Letter from the Editor
SO READ THE FIRST words ever printed in this magazine about Lady Diana Spencer, in a March 9, 1981, article announcing her engagement to Charles, Prince of Wales. Sixteen years later that sentence seems hopelessly naive. Clearly we had no idea what we were getting into. Neither did Diana.
We found out together. For readers, Diana's evolution—from teacher to princess to mother, fashion plate, AIDS activist, scorned wife and independent woman—was the most captivating story of PEOPLE's 23-year history. Diana appeared on our cover 43 times, more than any other person. Many of us wrote and edited so many stories about Diana that we felt we knew her, though of course we did not. She was a presence in our lives and in these hallways, yet she never set foot here. Princess Diana is on the cover again this week, and we are heartbroken.
We often wondered what the princess thought about the stories we printed—and found out when my predecessor, Lanny Jones, was invited to a private off-the-record tea at Kensington Palace in 1994. "That week we had a Di divorce mayhem cover out," he recalls. "I was prepared for her to be less than enthusiastic about our coverage. But she was warm, charming, friendly. She wasn't happy about all that was written about her in the press, but she felt comfortable with PEOPLE, which American friends mailed to her every week." Di later agreed to be the guest of honor at three charity events cosponsored by PEOPLE in 1996 that raised $1.4 million for a group of cancer charities.
Given that relationship, we are especially sensitive to the harsh criticism of media that erupted after Diana's tragic death in an automobile accident in Paris on Aug. 31. From its first issue, PEOPLE has applied rigorous standards to its journalism. We employ a staff of researchers to check all facts before publication. Unlike much of the tabloid press, we do not pay story subjects or sources.
We are also very careful about the photographs we use. While it is not always easy to know under what circumstances a picture was taken, we work hard to avoid buying pictures taken by so-called stalkerazzi photographers who menace their subjects, trespass or operate under false pretenses. (See story, page 70.)
Still, there are no hard and fast rules that cover every situation. We use paparazzi pictures, as most news magazines do, and make decisions on a case-by-case basis, weighing the news value of a picture against a story subject's right to peace and privacy. In the wake of this tragedy we will redouble our efforts to maintain the standards that you have come to expect of us.
Nothing matters more to this magazine, and to me, than your trust.
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