Pop Culture

Readers say, ‘Leave Britney alone!’

Thank you for your enthusiastic and thoughtful responses to our question about the media’s role in the ongoing Britney Spears story. We appreciate your feedback and we do take it seriously.

Every day we are deluged with images and stories about Spears — from the wire services to gossip blogs to celebrity magazines and TV shows. And every day the editors on the msnbc.com entertainment team have to decide which stories, if any, are worth pursuing and posting. We face a conundrum: Is it “news”? Should we run it? How big do we play it? Do we pitch the story to the site’s home page for broader play?

And as editors we, too, can suffer from Britney fatigue. We filter out a lot of Britney stories, along with other stories about celebrities and their endless foibles and deeds. However, there is one fact that we cannot ignore — celebrity stories and gossip, including those about Britney Spears, are the most viewed stories in our section each day (and in some cases, on the entire msnbc.com site). What do we deduce from this? That our readers like (or at the very least are intrigued by) this content. So we continue to run it, and will, with restraint, as long as you continue to read it.

We work hard to post a wide variety of stories in the entertainment section, most of which are not celebrity or gossip in nature. I hope we offer a little bit of something for everyone. And I do believe that a daily dose of gossip and celebrity news can be fun and makes for a good mix of content. That being said, we will take into account your comments as we make choices in the future.

Below is an assortment of your feedback on our Britney-and-the-media question. Thanks again for your contributions.

— Denise Hazlick, msnbc.com Entertainment editor


Enough Britney coverageThe press needs to back off. Of course they are partially to blame for her problems. I've decided to stop reading tabloids, because I can't support the stalking that they do in order to provide the stories and photos. It is the public's responsibility to send a message to the media that they have respect for celebrities as human beings.— Holly, North Kingstown, RI

I read Britney stories not because I really care about her personal life, but because I'm concerned that the press obviously has the legal freedom to push any celebrity to suicide if they want to, and then publish a blockbuster story about that too when it happens. This is nothing but corruption, caused by the drive to make money, and while the First Amendment does say “freedom of the press,” the 14th Amendment says “a right to privacy.” If I were Britney's parents, I'd use my temporary control over her money to hire a team of lawyers, and I'd sue the hell out of those tabloids which have paid the paparazzi to do what they've done to her. They're paid to trespass right over a person's boundaries just because the person is famous, and that should be against the law.— Charlie, Mobile, Ala.

I finally have realized that I bear some responsibility for contributing to Britney Spears' spiral downward, in that each time I purchase a tabloid, I am then encouraging the media to continue to exploit her, because I am creating the demand for more pics in order to sell more movie rags. I have stopped buying any of the tabloids, and I wish others would do the same. I will no longer be purchasing such material.— Barbara, Washington

I feel Britney is troubled right now and should be left alone to get the care she needs. Although, I have always been a fan of Britney's professional life, I do not feel it is appropriate for the paps to hound, harass and humiliate any celebrity. I believe it almost borders slander when printed. I do not believe media outlets should be able to buy and profit from celebrities personal lives. It makes the paps extremely hostile and they bring along their volatile, violent atmosphere. I believe it should be law that celebrities cannot be photographed with their children without written consent. It is no wonder she doesn't feel safe. She had 2 children in 2 years, got a divorce and is going through a nasty custody battle. She can't use the restroom or twist an ankle without the whole world knowing about it. I believe the media thinks the citizens of the United States care more than we actually do about her personal life. That would take a toll on any woman, especially a 26 year old who's watched, judged and scrutinized at every move. We care about the celebrities that are helping the world. That is contagious! Show the good sides of the people love to see in our TV shows and movies. You guys want a REAL STORY? HELP Britney. Encourage her to do what she's best at. At least right now, let her see the good memories of her life on television instead of “the demise of Britney” stories I'm sure she sees. Let her be a mother in peace.— Lisa B., Dallas

In my opinion, if I never hear another word about Britney Spears for the rest of her life, it'll still be too many words.— Michael, Atlanta, Ga.

I think they should just leave her alone I am so sick & tired of hearing about her on the news. I don't even read stories about her anymore. Instead of breaking her spirits we should be trying to help her, or just leave her alone, let her have some privacy. I know it's hard on her because she has lost her kids & having everyday of your life played on the news makes it even worse. So I ask you to please stop printing or running stories on Britney. Thanks.— Lisa, Louisville, Ky.

The media should focus on real news and stop endangering innocent citizens with their crazy behavior. I don't have the expertise to comment on how or whether it contributes to her illness. The law needs to crack down on photogs who are breaking the law and endangering people. Glad that that's starting to happen, because they target even the celebrities that don't play up to them. If this was a regular person with someone following them around there'd be a lawsuit for harassment. I agree with George Clooney, they are endangering people needlessly over a trip to Starbucks!— Jenn, Greenville, NC

Thank you! This was a great article. Media should not have the right to stalk and harass anyone. I think there should be some legislation about a celebrity’s right to say 30 feet of personal space. You don't need to be 6 inches away from someone to get a good shot. Back off those people and let them live their lives. NO ONE else in our society would ever have to put up with that kind of interference in their lives, why should celebrities???— Dawn, Bismarck, ND

I cannot know the degree of the media's impact on Britney's mental health deterioration, but it is a factor. Can you imagine living with that intrusive circus, day in and day out? Add on to that her other social stressors: divorce, alcohol abuse, loss of custody (if temporary or not) and absolutely no privacy outside her home, and it's easy to understand that a pre-existing condition like Bipolar disorder would exacerbate. And our narcissistic culture looks on with some kind of perverted delight, fueling the insanity of the “reality show” mentality. We have no right to stalk anyone with or without cameras. How is it when it is couched as celebrity news, there is no stalking? No violation of that person's right to live in peace? Sick, sick, sick.— M. Fahrenkrug, Bloomington, Ind.

Yes, I think the press should back off. I have noticed that they are like roosters in a chicken yard, always sparring for top position and willing to mangle and spur anything in their path. Whether it was accidentally tripping and nearly falling while holding her child or merely not looking as skinny as a stick, she was criticized. I noticed that when the same things happened with other, more popular stars, these things were pretty well dismissed. I do feel the media is partially to blame for her problems. I think the media accelerated her mental illness. Yes, of course, ultimately we are all responsible for our own behavior, but all things and all people are not created equal. Our coping skills and our sensitivity naturally vary. People should be treated with civility and not tormented beyond belief. Why do I read Britney stories? How can I not? They are everywhere -- Internet, newspaper, magazines in the checkout lane, TV -- you name it. I succumb to temptation but comfort myself by the realization that I “take things with a grain of salt” and am a kind and sympathetic person by nature. Sometimes I just would like to be able to give that girl a comforting pat and tell her to hang in there.— Nikki, Jerseyville, Ill.

You can't be serious. EVERYONE on the Internet has been sick of her. You people just keep shoving it on our face. Not much we can do when every magazine or news article we read had her printed all over. I mean, do we really need to know every time she brushes her teeth? NO.— Jamie, Atlanta, Ga.

Please back off, I would rather read about her in a year -- getting it all back together -- rather than the daily coffee runs and hair color changes. I have really tried to avoid reading the daily updates, but it is like a car wreck -- and I can't help it! But, if she moved to Idaho with her dad, got help and made a comeback, I'd be happy to read about it. I pray that her parents retain control until she's truly on the right track.— Kris

I don't know why you are even sending out this survey! Every survey response could say "STOP COVERING BRITNEY NOW" and you wouldn't. Not a lot of people really care about what some rich pop princess is going through when we have our own lives to keep together. It's overkill. And the media finds any angle they can to talk about it. The media should be ashamed at how they do this with Britney and the endless reports STILL on Anna Nicole's baby. Take some of that air time and include Broadway. A lot goes on there. But that isn't REAL entertainment to the media. Just girls showing their underwear getting out of cars!— Greg, Denver

The press is at fault
I think the "media" is very much to blame for her problem. I use the word "media" very loosely. They are more like pack animals out for the kill. The "media" apparently has a right under "freedom of the press," but doesn't Britney have the right to go out and not be harassed?— Doris, Bridgewater, NJ

This is the first story I have read about Britney Spears. I read it for no other reason than the topic. Covering her is NOT news, it is an invasion of privacy and I have NO doubt that the neverending paparazzi have contributed to her downfall. It is not about news, it is about money and her, and Paris, and Lindsey Lohan and every other celebrity are the cheap and winning lotto ticket for these scavengers, including the networks, magazines and outlets that deliver this garbage. It is awful. Does Britney bear some responsibility? Of course, we are all responsible for our behavior, but the media has forced this girl to act (and become?) nuts. It is the same appeal of porn, NASCAR and the myriad of sensationalistic "reality" shows showing explosions, crimes, cheating spouses and rehabbing celebrities. Simple answer is that their continuing popularity is that, apparently, so few people HAVE lives that they need to live vicariously through the lives of others, all others, celebrity or not. It is a sorry indictment of our culture and society. Stop watching this crap and read a book! And... NO, the Weekly World News is NOT a book.— Jim, Chicago

Yes I do think they are partly to blame -- bad press that she must be aware of becomes part of the vicious downward circle she is stuck in. I read the articles because I know how it is to have to fight for my children, I had a manipulative ex, also I have battled depression, as did my mother who succumbed to suicide, so I am cheering for her to get better and be bigger than ever. If that is what she wants to do, perhaps she'll disappear gracefully in the end and enjoy her family.— Sara, Hull, UK

The press needs to back off PERIOD! Causing car accidents and mental anguish, when is enough enough? Does someone have to die at their hands again to make them even think of changing? What about Princess Diana? They horrifically took pictures of her after her death. What an atrocity!! They might be surprised to hear how many people really don't care about the celebrities. Does Jennifer Lopez really needs to get paid $6 mil for a picture of her children when there are babies starving all over this world? GIVE ME A BREAK PLEASE!!! It is a disgrace what people do for money!— Christina, Hudson, Fla.

Thank you. Finally someone is speaking the truth. Britney does court the attention, being famous invites a certain invasion of privacy. There is a limit though. She is obviously, a seriously ill young woman. Not only does Britney and Owen Wilson, and others who are struggling (or have struggled) with personal problems have to fight their own real demons, they are also having to fight those generated by the tabloids. It is hard to work on your personal issues, when they are thrown out to the public, picked apart, and exaggerated. Freedom of Speech has turned into an adult version of the game Gossip. Now, anyone can say whatever they want about someone, and people believe it because they read it. Tabloids and tabloid bloggers/gossip Web sites have stripped legitimate journalism of its credibility. Freedom of Speech is now Freedom of Propaganda. What a sad day for America.— Kelliegh, Alabama

The media is primarily to blame for Britney Spears problems. She flashes, you use a flash. Britney is using the media within her sickness. I do not read Britney stories. I am just glad I am a nobody. Money talks and bull---- walks. There is money to be made in stalking Britney. She is sick and the media is just as sick. I long for the days of just the news ... David Brinkley and Huntley of course. — Richard, Lompac, Calif.

I think that she could use a little quiet time. She's addicted to the press. But they damage her. Even by hiding herself, she's still playing the press game.— Ben, Shell Lake, Wis.

I believe the press should stop tormenting a lot of celebrities. While I enjoy watching/seeing reports on the lives of celebrities, I believe invasive photographs and constant criticism and ridicule of these same celebrities is unethical and those who participate should be ashamed of themselves. It has been shown that Britney is not competent to take responsibility for her actions so those "reporters" taking advantage are at fault.— Debra, Bay City, Mich.

The media has definitely added to Britney Spears' stress level. Hoards of photographers and reporters smothering you, following you and just being "in your face" would affect anyone. Life itself is stressful enough. I read the stories out of curiosity, interest, and unbelief. It's almost like watching a movie. I can't wait to view the happy ending. I truly feel so very sorry for her and her family and wish them the very best. … I don't believe Britney bears any responsibility. She seems like a deer frozen by the headlights of an oncoming car. I don't believe she has any realization of her personal actions causing anything. She just seems like she's trying to figure this hard life out and survive it.— Brenda, Farmington, NY

The media assault on Britney is shameful and contributed in every way to her problems. The paparazzi are stalkers and should be treated as such. The ambulance shot is particularly disturbing -- the police should not have allowed them such close proximity. BRITNEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN AND SHOULD BE LEFT ALONE.— Anne, Brisbane, Australia

I absolutely agree and think the media should back away. I don't understand why local law enforcement won't help the situation. When you can't even move your car because so many people are around surely a law has been broken. And to distract a motorist -- surely this is not safe for the "not famous". Must we have another person be killed by the media before we pass a law or will we have some sort of decency about ourselves? Everyone does deserve some privacy and has the right to go shop in peace.— Dana, Little Rock, Ark.

Yes, the media is partially to blame for exacerbating an existing mental illness, they didn't cause the illness but they also never helped. Ceasing coverage would help yes, is it feasible; probably not, but at least drop kicking the 40 or so members of the paparazzi who stalk her daily off the nearest port of exit from the United States would be nice. I hope to hear she is doing better, but for the most part I try to avoid stories covering her current plight.— Anonymous, Irving, Texas

Although I agree that Britney is partially responsible for the attention she has gotten for the press (we understand that she has invited it) I do agree it is time for them to back off. When someone’s mental state is at risk then common sense tells us to back off. What happened to human compassion? If she were lying bleeding in the street would the same media stay snapping pictures? No, but because the hemorrhaging is mental, they feel quite free to keep snapping pictures. I am not a fan of hers but I am a fan of humanity and compassion and caring. I, for one, am very pleased her family is finally helping her. Sometimes families are not always successful but right now they are doing some good.— Vanessa W., Columbus, Ohio

This is a symbiotic relationship. They won't leave her alone and she won't stop putting herself out there. Yes, they should back off simply because she is the most pathetic "star" in Hollywood -- her problems have become boring. I read Britney stories because that is all the entertainment press wants to publish (along with Paris and Lindsay). As for Britney, I see this ending the same way Princess Diana ended, tragically, at the fault of the paparazzi who made their living off of chasing her.— Karen, Washington, DC

The media is a LARGE reason for Britney's problems. The media / catalyst are breaking laws & getting away with it because of the "exposure factor". The police in the Los Angeles area are just as much at fault for not trying to protect her & her children from people that are BREAKING LAWS just to get a picture. Last time I checked you weren't allowed to run down the middle of a street & stand in front of a car at a signal. Civilians do have the right to gather & protest but they do not have a clause that allows you to jeopardize the safety of anyone for any means. It's hypocracy for Police Departments to disburse practically any type of crowd for the smallest infraction but they are refusing to warn, cite or arrest paparazzi for causing any type of distubance.— Joseph, West Hills, Calif.

I would first of all like to thank Michael Ventre for being one of the first journalists at a major news outlet to come out to tell his colleagues in the media to "back off" of Britney Spears. I work with people who have serious mental illness and it absolutely infuriates me that the media is treating her like a sideshow act. Most of the American public seems to be sick of it too, and realizes that she needs help now, not speculation and gossip about her mental health. What Ms. Spears needs now is to be left alone by the paparazzi and by the media.— Jen, New York, NY

Yes, I think the media needs to take responsibility for what is happening to Spears. They should back off. I don't read about her. Frankly I don't think she has any talent and up to now I have thought that she has just been one lucky girl. After all the cruel media attention (and it is indeed very cruel) I think she is very unlucky. Stop harassing this woman or be prepared to take some of the responsibility when she ends up like Anna Nichol Smith.
— K.L, Boulder, Colo.

Britney to blame
Yes, I think Britney feeds off the attention. I think she is a spoiled little rich girl who needs to grow up and act like an adult. When you are an actress, singer etc., you can expect the media to be around. She needs serious medical attention if she wants to feel better. She needs to get away from where she lives, go somewhere private and seek treatment. She needs to put her kids first, she doesn’t now.— Millie, Springfield, Mo.

She made her fortune because of the media attention. She has enjoyed the attention in the past. If she does have mental health issues, she should not be placing herself in places where the media has access. If mental illness is the issue, she should be in a place where she will be safe until the issue can be treated. From experience (my wife has and is dealing with depression and other related mental health issues) nothing that is going on around the person with mental health issues has much effect on their behavior. The behaviors are there regardless of the audience. We blame the media for way too many problems in our country. If the masses were not buying the media presentation, the media would not supply the presentation. That is the way our economic system works. No demand, no supply.— Piglizard420, Burculo, Mich.

My personal belief is that she enjoys the attention that the media gives her. Otherwise why would she be walking around without any underwear? Secondly, however it is WAY too much when I go to the entertainment section and she is on there EVERY SINGLE DAY! Enough already. I guarantee if the press left her alone she might actually be normal. But that might be asking too much.— Mandy, Ogden, Utah

Britney thrived in the media attention ... still, to this day even courts it, and the press is fulfilling the somewhat morbid curiosity of the American public that buys the tabloids and watches the “entertainment” shows. The one place she CAN go to get away from it is rehab, but she refuses to stay.— Suzanne, Toledo, Ohio

(The press) are very much to blame, but on another note I think she would be more depressed without their attention! She needs and thrives off of it. She needs to realize she has a sickness whatever it is and deal with it without the media and everyone else in her face. Praying for her!— Maria

I think that these celebs (Britney, Lindsay, Paris, etc.) are to blame. They go out to the restaurants where the media is. They know where the hot spots are. Think about a well-rounded actress rarely seen in gossip magazines — Natalie Portman. You rarely hear about who she is dating or what she is doing. I do not think it is hard to get out of the puble eye. I think these people want attention and we give it to them.— Kelly, Augusta, Ga.

Oh my God ! Blame the media for Britney's troubles? Surely you jest! She’s just a loser who couldn't handle money and fame! There a PLENTY of other who can! Let's not make excuses for her current status ... sometimes you just get what you ask for! Maybe she should just stop giving the media SO MUCH to report about and be a responsible mother and adult! And YES ... the media should back off ... she's NOT WORTH the newsprint ... never was! As for me ... I can seldom get past the headlines jammed down our throats every five minutes. Leave her alone and let her figure it out. Maybe she won’t figure it out ... WHO CARES !!!— Jon, Pittsfield, Mass.

Britney's "problems" are her problems. Our (society's) problem is that we are attracted to "Britney" type coverage much like passersby are fascinated by a traffic accident resulting in personal injury. The press may be to blame for enflaming public interest in the Britney "accident" like a bartender is to blame for serving a drink too many to a drunken patron. We seem to be drunk on witnessing the pain and suffering of others whether it is injury to the body in a violent movie, or a real-live traffic accident or the mental breakdown of a little girl taught to think of herself as a “superstar.”— Howard, Madison, NJ

GET OFF OF IT ... The media is not to blame for Britney’s problems, Britney is to blame for that and her wacked out parents. The media covering every minute of her life it ridiculous. I am sick of hearing about Britney, her sister, her parents. I think that the press should move on to someone who deserves all that media coverage and is being a good example to the children that look up to them. I have never read about Britney, I am sick of seeing everything about her. I don't care. Those children are the ones that I feel sorry for. Britney should never get those beautiful little boys. She should never be allowed to have another child.— René, Overland Park, Kans.

The woman thrives on publicity. And she provides comic relief for the public. She is a joke. We need these jokes to be around for us to laugh at.— Bob, Buffalo, NY

I think that celebrities in any profession (including sports stars, etc.) are SO overpaid that they should be willing to accept the fact that we want to know WHY they deserve the money they earn. They should understand that we are obsessed with them because they get paid SO MUCH, and those of us who have been educated and/or do an actual service for our community (including military, police, and fire-fighting personnel) want to keep track of why they get paid so much more than we do. Celebs always want to talk about how hard it was for them to get to where they are but it is hard for MOST PEOPLE to attain their goals. We all go through hardships and heartaches so I don't want to here anymore of these crybaby reasons why they should be paid so much and be left alone! … If superstars, in any profession, were to be paid FAIR wages for what they do then maybe I would suggest that the media lay off (sometimes the media can seem a bit excessive).— CRod

A little bit of bothI do not think that the media is to blame, but now that there are facts about that she is suffering from mental issues, I think that it is time for the paparazzi to back off and let her heal. I realize that she is a star and with that you lose a lot of privacy, but to be followed the way she is is just despicable. The press was berating her for running over photographers’ feet for goodness sake, but the photographers were practically on her car, it was their faults they were run over. there really needs to be some kind of law to contain these paparazzi monsters, they are going to seriously hurt someone one day with this kind of behavior. I love my gossip, but I don't want anyone hurt for a silly picture.— Evile, Torrance, Calif.

I think the issue of privacy often gets extremely distorted when the public and media are referring to celebrities. Yes, these people should expect a certain loss of privacy, but sometimes the public is bordering on violation of a person's human rights by hounding them for a picture. Sadly, this problem is two-fold: the celebrities and paparazzi need each other in equal amounts. I am hesitant to blame the photographers for this, but rather the public for purchasing (and therefore supporting) these tabloids and magazines. When I heard the news that Heath Ledger had died, it made me upset and I felt the loss of a very young and successful person... But I do not think that exploiting that gurney ride, (or the one that Britney took to Cedars Sinai!) really made me feel any more. In fact, it seems to cheapen things quite a bit. I think there should be a code of ethics and higher moral ground that everyone aspire to so that young people are not being disrespected in this fashion. I do not read stories about Britney Spears, though it is quite difficult not to. The main reason I think anyone would want to read about her is simply curiosity. She is a “current event,” much like Fidel Castro stepping down, the housing situation, and the '08 elections. And more than these current issues, we fans feel like we “know” her and much about her life. I do not think the media is to blame for her problems, but I think that she (and whoever is managing her at the moment) is trying to stay in the spotlight at all costs. And sadly, I think her own “people” may be exploiting her (possible) illness.— Lital, Sherman Oaks, Calif.

I don't think the media is too "blame"for Britney's problems, but, with the problems that appear to be present they need to back off. I do not believe she doesn't want her children, I do not believe at this point, that any of this is for attention. She's gotten off track and doesn't have enough healthy influences in her life to help guide her back to a balanced life. It breaks my heart to read and see that people still are disgusted with her and are loving raking her over the coals. The public gets all involved when situations like this happen and then if a "tragedy" strikes everyone pipes in with their all-knowing advice of how she could've been saved. I read Britney's stories at this point because I truly am hoping to read about a positive change for her. I'm a mom of two boys, I'm not what you would call a huge Britney fan (I'm 38) but I have enjoyed her music and performances from time to time. I wish her and all the other young gals (and Guys) out there nothing more than a little "peace" and that can only be found through oneself.— Sarah, Wenatchee, Wash.

I think the media is partially to blame and yes the press should back off. If Britney is having mental health issues how can she bear any of the responsibility? I read the stories in part because I just can't help myself but mostly out of concern. It's about time her family stepped in ... what took them so long? It's apparent the poor girl doesn’t have any real friends, or they would have done something to help. For that matter you can't tell me her ex-husband didn't know she was having issues. But why would he help ... I'm sure he gets more money if he has full custody of the kids. I hope her story has a happy ending. It would be great if she could get it together and make a comeback. The media would have anything to write about if she was doing well. Thanks for the article. It's nice to read that someone is sticking up for the poor girl.— Sharon, Dearborn Heights, Mich.

Mr. Ventre is right on with everything he said in this article. Celebrities have lost their privacy, but that comes with the money, fame...etc. But why in the world does it matter to people so much where and what a person does everyday ... watch them on stage and what they do ... leave them alone, leave their families alone. They are people just like everyone else. If I had cameras following me around all the time, and snapping pictures of my children, I would have been in jail for breaking cameras and going after the paparazzi. It is ridiculous for it to be at this point. Leave the girl alone, and for once the people and paparazzi that drive this strange habit need to find something better to do with their lives. Take pictures of your own family and friends. Honestly, who cares where Britney ate breakfast or dinner? Why does that matter to anyone? If it were up to me, I would have all the paparazzi thrown in the slammer and left there!— Zeemer, Seattle