Tabloid journalists, public interest and gagging orders: do we really care about celebrity affairs?

Ever since John Terry tried to get an injunction against newspapers revealing details of an affair he’d alledgedly been having, ‘gagging orders’ are an almost everyday occurrence against tabloids lining up their latest scandalous celebrity expose.

To be fair, you couldn’t move in the last two years with salacious stories of philandering footballers and cheating celebrities. The Ashley Cole affair that led to his divorce from Cheryl. The John Terry scandal. Vernon Kaye ‘sexting’ a colleague. Take That’s resident horny little chimp Mark Owen got outed for playing around with groupies, and Howard Donald followed suit with revelations about his own sexual shenanigans.

According to the Daily Mail, the courts have just granted a household name TV presenter a permanent gagging order preventing the papers leaking details of whatever sordid affair he’s been conducting. The paper grumbles that:

Effectively it hands another legal weapon to the wealthy seeking to hide their failings from the public. Legal experts said British courts have now begun to show favour to international ‘privacy shoppers’ looking for judges to help guard celebrity secrets.

It’s not so hard to see the flip side of that thinly-veiled argument – granting celebrities their right to privacy prevents tabloid papers from making a fortune selling sex scandals. It’s a tad disingenuous to pretend that the nation is somehow ‘losing out’ when the red tops are prevented from hanging out people’s dirty laundry. I mean, who really cares if a TV presenter is having an affair? Is it really in the public interest?

Discovering an affair might be in the best interests of the wronged wife. But I doubt that any wife wants their husband’s transgressions splashed across the front pages of the nation’s newspapers. It doesn’t take someone with a degree in empathy to understand how humiliating that might be, not to mention hurtful to any children involved in the relationship.

As immoral as the Daily Mail wants to pretend these gagging orders are, how does that compare to a football groupie sleeping with someone, then selling their story for thousands of pounds? Plus whatever extra they make from the follow-on photoshoots with lad’s mags?

And I know I’m in a minority here, but I’m so tired of learning about the dirty little secrets that lie behind closed doors. If you put all the “Love Rat Ashley Cole” stories end to end, they’d wrap around the moon 12 times. (possibly untrue) And Vernon Kaye sexting – what was that about? An irrelevant light entertainer flirting with a colleague. Happens every day all around the world.

I have to agree with Charlie Brooker’s recent column, in which he blasted tabloid hacks for actively making the world a worse place. That’s partly in reaction to the phone tapping scandal, but also to the mind-numbing calibre of celebrity gossip that is a staple part of tabloid culture. Seriously. The country dips into a serious recession, and the red tops are more concerned about the insipid Jordan/Peter/Alex triangle.

As much as a ‘blow’ the recent injunctions have been to the press, it might actually be a positive thing for the public. We’ve been spared yet another invasive round of titilating affair gossip. Are we poorer for it? No. The sensationalised version of the story would likely have been exaggerated beyond recognition, making a soap opera out of someone’s real life situation.

I’m certainly not saying that cheating celebrity husbands deserve a free pass, but is it right to reveal the affair to the nation? I mean, the only take away lesson from celebrity gossip is that footballers and television personalities will take sexual opportunities whenever they arise. And they arise a lot.

How do you feel about celebrity press injunctions – is it right to reveal celebrity marital affairs to the nation (often before the spouse finds out) or should public figures be granted the same right to privacy as everyone else?

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  1. amazinsuphilips

    I’ve never been very interested in dirty washing being aired in public, so will be happy to see fewer salacious news articles. As you say, the families, especially the children are the ones to suffer the most from the publication of this kind of tripe.

    It’s a shame it has come to gagging orders etc when newspapers could simply exercisea little more restraint. Equally the buying public could ignore the more unscrupulous publications. Where there’s no demand, there’s no profit, so this problem would simply not arise. There seems to be some notion these days that certain career choices bring with them the automatic surrender of all privacy. That can’t ever be right. 

    That said, sometimes it’s right to publish, but more often it isn’t and I salute Charlie Brooker for his article. He’s right, ‘making the world a worse place’ is not a noble ambition.

  2. slaneyvalley

    Don’t think in are in the minority Gerrard. There are so many events (good & bad and which are more important) happening in the world, stuff that we really need to be aware off, so I’m kinda fed up with hearing about gagging orders and who did what etc. The one thing I do find amazing is when a celebrity (fotballer or whoever) requests a ‘gagging order’ because any revelations will upset his (notice how it is mainly men?) family etc. Duh – then why play away from home in the first place. But in a nutshell, ‘NO’ I’m not interested in or don’t care about celebrity affairs.

    1. Gerard McGarry

      I’ve no sympathy for the cheaters, that’s for sure. But I can understand that marriages can go stale and good-looking famous people will always find people ready and willing to share a bed with them. There’s always a more detailed story to be told that the tabloids wouldn’t dream of sharing – if it’s not sensational, it’s not worth publishing.

      I also think tabloid newspapers have created a market for fame hungry women who have no have no particular talents other than what they can do in bed. Sleep with a footballer, sell your story and you may have a few years in the seedy light of glamour work and reality TV before you fade away. They’ll never admit it, but tabloid newspapers are one of the main reasons girls want to marry a footballer. Reflected glow of a celebrity and all that.

  3. Rosie-Lee

    I stopped buying a newspaper years ago, mainly because I got fed up with the foul and salacious front page headlines and inner page muck raking.  They all seemd to be at it.  Recently I have occasionally bought “i” which is the baby brother of The Independent, and this is not cut from the same cloth as the other filth sheets.

    It is nobody else’s business if a celeb has an affair.  As Gerard says, these things happen all the time.  He or she is probably going to be found about by their spouses one way or another, and having it splashed across the tabloids with a great deal of poetic licence, would be gut wrenching for the innocent parties in the family.  Most of us are not interested, but the papers get their money from the sad people that are.  Their bleating about freedom of the Press is pathetic.  They are so utterly transparent.

    If the papers had information about a famous or trusted person being a paedophile, or something like that, well then that would be different.  But presumably they would have to inform the police anyway.

    Many of the papers seem to have shot themselves in the foot over the landlord of the murdered Jo Yeates.  When he was brought in by the police for questioning, most of the papers ran some horrible stories about him, and I did wonder at the time how they were getting away with it.  They had all but hung, drawn and quartered him.  Now it transpires he was innocent, he is suing all of them.  Well I hope he gets to squeeze many millions out of them, to teach them a lesson.  Maybe they will think twice about the custom of phone hacking for example (pigs might fly).

    They need to learn something, otherwise Kate Middleton is going to have a miserable time of it.






    1. Gerard McGarry

      The ministerial expenses scandal was the last time the newspapers showed what they could actually do for good. Naturally, the situation got sensationalised and inflamed beyond all belief, but the point was well made that the people we entrusted to run the country were involved in some shady behaviour – just because it was the done thing.

      I firmly believe that the rise in voter apathy is in large part down to the fact that the newspapers care nothing for politics anymore. Celebrity tittle-tattle is cheap to write and shifts papers in incredible numbers – so why bother worrying about reporting on how the country is being run? If the papers had been paying half as much attention to the global and national economy, perhaps the early warning signs of recession would have been reported sooner, the causes identified, and pressure put on government and banking system to deal with the problem instead of digging a deeper hole.

      I haven’t read i yet, Rosie, but it sounds like a paper worth picking up.

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