02/25/2014 at 07:00 AM EST
Lately, several celebrities, including Jennifer Garner and Halle Berry, have been vocal about the paparazzi who can sometimes make life hell for stars and their children. These celebrity parents have lobbied to increase punishment for overly aggressive photographers who, for example, harass parents and kids outside schools. They've also made the media more sensitive to the brutal tactics some freelance photographers use to get even the most innocent-looking shots of celebs' kids at play. The editors at PEOPLE have always been careful when dealing with photos of kids, but in the past few months our sensitivity has been significantly heightened, and our editorial practices have changed accordingly. When I took over as Editorial Director of PEOPLE in January, I told our staff that PEOPLE would not publish photos of celebs' kids taken against their parents' wishes, in print or online.
Of course, we still run a lot of sanctioned photos – like exclusive baby pictures taken with the cooperation of celebrity parents, and photos of stars posing with their kids at events (like a red carpet) where they're expecting and willing to be photographed. But we have no interest in running kids' photos taken under duress. Of course, there may be rare exceptions based on the newsworthiness of photos. And there's always the tough balancing act we face when dealing with stars who exploit their children one day, and complain about loss of privacy the next.
Recently, Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard took to TV and social media to criticize outlets that run "unauthorized" photos of celebs and their kids. PEOPLE's current practices actually address their concerns. My colleagues and I are journalists, but we're also mothers and fathers and aunts and uncles. I have close friends who are actors, and I've seen them struggle to protect their kids from photographers and reporters who cross the line. At PEOPLE we pride ourselves on covering entertainment and human-interest stories with respect for the truth and compassion for our subjects. We grow and evolve by listening to our audience – but also by being fair to the people we write about in print and online.
– Jess Cagle, Editorial Director of PEOPLE