The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The ‘journalist’ who just sexually harassed America Ferrera on the red carpet

The weirdest part of a story the New York Post just published about an incident on the red carpet at Cannes is not that it happened at all. Sadly, the news that a man tried to get under America Ferrera’s dress is not actually shocking in a media moment where paparazzi regularly take, and sell, crotch shots of female celebrities. It is that the Post is referring to the guy who did this, Ukranian Vitalii Sediuk, as a journalist, saying “a reputation for putting celebrities in comprising positions as part of his shtick.”

It is true that Sediuk’s career — or at least, his place in the headlines — mostly consists of sexually harassing celebrities, male and female alike. Just because some people think that Will Smith is gay and closeted does not mean that it is in any way reportage to try to plant a kiss on him at a movie premiere. And I have no idea what it is supposed to be when Sediuk puts his face on Bradley Cooper’s crotch on the red carpet.

These are not only totally unrevealing stunts, if that is what they are supposed to be. They are assault. Just because they happen to men as well as well as women does not mean they should be treated as examples of puckishness or pranksterism.

It is true that much of the time, Sediuk is crashing the events where he causes a scene. He apparently had a credentials pass in Cannes, though it is not yet clear if any organization actually granted it to him directly, or if Sediuk got his hands on someone else’s badge. When he tried to ruin Adele’s Grammy’s acceptance speech, it was just as a crasher. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences took steps to legally bar him from the 2013 ceremony.

It is not particularly clear who Sediuk is working for at any given time. In 2012, he was affiliated with Russia Life News. In 2013, he was apparently presenting himself as a Eurovision correspondent. At other times, he has apparently worked for 1+1, based in Ukraine. That rotating roster of employers, or at least of assignments, seems in keeping with Sediuk’s actual professional seriousness. But it gets at a larger problem for entertainment journalism.

It is a wonderful thing that there is a global market for American movies, and the global press attention for American actors that comes with it. That interest, coupled with the founding of a dizzying number of Web-based publications, creates both opportunities and dilemmas for American networks, studios, and entertainment festivals and conferences.

This means that the entertainment industry can prioritize smaller friendly outlets, giving them opportunities and denying them to more established, and critical, organizations. It also means studios and networks have to pay more attention to foreign journalists who help ensure an ever-bigger part of their box office or advertising. These pressures are one of the reasons the Golden Globe Awards, the ceremony run by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, is such a big draw despite the often-odd choices made by its voting pool. The lines between reporting and stenography can get blurred, given these pressures — as can the lines between reporting and pranksterism.

Big organizations like the Academy and the Grammys seem to have figured out that Sediuk, at least, is not a journalist, refusing him credentials and alerting security to his tactics, even if those briefings are not always successful. Outlets like the Post and the Hollywood Reporter, which has emerged as both buzzy and serious under the leadership of Janice Min, should make the same call, naming Sediuk for what he is.

The entertainment industry and the journalists who cover it are not always going to be on the same page about who should get credentials and what constitutes reporting. Journalists, who have a range of assignments, will not always agree on these questions either. But I hope we can reach a basic consensus that Vitalii Sediuk does not deserve the title that still gets attached to him, and that harassing and assaulting stars may be vigorous, but it is not reporting.