SO why haven’t the laws been changed? Diana, the Princess of Wales: did that tragedy not have any effect on the laws and changing them?
“While the First Amendment protects the photographers’ rights to snap the photos if and when paparazzi use their vehicles as weapons, police can consider that a criminal action. “There seems to be no repercussions for the behavior. It’s starting to feel chaotic and lawless.”
-Actor Reese Witherspoon
George Clooney – Good Guy (Is anyone listening?)
Howard Kurtz interviews George Clooney
CNN-Aired October 26, 2003
Here are some excerpts of that interview:
KURTZ: You mentioned your father, an anchorman in Cincinnati for 30 years. What was it like — what was your view of the news business growing up in that household?
CLOONEY: Well, it was a really — you know, the heroes in my family growing up were newsmen, because if you look…
CLOONEY: Well, Edward R. Murrow, you know. You can point to Murrow and say easily, the man who started the ball rolling to bring down McCarthy, because of the set of those four television shows that he did on “See it Now”. When Cronkite stepped out from behind his desk, you could point to him and say he had a lot to do with the awareness of the rest of America about the Vietnam War. Woodward and Bernstein, certainly. You know, they have been overall a real service to us.
KURTZ: So, you go from that kind of very positive, almost glowing view of some of the journalistic heroes in the news business, and yet you became and have become a pretty sharp critic of the news business. Particularly several years ago, you kind of mounted, some would say, a crusade, a campaign against the paparazzi…
CLOONEY: Well, actually it wasn’t against the paparazzi. It was — everything I said — I’m always very careful about what I say. I grew up around it, so I’ve always been very, very careful about what I say. And I was much more concerned with — and, in fact, I’ve always said I will always defend their rights to be there. My problem is that — was with tabloid magazines that were creating news. I don’t mind someone trying …
KURTZ: To capture.
CLOONEY: If you capture me doing something dumb, I deserve it. I’m a public figure, for what that’s worth, and I’ll have to take my hits for it. But if I’m going to the airport and you’ve got some kid with a camera walking through there picking a fight with me or with my mother or my grandmother, which has happened, then you’re not trying to catch me doing something stupid. You’re trying to create it. So, that was my fight.
KURTZ: And so — and, in fact, I read about a case where a couple of 17-year-old kids with video cameras jumped out and made fun of a secretary you were walking with, so they’re trying to provoke you.
KURTZ: They’re trying to get you to do something that they can then turn into pseudo-news.
CLOONEY: Well, because, as you know, the line between — this is what Murrow used to talk about — the line between commerce and news is a really dangerous thing, and what is news. So, what happens is if you say to someone, all right, I’ll give you $400,000 for the first picture of Madonna’s baby, whoever comes up with it, there are a lot of people who are willing to break the law to do that. And that’s OK. It’s just dangerous, because, you know, it’s a difficult situation.
Look, I will forever defend their right to be there, because I’m willing to take the hits…
KURTZ: You don’t like it.
CLOONEY: Nobody likes it.
KURTZ: When you go out to restaurants, people taking pictures, you can’t like that.
CLOONEY: Right, but the difference is am I willing to put up with some portion of my life that’s uncomfortable rather than insisting on some sort of censorship, which I don’t.
KURTZ: Well, I want to take a look at a press conference you had several years ago on this very subject…
KURTZ: … where you drew the link between the paparazzi and the rest of the press. Let’s take a look at that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLOONEY: Maybe there is something that we can do about you — you and all of the editors, television and print — who purchase their news. Two words: Malicious intent. They are two words that every ethical journalist says is a loophole the tabloids hide behind.
KURTZ: So, the people in the mainstream media, they’re the enablers, right? They cough up big bucks to take the kinds of pictures that the very aggressive photographers are doing or situations that they’re provoking, in your view.
***NOTE from Miss: WHAT A GOOF!!! Provoking, George just stated that!!!!!!!!!!
CLOONEY: Well, there is sort of a bigger version of this, which is we know where the bottom feeders are. We know — we know — or we think we know basically how low we can go. My challenge has always been, who do we look for to give us straight news? Because when really good news organizations suddenly start buying their news — and we know about that. Everybody has done it at one time or another. And you’ve written about it as well. It starts to draw the line of where do we go for the really good stuff? We know where we can go for the bad stuff, because if certain great publications — “The Washington Post,” one of the most famous for journalism — starts to lower the bar, you don’t need two reliable sources maybe. Maybe you’ve got a couple of unnamed sources. If they start to lower the bar, then where – what’s to keep the others from doing that?
KURTZ: Well, since you brought up the “Post,” you recently — now that you’ve been in Washington for a few weeks and you’re getting covered a lot.
KURTZ: So, “The Washington Post” picks up an item from the “US News” that says Clooney is starting to get sick of Washington women, and you’ve threatened allegedly to cancel your health club membership because you went there to play basketball and these women would come and gather and watch you. Was that item true or false?
CLOONEY: No, it wasn’t accurate. And, in fact, there wasn’t…
KURTZ: It wasn’t accurate.
****NOTE from Miss: F**K Kurtz, let George talk!
CLOONEY: It wasn’t one word of it.
I wrote a letter to the editor about that.
KURTZ: And what happened?
CLOONEY: It didn’t get published, which was fine. I expect the same treatment as any American who writes a letter to an editor, which means you get probably one out of 100 printed. But my…
KURTZ: So, there was nothing about that item that was correct?
CLOONEY: Not one word. But the bigger problem was I didn’t have a problem with the item being incorrect. It’s a small story. There is a lot more important things going on in the world. My problem was that it was a very reputable paper taking a story from another paper, printing it and saying, well, we’re not culpable because we’re just reprinting somebody else’s story.
And I always have a problem with that, because I think that’s where the danger lies, because people are losing responsibility…
KURTZ: In fact, it was several years ago that you refused to go on “Entertainment Tonight” because you were unhappy with “Hard Copy,” which is owned by the same company. Why is that “Entertainment Tonight’s” fault if “Hard Copy” is chasing you down dark alleys?
CLOONEY: But they’re owned by the same company. And if, for instance, I go on “Entertainment Tonight” and they use promos and they help sell themselves — basically, you know, this is an old fight, and we’ve all gotten along since then. So, it’s sort of rehashing old stuff.
But the reason was that — the reason for the boycott basically was saying, look, I’m not going to help one part of this company make money so they can take that money and go buy videos from kids who have picked fights with me on another. I’m just not going to arm them. I don’t want to tell them they can’t do it, because I believe wholeheartedly that they have the right to do it. I just don’t want to help them do it.
KURTZ: Are things that are written about you often wrong? Is this a constant feature of your life?
CLOONEY: Yes, of course, but I think that’s anyone who is in the public eye, things are going to be wrong about you. The one thing you can’t do is constantly try to correct them. You have to just sort of take most of it.
KURTZ: I mean, I could argue that you benefit greatly from the press. The press projects an image of you as a big movie star. You get to be on the cover of “Vanity Fair.”
KURTZ: But some people don’t want to deal with the other part, which is sometimes the press writes things about you that are less than flattering.
CLOONEY: Absolutely. And that’s why you don’t hear me complaining about it. You know, I pick specific fights when I think that they are important, and those are the ones I…
KURTZ: But you do think that the media have gotten more tabloid. I mean, look, you know, the “National Enquirer” reports that Rush Limbaugh is a pill popper. Everybody else runs with it. The story turned out to be accurate.
KURTZ: A lot of tabloids (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Kobe Bryant, you name it.
CLOONEY: But the “National Enquirer” is now a reliable source. And the problem with that is not that the “National Enquirer” won’t break stories, because they will, because their — the level of information that they have to get is less. They won’t say, OK, well, we’re going to get two people on the record before we go on. They’ll print it with a little bit of an edge.
The danger is when I think when reputable news places start to compete with that. You’ve written about it. I’ve read stuff that you’ve written about it on the same subject, and it’s always a concern, you know, more than anything.