Who Knew? CBS Develops a Conscience on Britney

Are pigs flying? 

A major morning news show plans to introduce a measure of responsibility into its coverage of Britney Spears. 

CBS's Maggie Rodriguez announced during the Monday broadcast that The Early Show “will show extreme restraint when airing photos taken by celebrity paparazzi until Spears is declared no longer a danger to herself or to those around her.”  Rodriguez also showcased a paparazzo who resigned over the treatment of Spears.

“Extreme restraint” is open to interpretation and Rodriguez didn't specify what it will constitute, but any media outlet recognizing the exploitive role of the paparazzi is a step in the right direction.  CBS appeared to accept some degree of responsibility for the media's role in creating the monster that is celebrity “news” coverage.

Last week, before the latest Spears drama hit the airwaves, the Culture and Media Institute critiqued the media for exploiting the public fascination with celebrity train wrecks (America's Tabloid Coliseum).

Rodriguez interviewed Nick Stern, a paparazzo who quit the “profession” because of the way Spears has been pursued.    

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ, CO-HOST: Was there a specific moment that made you realize that you were crossing the line of what you thought was moral and ethical?

NICK STERN, PHOTOGRAPHER: On one occasion, the paparazzi followed Britney Spears to a pharmacy, actually the pack were walking back in order to photograph her. There was a homeless woman watching the spectacle who got knocked to the ground. Nobody paid any attention to her. She was just left there. Some of the driving techniques are pretty scary as well. And in my opinion represent a danger to Britney Spears and other members of the public.

RODRIGUEZ: What kind of danger? How do you think this will end if it continues?

STERN: Well, personally, I could foresee the death of Britney Spears either directly or indirectly.

RODRIGUEZ: What has the response been to your decision from your fellow photographers?

STERN: I've had an amazing amount of support either by text message, phone calls or e-mails.

RODRIGUEZ:  Do you think they'll stop? They won't stop.

STERN: Oh, no, no. We're not saying here stop all press photography. Most journalism and most news reporting is justified and legitimate. All I'm saying is it's a personal issue that I took concerning the pursuit of Britney Spears, that's all. It's just a personal decision I made.

RODRIGUEZ: But do you encourage others to follow in your example?

STERN:  No, that's not what I'm trying to do. I resigned from Splash, and they respected my opinion. They're a highly professional organization with a great reputation. That's a personal decision that I made.

Sometimes it only takes one person to stand up and say, “You know, it isn't right to place the public in danger to get that perfect picture.”  It's a shame that Stern isn't urging others to re-evaluate their own actions, but he should be commended for taking a stand against tactics that could cause irreparable harm to people, celebrities and non-celebrities alike.