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Public editor: An odd move by Beyoncé in the age of smartphones

Beyonce performs during the half-time show of the NFL Super Bowl XLVII football game in New Orleans, Louisiana, February 3, 2013.

JEFF HAYNES/REUTERS

A story was posted on The Guardian website Wednesday morning saying Beyoncé is banning press photographers from her current Mrs. Carter Show World Tour. Instead of allowing photojournalists to take pictures of her performance, according to a venue contract obtained by a music photographers Facebook group, news outlets will be given a link to photos taken by her own photographer. This practice is known as handouts in the business.

Needless to say, handout photos are always the most flattering, posed and often airbrushed. News photos are realistic images showing what actually happened, whether at a concert, a speech or a riot. The photos that you see in newspapers and on news websites are not only a critical aspect of journalism, they are often the most telling and most compelling. A great still photograph can tell you more about a news event than many articles.

Beyoncé is not the only performer or celebrity to try to control her image this way, but it is happening more frequently. The Globe's photo editor Dennis Owen says you cannot imagine a celebrity trying to ban news reporters from events, so why would they ban news photographers? The Globe's policy is to avoid the use of handouts and the news wires also do not run handouts – except in unusual circumstances. An unusual circumstance would be when the handout is a) a fair depiction of the event and b) an image of such news value that The Globe is compelled to publish it despite the controlled nature under which it was created. "It is not our job to promote the celebrity (or politician) but to report on what happened at the event," Mr. Owen says. "The service is to the readers."

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Mr. Owen notes there were hundreds of photos of Beyoncé's performance at the Super Bowl available and very few of them were unflattering. (Look at the photo attached to this article as an example.)

It's an odd time for celebrities to try to control their mainstream media image when there are so many pictures taken with smartphones at events. These pictures are everywhere online and generally not taken by professional photographers. So what you have is a much greater collection of flattering and unflattering shots taken, but with poor quality.

If you have any questions or this or anything else related to journalism, please e-mail me at publiceditor@globeandmail.com

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About the Author
Public Editor

Sylvia Stead has been a reporter and editor at the Globe since 1975, after graduating from the University of Western Ontario in Journalism with a minor in Political Science. She won the Board of Governors Award there in 1974. As a reporter, Sylvia covered courts, education and Queen's Park. More

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