos are binge-drinking drug-takers, I find it hard to believe they are so easily outraged. But if they can manufacture a scandal…

      • Totally. There’s no story here. Obviously the author wants to *make* a story by invading the privacy of this woman and turning her personal ordeal (or whatever she’s going through) into entertainment.

        Ughhh I feel sick even talking about it. How was this allowed to be published?

  3. Pingback: Respect « the news with nipples

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