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In Defence of Royal Reporters

Nicholas Witchell is one of the best royal reporters out there, and after being lost for words live on air, was subjected to unwarranted criticism online. Spending two days in Windsor waiting for newly named royal baby, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, I saw first-hand just how hard reporting on the royals can be.

By Jonathan ReedPublished 5 years ago 7 min read
The line of Press on the birth of Prince George. PA©

As a journalist, I understand how hard it is to follow a story, to collect the information, decipher what is true and false, and relay it to a wider audience who earnestly hang onto every word you say or write. Sometimes, however, parts of that audience decide to question what is reported, and that is perfectly within their right. After all, we live in a democracy where freedom of speech is not only valued but protected.

But what I discovered for two days in Windsor, whilst writing an article on the historic castle, was the dedicated royal reporters who were faithfully covering the impending birth of baby Sussex; newly named Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, was that they were being more than questioned on their stories. In fact, delving into the previous year of royal engagements, it was truly shocking to read the disturbing and often unwarranted levels of abuse these journalists were, and still are, subjected to.

With every major royal event, whether it be a royal tour, wedding, or the birth of a new royal baby, there is an interest from the viewing public, both nationally and internationally. Every element is eagerly anticipated. With the marriages of the Cambridge’s and Sussex’s, everyone wanted to know every intimate detail. Who designed the dress? Who were invited as guests? Who wasn’t invited? Would there be any reference to Princess Diana? It is through our main-stream media and royal correspondents, that we are fed this information.

It is similar with each royal birth, most recently Harry and Meghan’s new arrival. The closer the due date became, expectations quickly reached fever-pitch. But unlike previous royal pregnancies, the Sussex’s decided against revealing barely any details. And those golden nuggets of news which were released were projected onto social media.

The Queen, Prince Phillip, The Duke & Duchess of Sussex, Doria Ragland, and Baby Archie at Windsor Castle. PA©

There has been a lot of opinions thrown around over this lack of information, with many royal fans pointing out Harry’s distrust in the media. Added with the overwhelming coverage of the Duchess of Sussex, which has at times felt distinctively negative, you can see why the Duke perhaps wished to keep the details of his son’s birth private. But within this, it has made royal reporter’s jobs so much harder than they needed to be. Many would also argue that with platforms like Twitter or Instagram, the need of the main stream press is growing redundant.

Despite the wishes of some of the Twitter trolls and bots, this isn’t the case and even Buckingham Palace acknowledge this. Most of the royal fans and followers receive their news and information from the numerous newspapers and TV reports. It far outweighs social media, even if it can lack the real-time turnout social media offers when breaking news.

But, then again, we are living in modern times and the Monarchy is masterful in adapting and evolving to reflect this. We have seen numerous Instagram accounts officially dedicated to the Royal Family. Kensington Palace, Clarence House, The Duke of York, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and even Princess Eugenie all have their own Instagram accounts, allowing each household to directly interact with the online public.

This new way of releasing information is been both valuable and a hindrance to the Monarchy. It has allowed users to comment on posts with deeply unsettling abuse, conspiracy theories and threatening language. So disturbing and visceral has the commenting become, Buckingham Palace announced new protocols in dealing with abuse on their social media outlets.

But this abusive rhetoric isn’t just resigned to the official accounts of the Royals. The journalists reporting on them have suffered the same commentary, if not with an added sense of hostility.

Kensington Palace's Instagram Account. Kensington Palace©

Since marrying into the royal fold, Meghan has been the subject of article after article. They have questioned her devotion to tradition, criticising her choice of black nail-varnish. It is worth pointing out that it has never been “protocol” for royal women to wear nude nail varnish. This criticism is unwarranted and unfair, and rightly needs to be called out. Yet this type of condemnation doesn’t come from royal reporters, but from tabloids and this is where the confusion stems from.

The royal press is a completely different entity to the tabloids. Their reporting is usually in correspondence with the Palace Press Office or reliable sources close to the Royal Family. Barely any of their stories are sensationalised and rarely deliberately negative. They have an obligation to cover what the Monarchy do, both good and bad, and reliably back up their arguments. Tabloids don’t do this. It doesn’t take long to find the front page of a tabloid magazine emblazoned with a salacious headline that makes Harry Potter seem real. But sadly, our wonderful royal reporters have been unfairly attached to this version of “journalism.”

With this unjust comparison many royal commentators, reporters and journalists have faced shocking abuse online. Many of the accusations hurled their way have been unsubstantiated, and many of the profiles suspiciously resemble online trolls or "bots."

Death threats, hacking into bank accounts, bullying—the old days of honest criticism are long-gone. And trailing through the comments following the tweets of one royal correspondent, this hurling vitriol isn’t just one-sided.

Since alleged feud claims arrived on the front-pages of the national press, we have seen two “teams” form—"Team Cambridge" and "Team Sussex." There has been a constant online campaign from both sides to demonstrate which couple are the best and, in some cases, the more “royal.” Comparisons between both Duchesses have become unfairly commonplace, with most of the royal press finding themselves in the middle taking needless hits from all sides.

“You let Kate get away with so much more than Meghan.” “You’re trying to make sure Meghan outshines Kate.” On and on these ridiculous arguments are fired at these royal reporters who are simply reporting on what is happening.

A prime example was the Sussex’s tour of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Tonga. Once again, visceral arguments between both teams resulted in royal reporters being caught in the firing line from both sides.

When Meghan visited a village market in Fiji, after 20 minutes, she was quickly whisked away after her security felt she was in danger. Reporters rightly so questioned the decision to leave so early, as those who were there didn’t feel that the Duchess was in any danger whatsoever. Naturally, the hundreds who had turned out to see Meghan, as well as those scheduled to meet her, were left both disappointed and perplexed.

This entire incident became the major story of the day, with the entailing press commenting on the feeling of the crowd. Yes, there was an element of criticism. Yes, the reporters felt that the actions of Meghan’s security had been slightly premature. And to most watching, these comments seemed fair. But unfortunately, it caused a tidal wave of abuse which quickly submerged the royal reporters.

Team Sussex accused the royal press entourage of unfair criticism, arguing that Kate wouldn’t face this type of commentary. Team Cambridge accused the Press of over-reacting to the quick visit in an attempt to make the Duchess of Sussex seem more popular than the Duchess of Cambridge. What the reactions of both sides demonstrated was that either way royal reporters couldn’t win.

From here onwards fans of the Duchess of Sussex and those who aren’t were emboldened to target reporters who dared to go against their own preferred narrative. Any criticism of Meghan was viciously rebuked with the reporter accused of lying or worse. Similarly, any fans of the Duchess of Cambridge jumped on any conspiracy theory to prove reporters wrong.

Many may feel that this is perhaps immature and harmless, and on the first point they’re right, but for the latter I disagree.

The Duke & Duchess of Cambridge and The Duke & Duchess of Sussex at Sandringham at Christmas. Getty Images©

The Royal Family are public figures partly paid for by the taxpayers. The current Monarchy have been a fascination among the public for decades and will continue to be—the recent birth of Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor proves this. With this, the British people and even those beyond our shores like to know what is happening within one of the most famous families in the world—good and bad. Our royal reporters are designated to feed us this information, irrespective of what it is. And what you find, when you analyse the majority of stories written this year about members of the Royal Family, the positive ones far outweigh the negatives.

After two days in Windsor, watching journalists try and pull together baby report after baby report with barely any information, they deserve nothing but our respect. Diligently, in every possible type of weather, they have tried to keep the public’s interest in what matters, the birth of a newborn baby. Okay, so some would argue that the handling of the labour announcement wasn’t entirely thought through, and on this I agree, but in the end we all got to see those amazing photographs of baby Archie; and all of that is thanks to our amazing royal correspondents, reporters, and journalists.

The Royal Family know, more so than the public, that they need the media more than the media needs them. They also understand that, good or bad, anything they do will be reported on and analysed within an inch of its life. It may seem unfair to some, but all of this is in the public’s interest. So, before you attack these journalists and “call them out for lying, or worse,” perhaps put yourself in their shoes.

Chasing stories, reporting on the Royal Family isn’t always an easy job, but it's one we all benefit from and I truly believe keeps the Monarchy relevant in a way that no social media account can.

Prince William visited Christchurch, the New Zealand town rocked by a horrific terror attack. In doing so, he has reminded us all how powerful the Royal Family can be in uniting a heartbroken community.

To read more amazing articles like this, visit our website and Let's Get Ready to RUMBLE!

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Jonathan Reed

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