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.