By Yennie Cheung, 18, UCSD
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“Where were you when you heard that Diana, Princess of Wales, was killed?
This is, perhaps, my generation’s equivalent to “Where were you when you heard that President Kennedy was shot?”
I had just come home from renting a movie—”Evita”—and was preparing for dinner with my younger brother when my mother rushed into the kitchen and told us the news: Princess Di was in critical condition after a car accident. Her companion, Dodi Al Fayed, and their driver were dead, and her bodyguard was injured.
For some reason, I was under the impression that Diana would pull through, so when I was informed that she had died later that night, I was shocked and saddened. She was not my princess or even my country’s princess, but I respected her for taking part in so many humanitarian efforts.
I spent a good deal of the night in front of the television, watching the reports and comforting my crying mother, who admired and strongly identified with the Princess of Wales. Once it was mentioned that the paparazzi might have been the cause of the accident, my feelings of shock became feelings of repulsion. My mother turned to me and said in a tone that seemed more threatening than anything else, “I know that you’ve been thinking of becoming a journalist, but don’t you ever do anything as disgusting as this!”
Although I understood why she would say this, I still felt bothered. She knew that I had more integrity than to invade a person’s privacy and endanger the lives of others (as well as my own) simply to dish out celebrity gossip. She was, after all, the one who instilled these morals within me.

Lady Di was a lot like Eva ‘Evita’ Peron
The next night, I spoke on the phone with Cindy Mojica, a friend from LA Youth. We discussed Diana’s death, where we were when we heard about the accident, and our concerns for Princes William and Harry. I found my rental choice of “Evita” a coincidence, since Eva Peron and Diana had a lot in common: tragic lives and deaths, a genuine desire to help the people around them, and of course, the love of their people. We agreed that Diana resembled Peron far more than John Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Monaco’s Princess Grace, or any others whose lives the press has compared Diana’s to.
But when the discussion came to the paparazzi, things began to hit home. I told Cindy of my mother’s words the night before and my insistance that I would never stoop so low—that I had more respect for people’s private lives. Then, we both confessed feelings of shame.
Although we both denounced the ruthless paparazzi and their general lack of respect for the privacy of others, they were still journalists, as are Mojica and I in our own way. Although Cindy and I are only 14 and 19 respectively, we have contributed numerous newspaper articles and photographs, so as minor a role as we’ve played in the media thus far, we couldn’t help but feel dirty about being journalists.
For the rest of our conversation on the topic, Cindy and I tried to convince ourselves that our work was far more honorable and respectable, and journalists such as the ones who chased the Princess of Wales and her companion into that Paris tunnel were of a lower breed, fit only to dig through the media’s trash. We would never disrespect a person’s privacy like that and then take pictures of the crash instead of helping to save the passengers’ lives. The fact that the paparazzi did so was a disgusting display of what our modern society has become.
The next day, I heard some other paparazzi on TV saying they were “just doing their jobs.” I immediately became even more enraged and ashamed. “Crack dealers are also ‘just doing their jobs, but that doesn’t justify what they do!” I shouted at the television.
Not long after hearing this feeble and heartless excuse, I looked at my brother—born the same year as Prince William—and realized just how young the princes are despite the maturity of their looks and stature. How would those photographers explain this to Diana’s two young songs? “I’m sorry that I had a hand in killing your mum, but could you please try to understand that I was simply doing my job?”
Television reports show many mourners growing angry at journalists in general, whether they work for tabloids or more respected media, and I can’t say that I blame them. It’s not just the paparazzi and the tabloids that harm people’s lives through their actions. I remember when journalist Connie Chung discredited herself by broadcasting an “off the record” conversation with Rep. Newt Gingrich’s mother. The media today has become a monster.
As a young journalist, I can’t help but be repulsed by the kind of example I and other aspiring writers and photographers have had in our lives recently. If we are supposed to learn by the actions of those before us, what kind of behavior will the press of the future have? I shudder to think it.. and yet, I still feel a sense of hope. Perhaps from this tragedy something positive will occur, and current as well as future journalists will rethink their roles, question their ethics, and most importantly, begin to reform.

Maybe we’ll learn from this
It’s about time that all journalists start bringing some integrity and respect back into their jobs so that in the future, they will be met with respect and not disdain. I, for one, would be proud to be a part of this change so that I might one day shake the hand of Prince William—whom, by that time could be King William—and assure him on the behalf of the press that his mother did not die in vain.”