As authorities continue to search for the body of Glee actor Naya Rivera, who disappeared on Wednesday after renting a pontoon boat with her son, Josey, paparazzi are hounding the 4-year-old boy who possibly bore witness to one of the most traumatic things that could ever happen to a child: The loss of his mother. The last thing he, or his father Ryan Dorsey, needs right now, is strangers with cameras following his every move.
On Friday, the Daily Mail published photos of Dorsey and Josey from outside the home of Rivera’s sister, the model Nickayla Rivera. Though most of the photos feature Dorsey walking around his car and preparing to leave the house, at least one photo shows Josey’s face. The outlet said that the father-son duo were “seen for the first time” since the traumatic accident on Lake Piru — though that isn’t quite accurate, given a paparazzo clearly went out of their way to find them, rather than spotting them in public.
As a result, plenty of people are decrying the decision to publish the photos, and to make a spectacle of a young child’s grief.
“Call me old-fashioned but I think it’s pretty gross to photograph a 4-year-old kid the day after his mom went missing and is presumed dead,” journalist Yashar Ali wrote on Twitter. He added that he would not be linking to the Daily Mail story.
Multiple followers agreed. “[It’s] gross to photograph anyone after a devastating loss like that just to get their suffering in real time,” one wrote. “To capture the authentic human condition on film but children?… That’s a whole nother [sic] level of slime.”
Call me old-fashioned but I think it's pretty gross to photograph a 4-year-old kid the day after his mom went missing and is presumed dead. Not linking to it.
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) July 10, 2020
In 2013, California’s then-governor Jerry Brown signed a law that restricts paparazzi from snapping photos of celebrities’ children if the work verges into the category of harassment. The bill was championed by actor Jennifer Garner, who endured plenty of paparazzi surveillance whenever she was with one or more of the three children she shares with Ben Affleck.
“I love my kids,” Garner said in an emotional testimony that year. “They’re beautiful and sweet and innocent, and I don’t want a gang of shouting, arguing, lawbreaking photographers who camp out everywhere we are all day, every day, to continue traumatizing my kids.”
It’s not clear if or how paparazzi who have targeted Dorsey and Josey will be penalized for doing so, but it’s entirely in the 4-year-old’s best interest if he and his family are left alone to grieve privately. He was obviously very close with his mother, who is presumed to have drowned in the lake some time on Wednesday. Authorities found the boy alone in the pontoon boat; he had been asleep and unharmed at the time and told authorities his mom had been swimming in the lake but never made it back to the boat.
Rivera’s costars and friends are sending up prayers for her and for Josey, who deserves to be around those with his best interests at heart right now. That likely does not include for-hire photographers looking to make a buck off of a child’s trauma.