Bright lights, big city: William and Kate head to L.A., paparazzi capital
TORONTO - In Canada, they spent an evening under the midnight sun, canoeing off to a secluded island in the Northwest Territories, but now as Prince William and Kate head to the wilds of Los Angeles, they will be under a glare of a different sort: the paparazzi.
After spending nine days in Canada learning to cook in Quebec, racing dragon boats in Prince Edward Island and meeting with First Nations elders north of the 60th parallel, the royal couple leaves today for the glitz and glamour of California.
But it may not all be fun and games. Police in L.A. are preparing for a paparazzi onslaught, as the royal couple — two of the world's biggest celebrities right now — descend on Tinseltown, the celebrity-culture capital of the world.
Police plan to close the street of the British consul-general's home in Hancock Park, where the couple will stay on their weekend visit. Officers have already obtained "No Trespass" letters from neighbours, which will be used to arrest anyone who enters the adjoining properties to try to get pictures or glimpses of the couple.
Law enforcement officials think the arrival of the celebrated young royals might give them a chance to use laws enacted to curb paparazzi abuses, as William and Kate bring with them the perfect storm of British and L.A. celebrity photographers.
The paparazzi may not swarm the royal motorcade as it zooms down the highway or sneak shots of the couple eating lunch — strictly forbidden in royal protocol — for a celebrity magazine feature of stars with spinach between their teeth. But authorities in L.A. are still on high alert for the visit of Diana's son, more than a dozen years after her death on a Paris highway sparked an international backlash against paparazzi photographers.
Yet William and Kate's star wattage doesn't automatically brighten as they cross the border, so why hasn't the expected photo frenzy taken place in Canada, too?
The photographers and camera operators on this leg of the tour — Canadians, Brits and Americans alike — jockeyed aggressively at times for the best positions, but on the whole the approach was considered respectful, even low-key. There was no red-carpet-style shouting at the royal couple, who were able to largely ignore the cameras all around them.
Celebrity-obsessed tabloid journalism simply doesn't exist in Canada the way it does in the U.S., said Ryerson University journalism professor Janice Neil.
"I think Canadians are more polite, to begin with, including Canadian media," Neil said. "It's mainstream media that is covering this (tour) and they have newsrooms to be accountable to, an audience to be accountable to."
Accountability in the media, particularly when it comes to British tabloids, is a hot topic at present.
Parent company News International abruptly and unexpectedly shut down the best-selling News of the World tabloid in response to fierce international outrage over its dubious undercover reporting techniques.
The paper gravely offended the British public by hacking into the cellphone voicemail of a missing teenage girl, deleting messages and possibly even interfering with the police investigation into her murder.
Outlets such as the Los Angeles Times, on the other hand, are more likely to behave much the way their respectable Canadian cousins have, Neil said. And the British media have to worry about having their access to the Royal Family cut off if they break the rules.
All of the more than 1,300 journalists accredited to cover the tour had to agree to abide by certain conditions, such as staying at least 4.6 metres away from the couple when taking pictures or recording video, respecting their privacy during unscheduled time and avoiding continuous photography.
It's the unaccredited media the police will have to watch for, said Neil, who is also the editor-in-chief of the Canadian Journalism Project, J-Source.ca.
"Those paparazzi — some of the stories that have been told over the years about how incredibly inventive and creative they are ... about getting into places that they're not supposed to says to me that they're probably going to outsmart the police."
— With files from The Associated Press