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Diana And The Press

Of all the ironies about Diana, the greatest might have been this: A girl given the name of the ancient goddess of hunting was, in the end, the most hunted person of the modern age. The pursuers were to become the pursued.

Already convicted in the court of public opinion, the press would impose its own stiff sentence. Shortly after Diana's death, a watchdog group made up of British press members themselves, strengthened its so-called "code of practice."

The code now says information cannot be obtained through persistent pursuit. A newer addition, "Young people should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion," was built into the overall guidelines with the two royal princes, William and Harry, in mind.

There are exceptions to that rule. When Prince Harry was photographed recently climbing down a dam without proper safety gear, British papers published the photos, saying the story was in the public interest.

The press feels vindicated, as the blame for the crash appears to shift away from the paparazzi to car's chauffeur. And now the public is perhaps in a more forgiving mood, feeling the press has learned an important lesson.

"I don't think it will ever be as bad as it has been," says London resident Carol Sparrow. "I think people will always remember the tragedy that's happened, and we'll keep back a little. But yeah, the interest will be there. I mean, we're interested. We want to know what's going on. And therefore, the paparazzi are there to tell us, aren't they? We'll buy the papers."

Mark Saunders, a photographer who spent five years taking pictures of Princess Diana, says he doesn't think the tabloid photographers have changed the way they do business necessarily because of Diana's death.

"They have changed," he says, "because the public is not going to tolerate pictures of Prince William and Prince Harry, and paparazzi-style pictures. But the public's appetite for royal news hasn't changed in the slightest."

He says as long as the appetite is there, the demand for photographs is there. "You can't pick up a newspaper here in London, or even in the United States, without constantly reading the latest on Princess Diana," says Saunders. "And Princess Diana...was killed a year ago. There is no 'latest.' The news that is being created is just for the readers' benefit.

"The argument that the paparazzi had was: It was a question of supply and demand," Saunders continues. "The public demanded the pictures and demanded the stories. The paparazzi supplied the pictures and went with the stories."

Things are different now, Saunders says, for reasons other than a new code of conduct. During the year leading to Diana's death, he recalls, interest in the princess had dwindled.

"There is only when she got her relaionship going with Dodi al Fayed the interest became as big as it was," he recalls. [And] with William and Harry...they are not dating girls, not going out with mates and stuff like that, which is what paparazzi live on."

©1998 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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