Tuesday, May 24, 2011

'Botox Brittney' Story Needs an Injection of Media Ethics

The controversial front page of the Sun.Image via WikipediaIt's hard to find anyone to root for as the saga of "Botox Brittney" Upton, the 8-year-old girl who allegedly received Botox injections and virgin waxes, and purportedly was in line for a nose job and breast enhancement surgery, continues to unfold, or more accurately, unravel.

The stinkyjournalism.org Website today chronicles the depressing saga, which began with a March 23 story in the U.K. tabloid The Sun about 34-year-old Sheena Upton, a Birmingham, England, native residing in San Francisco with her daughter Brittney. The article, which included a photo of Sheena purportedly injecting her moppet's forehead with Botox, triggered a hailstorm of criticism and condemnation, which naturally, led to television appearances by Mom & daughter on ABC News' Good Morning America and CBS News" Inside Edition.

Sometimes, however, publicity is not such a good thing, as Mom learned when child protective services took Brittney away from needle-happy Sheena. Suddenly, Sheena Upton was calling herself Kerry Campbell and telling TMZ (not to be confused with The New York Times) that the whole saga was a hoax. She told the gossip site that she didn't even know what Botox was and that the whole story was staged.

If it's true that it's not true (so to speak), then the tv news organizations and the newspaper should be admonished for being so easily pranked and for not investigating the story thoroughly before it went viral. But as long as the media outlets already are at the proverbial woodshed, they also should be taken to task for engaging in mindless checkbook journalism, which is no substitute for real journalism.

According to Stinkyjournalism.org, The Sun allegedly gave Upton $200 for the story, fake name and faux photo. Inside Edition allegedly doled out $9,500 to Upton/Campbell and GMA was prepared to pay $10k to a British booker for the story. Rather than characterize the payment as checkbook journalism, GMA considered the $10k a photo licensing fee.

The sensationalism-hungry morning show viewers, eager to be outraged at the drop of a heat or needle-pricking of a pre-teen forehead, should be having some mea culpas with their morning coffee. The devoted staff of "TUOL" was angered by the distraction of the Botox story, which interrupted journalists and caused them to lose count of the number of Schwarzenegger love children.

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