Party Pitfalls

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Young media stars wary of paparazzi moments

Updated on Saturday, September 6.

Photographs have a way of living on, long after the noise of the party has subsided.

And there can be major implications when those images go public.

Sometimes, the moment is innocent a beer bottle raised to the lips, a flushed face and a poorly-timed blink of the eyes can make a person look inebriated.

Other times, the person is out to lunch, with behavior that is lewd, rude and over the top. There is no shortage of these photos on facebook, despite the fact that employers are known to surf such sites, looking for evidence of inappropriate behavior among potential hires.

But what about people with a higher public profile? Because of their celebrity, cameras are frequently pointed in their direction, increasing the odds that they could be photographed in compromising situations and the resulting images posted for all to see.

I'm not talking about Britney and Paris. This is an issue with local ramifications. The proliferation of camera phones and small digital cameras means perilous times for local celeb's on the party circuit.

I worked the nightlife beat when I worked at The Newfoundland Herald during the 1980s, and spent a great deal of time downtown. I'd like to think that my behavior was always respectable, but it was a different world nonetheless cameras were bigger, more cumbersome and rarely seen in nightclubs.

No so today. How does the proliferation of small digital cameras affect the way young local media personalities comport themselves, when out and about?

I put this question to a couple of TV people who are highly recognizable and relatively young.

CBC news reporter Zach Goudie is just 24 and does like to socialize with friends, but you won't see any "arse up in the ditch" photos of him on facebook. And there's a reason for that Goudie is careful.

"I've spoken to a few other public-profile-but-still-like-to-party types about the whole facebook-photo thing, and most agree that the best way to keep embarrassing pictures of yourself from ending up online is to prevent them from being taken in the first place," Goudie said.

Goudie said there are commonly accepted, though unwritten, rules of general netiquette'.

"Most of the iGeneration have accepted the futility of trying to prevent cheers'ing-beers type photographs from ending up online. However, it's poor netiquette to post a picture (without permission) of anyone doing anything more debauched than cheers'ing-beers. However, because you can no more trust the average netizen than you can the average citizen (probably less so), it's wise to simply avoid being photographed doing anything more debauched than cheers'ing-beers. Cut off the problem at the source.

"Not to imply that I'm continuously up to my earlobes in debauchery," Goudie added.

Krissy Holmes, the talented host of Out of the Fog (on Rogers Cable 9), agrees that one has to be careful whilst out in public, or even at private parties.

"I don't so much worry about people taking pictures as much as I am concerned about how much I drink when I am in public," said Holmes, who is 28. "As long as you are in control of yourself, pics should be safe. However, everyone has a bizarre incident every now and again. I'll give you an example: a few weeks ago, I was at a friend's pool party on a sunny and hot afternoon, and after two glasses of the new ready-made Mojito mix, I got really sick. Inexplicably sick. I was really confused and self-conscious, because I didn't want people to think that I was drunk (at 4 pm!). I'm still sort of confused about what happened to me that afternoon, but all I can guess was that I was dehydrated and overheated? Either way, I was in a safe environment, around friends who took care of me and rushed me home to bed and tucked me in with lots of ice water and a head rub."

One factor over which people have less control, Holmes said, is the behavior of friends and acquaintances.

"People tend to judge you by what your friends are into, but most people know that that isn't a realistic or fair observation," she said. "Regardless, most of my friends are very respectful of that sentiment, and will often go out of their way to make sure that I do remain 'in control', and I do the same for them. It's a good philosophy to go by when you're out on the town and that's what good friends are for."

Beyond being careful, Holmes has some advice not just for media types, but anyone who is conscious of their public image.

"When you are out partying, and if you are unsure of what you look like, or how you're projecting, just ask your best friend, (if he or she is sober and a good judge of character), or ask the most honest person in the room. However, if you have to ask, it's probably a good indication that you have already lost control!"

Zach Goudie poses an interesting question about what the image galleries of today's generation will mean for the opinion leaders of tomorrow.

"After all, everybody now freely posts their weekend-horror show pictures/stories, publicly documenting all of our sordid personal lives. So, firstly, who among us will be able to claim such a squeaky-clean personal record when a quick googling could, chances are, provide evidence to the contrary? And secondly, will a generation that thinks nothing of internet-airing their dirty laundry, even expect, much less demand, such a squeaky-clean record from their elected officials? Will we hold others up to a standard that we have verifiably not lived up to ourselves?"

UPDATE: I received an email from CBC news reporter Christina Marshall, another young up-and-comer, who is also keenly aware of the presence of cameras when she is out on the town. Her thoughts add another dimension to the discussion, so I am including them here.

She says having a high public profile is an odd situation that takes some time to get used to. "This past year has been a major adjustment, in the ways of behaviour and the camera being around when out on the town," she said. "One night I was down at Green Sleeves with a few friends. I was in the bathroom when a girl recognized me. At that time I had had a few social drinks. But after having nights of being recognized, I keep my wits about me. This girl wanted to take a picture of herself and I, while we were in the bathroom of the bar. Of course she could take my picture, but I made the request that it be out of the girls washroom. Had it ended up on Facebook in the bathroom I would more than likely have heard about it."

She said adjustments must be made, not just by her, but her friends as well.

"As a person in the public eye there comes a point when you have to sit your friends down and say, No do not take my picture, please do not act out when I am around, please be aware of the company I am associated with and that my image is very important.' For the most part my friends are pretty good and know that there are images that simply cannot be shared with the world. But that doesn't mean it doesn't happen by accident. Especially pictures from the past, when being in the public eye wasn't even a thought, and you partied like many of your friends... When it comes to images on Facebook, the privacy settings are super important."

This constant awareness of image does affect how she carries herself in social situation, Marshall said.

"It's hard to be out and have a good time with your friends, hamming it up, blowing off steam when there is always the image' you represent on the mind. My guard is so rarely totally let down. When a camera does go off, I always think, Oh oh, what does that look like and where is it going to end up?' That being said, I am not going to change my fun-loving nature when out and about. I am just a little more careful."

With regard to Zach Goudie's comment about today's image galleries of the unknown coming back to haunt the famous of tomorrow, Marshall is not so sure.

"I do agree that the 20 something generation all take photos that promote less than flattering images of themselves, and post them free for the world to see on the net. So does an ugly, wild, unflattering picture have an effect on the younger generations of today and tomorrow? Who knows? It's like tattoos once were - there was a time when they were not acceptable, but then everybody started getting them, now no one cares much if you have one or not. Maybe this generation simply doesn't care about the images that will last well into the future..."

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  • Kerri
    July 27, 2010 - 14:53

    I don't really have much of a public profile, but I've definitely thought about this before. My Facebook has some really awful party pictures of me - I hope they don't come back to haunt me when I'm trying to get a straight job. br I guess it's a little different being in print though. br br Interesting idea for an entry, Geoff.