‘Lives pulled apart for no good reason’

Royal retreat: Meghan and Harry (above) now live in California, in an £8-million house. © Getty

Who is more out of touch: the tabloids or Meghan and Harry? Exactly 100 days after Megxit, the couple are under vicious fire for announcing a boycott of four popular British newspapers.

Geordie Greig, the editor of the Daily Mail, felt his blood starting to boil. He had just been presented with a letter from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, addressed to him and three other tabloid editors, saying that the couple would no longer have any dealings with them. He knew that as a result, the Mail, the Express, the Mirror and the Sun would miss out on all sorts of royal stories. It was outrageous!

What made it worse was that other papers were not affected by the ban. “This policy is not about avoiding criticism,” said the letter. “It’s not about shutting down public conversation or censoring accurate reporting.” The four were being blacklisted because they had printed stories which were “distorted, false, or invasive beyond reason”.

“When power is enjoyed without responsibility, the trust we all place in this much-needed industry is degraded [...]. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have watched people they know – as well as complete strangers – have their lives completely pulled apart for no good reason, other than the fact that salacious gossip boosts advertising revenue.”

Tabloid reaction was furious. Harry and Meghan were branded “tone deaf” and “out of touch”. An article in the Daily Mail by Stephen Glover yesterday accused the couple of “misplaced egotism” for issuing the letter during the coronavirus pandemic. Piers Morgan, a former editor of the Daily Mirror, described them as “whiny little brats”.

The Mail was already on a collision course with Harry and Meghan. This Friday sees the start of a court case in which Meghan is suing the paper for publishing a letter she wrote to her father – with crucial passages left out, her lawyers claim, to make it look as if she and Harry did not care about him. In fact, court documents show, Harry had sent him a series of sympathetic text messages.

Many are springing to the defence of the pair. They point out (i) much of the criticism of Meghan has been snobbish, sexist, and verging on racist; (ii) Harry’s mother was killed in a car chase with paparazzi photographers; (iii) Meghan’s father is emotionally abusive; (iv) Harry and Meghan are young and entitled to a few misjudgements; (v) they have never done anything terribly wrong, and (vi) being a global celebrity may be heaven sometimes – but it can also be hell.

“The people who are really out of touch in this case are the newspapers,” said one former Express executive. “Cruelty does not sell. Ordinary British people are kinder than that. They don’t want to see Harry and Meghan treated like flies by wanton editors.”

So, who do you think is more out of touch: the tabloids or Harry and Meghan?

Sussex downs

Harry and Meghan, say some. Their letter shows precisely how out of touch with reality, spoilt, and deserving of criticism they are. The press have always helped them publicise the charities they support, and they should take the rough with the smooth.

The tabloids, say others. As they steadily decline in importance, they are backing themselves into a corner. By raging against Harry and Meghan, they are appealing to an ever-shrinking audience of embittered, old readers. This campaign may hasten their demise – what could be more out of touch than that?

You Decide

  1. Which member of the royal family do you most admire?
  2. Should there be a law to stop the press invading people’s privacy?

Activities

  1. Imagine that you are the editor of a tabloid newspaper. Write and illustrate a four-page special edition, making life in your home since the lockdown sound as dramatic as possible.
  2. Draw a family tree for Prince Harry going back as far as Queen Victoria. Then do a family tree for yourself, going back as far as you can.

Some People Say...

“Civilisation is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe.”

Ayn Rand (1905-1982), Russian-American author

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The tabloid attitude towards Harry and Meghan has changed profoundly since their relationship became public. Initially, Harry was congratulated on his choice of wife; the couple were applauded for their charity work, and their wedding was given very positive coverage. But soon, stories began to appear accusing Meghan of imperious behaviour, and the couple of extravagance in planning their new home. Their decision to withdraw from royal duties and move to California brought intense criticism.
What do we not know?
How far Harry’s dislike of the press is a result of his mother’s death. Diana, princess of Wales, was killed in a motor accident in Paris in 1997 after a chase in which newspaper photographers followed her car at high speed. Harry was only 12 at the time. As an adult, he has spoken of how much the loss has affected his life.

Word Watch

Tabloid
Newspapers have traditionally been divided into “broadsheets”, with large pages and serious content, and “tabloids”, with smaller pages and more popular appeal. The terms are still used, even though some serious papers such as the Times have reduced their pages to tabloid size.
Blacklisted
Put on a list of people who should not be dealt with. In Hollywood in the 1950s, anyone thought to have Communist sympathies was blacklisted to prevent them making films.
Salacious
Implying a certain kind of moral looseness, salacious is often used to describe nasty gossip, obscene reports, and steamy tales.
Egotism
Selfishness.
Paparazzi
A freelance photographer who pursues celebrities to get photographs of them. From a news photographer named Paparazzo in the 1960 film La Dolce Vita, directed by Federico Fellini.
Treated like flies
A reference to the famous quote from King Lear: “As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport.”
Wanton
Careless; reckless.

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