Late on Christmas day the world was shocked when it was announced that singer, songwriter George Michael had died aged just 53.
And while the majority of people were thrown into mourning over the former Wham! singer’s death, the reaction from some of the UK’s most popular newspapers and websites was pretty unsavoury.
Rather than celebrate and champion the work of a man who helped millions of people come to terms with their own sexual identity, what did they do?
They mocked him.
And they mocked him for what I presume in their rather blinkered, old fashioned eyes is the worst thing a celebrity can do – he changed the way he looked.
Yes they mocked a man who’d been dead for less than a day by publishing photos and talking about how the star had ‘put on weight’.
For fun let’s take a look at the self proclaimed ‘most popular paper in the nation’ The Sun and their story: ‘LAST PICTURES George Michael looked tired and drawn in these final pictures of the singer in September’, which as the title suggests points out how the singer looked in his final days.
Just four paragraphs into the story, they quote a statement from George Michael’s publicist asking the public to respect the late singer’s family’s privacy.
Can someone please explain to me where the respect lies in publishing creepy paparazzi photos of a man, who I reiterate had only been dead at this point for less than a day, pointing out that he looked tired and drawn?
And if anyone thinks that particular description isn’t too insulting don’t worry, The Sun outdid themselves by pointing out he’d put on weight.
Why publish a story like this? It’s not in the public interest – I’ve studied journalism and it doesn’t meet any of the criteria, you want to know what it is? It’s ghoulish voyeurism.
Don’t think The Sun are the only publication guilty of disrespecting George Michael, The Daily Mail published the same story but managed to be as bad if not worse in many ways.
In their story they point out George Michael had become a recluse because he ‘hated the way he looked’ claiming that he wasn’t just self conscious about his weight gain but also about scars he gained in a car crash that they speculate may have been a suicide attempt.
Rather surprisingly The Daily Mail managed to show a surprising degree of restraint in their story waiting a whole day before publishing.
Other sources who published the photos include The Express, who waited just a few hours to publish, and TMZ who to be quite honest couldn’t sink any lower when it comes to celebrity deaths.
Honestly am I in the wrong here? Do people want to see photos criticising the recently deceased? Does no one else see the irony in a paper publishing that people should ‘respect’ his family’s privacy.
It strikes me as nothing more than fat shaming and bullying hidden behind the veil of news and it leaves a very sour taste.
More of a concept than a journalist, Tom Percival was forged in the bowels of Salford University from which he emerged grasping a Masters in journalism.
Since then his rise has been described by himself as ‘meteoric’ rising to the esteemed rank of Social Editor at UNILAD as well as working at the BBC, Manchester Evening News, and ITV.
He credits his success to three core techniques, name repetition, personality mirroring, and never breaking off a handshake.