Their opportunistic timing perfectly caught the news agenda as, once again, the frenetic images of the last hours of Diana’s life were endlessly replayed.
Royal spokesman Paddy Harverson’s stern cri de couer resonated with many PROs involved in the protection of high-profile reputation. We know that the modern plague of the paparazzi can make the lives of clients intolerable. Many are not even properly trained photographers and have left more manual occupations to buy a Nikon and sat-nav in order to trail the stars.
Some carry the muscular marks of their former occupations in security or on building sites. They harass stars and celebrities on their daily round of shopping, visiting friends and going to the hairdresser. Their motorised pursuits often include dangerous driving. Their taunts and crassness to try to ‘wind up’ their quarry into a photographic rage are daily tools of a dubious trade.
Media managers and image-makers should applaud Harverson and lend him every support in stemming the excesses of an occupation that breaches privacy and liberty.
And yet, in a way, we are all – PROs, clients, media and the public – to blame for the proliferation of the paps. It will not have escaped Harverson’s attention, although he was not involved at the time, that Diana herself regularly used paps when there were images she wanted the world to see. She or her friends simply tipped off favoured agencies and publications about her secret holiday or nocturnal locations.
Nor will the irony of the fact that the inquest centres on feeding the media with possibly the most intrusive pictures ever taken of the Princess as she enjoyed her last night of romance with Dodi. The CCTV footage varies from the prurient to the ghoulish. But, as with most intrusive pictures, everyone wants to look and thus they drive up ratings and circulations.
As Diana did, a host of celebrities and their PRs and agents regularly deal with the paps to set up apparently snatched pictures of them on beaches or on the arm of a new partner. Publicity and exposure for often flagging or talentless careers is the name of the game. Revenues from the sale of the pictures frequently accrue in part to the celebrity. Spare them no sympathy, but remember that in our personality and celebrity obsessed media age the paps are a symptom as much as a cause.
Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and was formerly a senior newspaper executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun.