An Open Letter to Alec Baldwin

June 19th, 2012 by Mickey Osterreicher

An Open Letter To Mr. Alec Baldwin:

Today when you attacked photographers who were waiting outside the city Marriage License Bureau in New York City, it was not the first time that you’ve assaulted members of the very media who helped to make your name a household word. It’s been reported that after today’s incident you Tweeted, “A ‘photographer’ almost hit me in the face with his camera this morning. #allpaparazzishouldbewaterboarded.” You then continued to display your insensitivity by Tweeting, “I suppose if the offending paparazzi was wearing a hoodie and I shot him, it would all blow over …”.

Rather than make light of a national racial tragedy, I suggest that if you don’t want to be recognized when you go out in public it is you who should be wearing something over your head.

Eyewitnesses to today’s incident report that not only were the photographers not near you at the time you aggressively went after them, but that they were in retreat as you continued your unprovoked assault. Whether you like it or not, you are a public figure involved in a newsworthy event. And as you well know from your lifetime of celebrity public life, there is no expectation of privacy on a public street.

No one is really surprised that you continue to act in this manner, given past performances. But as a former photojournalist who is now general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), I object to your combative actions against photographers who were doing nothing more than waiting to take your photograph, an activity you’ve willingly participated in thousands of times, posing when you thought it was in your best interest.

I do not know whether those you attacked have filed assault charges, but I hope they do. Because until you and others like you are held accountable for your actions, this supposed “open season” on photographers will unfortunately continue. It is all too easy to denigrate working journalists by calling them “paparazzi,” but not all photographers deserve that demeaning title, just as all actors are not boors or bullies.

For someone who is politically active and who routinely calls for holding the government accountable, which is one of the central roles of the press, it is more than a little disappointing to watch you literally attack the media as you did today. I hope you pause to reflect on your criminal actions. Just think of the nice images you could have made walking hand in hand together, rather than the headlines you’ll get tomorrow for committing assault.

Normally I spend my time dealing with misguided police officers or security guards who incorrectly believe that they can abridge a person’s First Amendment rights to photograph and record in public. Maybe today you took your cues from them. In any case, the next time you see an adoring fan or anyone with a camera who is waiting to take your picture on a public street, why not just count to 10 and say “cheese.” In the meantime, please don’t assault the news photographers who are diligently working to earn a living wage.

Posted in Alec Baldwin, Attack Photographers, NY Daily News, Paparazzi, Twitter | 16 Comments »

16 Responses to “An Open Letter to Alec Baldwin”

  1.   Josh Says:

    Mr. Osterreicher:
    This is a reasonable letter. Mr. Baldwin, sadly, does not respond to ‘reasonable’. Something else is afoot.
    I must ask you to comment on why the Trayvon must be considered a “racial tragedy”. It’s enough that it’s a tragedy — brought about by a self-appointed upholder of the law who was, amazingly, armed with a 9mm handgun. This is that tragedy, not our endless weeping over the unfair color line.
    Baldwin seemed to be trying to make a statement about that as having “blown over”. It was a childish and ridiculous comment. Perhaps one day, after the fines and suits start to pile up, he will, in fact, smile coming out of the corner malt shop.

  2.   Julie Says:

    Stop stalking people and you won’t run into this issue! Although they are public figures, they have a right to privacy just as you and I do. I don’t personally know Alec Baldwin, nor have I ever met him, but paparazzi are pathetic more often than not.

  3.   Todd Maisel Says:

    As a co-worker of Marcus Santos, I can say that he is the nicest guy out there and he makes it difficult for anyone to get mad at him. To be attacked physically in such a public setting is unbelievable.
    The NYPD needs to take action against this behavior and he should find himself in a perp walk where he can be better photographed by numerous press and shown as the criminal he is.
    Baldwin has attacked others, including Tim Winces of the NY Post who also claims an unprovoked incident.
    This has got to stop and we must stop him.

  4.   Naomi Halperin Says:

    It is too bad that most working photojournalists do not have the means to hire their own bodyguards when covering events that they know “repeat offender” actors are the subject matter. Then maybe these stars would be compelled to behave themselves in a manner that is in line with the law.

  5.   Mike D. W Says:

    Well said Sir! In London (back in 2001/2 I think it was) I witnessed Jay K attack a photographer outside a nightclub. The tog took a step back, then launched the most poetic piece of justice I ever did see. He smacked Jay K right on the nose.
    Jay K hasn’t to my knowledge ever attacked a photographer since.

  6.   john Says:

    Open season on photographers – that’s rich. Anyone in NY or LA who has tried to get around a group of “photographers” know’s exactly what they are. Any civilian leaving a building who was rushed by a group of “photographers” would react defensively. Ill wait till the video comes out till i pass judgement.

  7.   Macdaddymojo Says:

    NPPA should be ashamed of themselves for defending the paparazzi trolls that try to feed the sick obsession of stalking on a national level. You are the ones that should adjust your behavior. Telling people they should dress in disguise if they don’t want to be harassed and stalked is asinine. That’s akin to telling rape victims that they should dress terribly, not wear make up or anything attractive if they don’t want to be raped. You guys are classless and even more so writing this lame whining letter trying to justify harassment and stalking. Your a disgrace to humans, let alone professionals.

  8.   wonderYrednow Says:

    Mickey, When stalkers step over the line, they get arrested, paparazzi do not get a pass, so let them know if they step over the line, they should turn themselves into the local authorities.

    Thank you in advance for your kind relay of this post.

  9.   John Rudoff Says:

    I admire the self-restraint and professionalism of your letter. Baldwin, others in public life, and police and especially security guards, simply must understand that there is no open season on photographers, videographers, or journalists. I completely agree with your desire that Mr Santos file actions against Baldwin. That’s all that will get through to him.

  10.   Dan Says:

    Dear Mickey,
    Please list the number and ratio of times you reported “real news” and/or spoke truth to power. Were you so vehement in your pursuit of press access (& truth) in the fraudulent run up to the Iraq War?

    You know why paparazzi and the press in general are so reviled compared to previous generations? It’s because you’re not doing your duty. The press only incidentally enjoys freedoms & protections because of the service they are supposed to provide to the citizenry.

    If/when you don’t do your jobs and instead focus on harassing celebrities for the most trivial of ends then who the heck needs you? Why should you get any protection at all? The decline of the press (and photojournalism) is only the fault of the press and its photographers (and maybe the corporate owners and their editors who abdicated their responsibilities in pursuit of a temporary blip in profit).

    The irony is that in pursuit of temporary profit you’ve fundamentally crippled your credibility and thus destroyed your long-term viability.
    SOLUTION: Go do some real reporting!

  11.   rzm Says:

    Fair is fair. Paparazzi are awful people, disgusting people, unconscionable people. No expectation of privacy does not mean no expectation of decency. If paparazzi act without human decency, they should expect no human decency in return. Paparazzi have earned the scorn and derision of decent people. Fair is fair.

  12.   Cynthia W. Says:

    Even celebrities should have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their daily lives. If Mr. Baldwin were at a red carpet event or engaged in any other type of public appearance, you have the right to photograph him. In his personal moments, however, you are simply invading his privacy. Abrogating any right to privacy in order to be a public figure to me seems to be too high a price to pay. I have few expectations from celebrities: 1) they should give the best performance possible in their field of artistic endeavor and 2) they should be congenial to the public and the press during red carpet events and other public appearances. Beyond that, they should allowed to live their lives. If paparazzi continue to hound celebrities in search of the “million dollar shot”, they will eventually alienate the public and (hopefully) decrease the public’s appetite for the magazines that publish exploitative photographs.

  13.   Cynthia W Says:

    Alicia: I disagree. While a sidewalk might be public space. that fact doesn’t prevent others from shopping, eating (or picking up a marriage license for that matter) with a certain degree of privacy. I think this is a question of whether you would want someone to treat you in a similar fashion. If you were exiting a courthouse after a painful divorce, would you want the paparazzi taking your picture? If the answer is no, why would you find this justifiable? Are celebrities supposed to curtail their daily lives (i.e., not shop, not go to court houses) just so they can be left alone? Again, that is too high a price to pay. Paparazzi have pushed the boundaries of decency — all in quest of money to be gained from increasingly controversial and confrontational photographs.

    I say again, celebrities should expect to be photographed at public events (I stress the word events). Anything outside of those parameters, however, should be mutually agreed upon and not invasive. In the case of Baldwin, it was definitely invasive.

  14.   Patrick Hinely Says:

    There are a lot of good points in the 11 earlier posts.
    Paparazzoid imagery is a major food group unto itself in the current media diet classically known as bread and circuses. It’s not going to go away unless/until it no longer boosts sales and/or circulation figures. I’m not holding my breath on that one.
    Few seem to know – or care, that the term paparazzi is plural, and the singular paparazzo, but in either case, those do seem to be terms in common use for most anyone who looks at all professional working with a camera, especially in public places.
    When characterized in such a denigratingly generic fashion, what I like to do is say ‘smile when you call me that’ and fix the speaker with a stare like a kindergarten teacher that just caught a kid who pissed the floor.
    Alas, all of us will continue to be judged by the misbehavior of our least professional colleagues, and I would imagine there are some actors who feel the same way about such colleagues of their own as Mr. Baldwin.

  15.   Patrick Downs (@PatDownsPhotos) Says:

    Hmmm. Where did my comment go? I made the same one on Mickey’s FB page, and he approved.

  16.   Don Cann Says:

    Being subject to photography anywhere near the public eye is just another part of being famous. Anyone that is famous realizes that full well. No, there is no expectation of any amount of privacy once they leave their homes, etc. That is a part of the job, like it or not … and has been for longer than I’ve been on this earth.
    Nobody was near Mr Baldwin, nobody rushed him – he rushed the photographers that are trying to make a living.
    If someone wants or expects privacy, they should opt for a profession outside of the public eye. If they don’t, then they have accepted the terms of the job.
    Baldwin was acting the idiot and I hope he’s brought to court for it and made to pay. Just because you’re an actor does not mean you can jump on someone that’s taking your picture. (Wiggling finger) No noooooo.

    To answer Cynthia W’s question: “Are celebrities supposed to curtail their daily lives (i.e., not shop, not go to court houses) just so they can be left alone?” Yes. They are fully aware that there are people out there trying to get images of them doing anything at all. They know this will not change. They knew it when they entered the acting profession – and they accepted it all by taking the job. When you take a job that keeps you in the public eye, you will always be in the public eye.

    It’s just a hazard of the job they chose, and they chose it voluntarily. Too high a price to pay for someone that makes millions upon millions of dollars from us? I don’t think so – they have to take the good with the bad. (As with any profession.)

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