Originally written for publication in The Boar, Warwick University’s student newspaper.
Throughout the summer, Britain’s favourite soap-opera family has found itself – if you’ll pardon the pun – rather more exposed than they would have perhaps preferred. Yet the fact that the photos of our rather sparsely attired royals were taken and subsequently printed by select publications should not have, in itself, come as a shock.
The Leveson enquiry has quite clearly demonstrated that some editors consider privacy a price worth paying for anything that commands the attention of their readers. There is of course a rant to be had about the sort of underhand activity this entails – but it is one that has already been had more times than I can care to remember. It should, by now, be clear that we’d be better off without the kind of ‘investigative journalism’ these outlets offer.
What I found particularly irksome about the whole affair is the way it has been handled by the mainstream British media who have been commended – and have commended themselves – for largely refraining from reprinting the photos. Although coverage of both Harry and Kate has been sympathetic, it has also been gratuitous.
Putting Harry aside for a moment, we can turn our attention to Kate’s snaps. Not literally – while the Boar is a sucker for controversy, that really would be pushing it. These pictures are arguably more invasive and have received the most coverage by a wide margin. On the same day Kate Middleton was pictured topless in a French magazine there were riots and deaths across the Middle East.
But, as the news agenda took shape that day – and indeed the following week – we were invited to revel in the both the intrusive and the insignificant. Some outlets (the BBC, for example) were never going to reproduce the photos themselves but still chose to lead with a story about a topless royal over an eruption of tensions in a region with which many Britons have significant ties.
Why does the media insist on revelling in its own gratuity and/or restraint? Why not just get on with reporting things that matter? The papers and the public seem to have been largely sympathetic towards the royals’ troubles but by taking such a substantial interest they have only really compounded them. The media should take two lessons from this fiasco. They must stop providing paparazzi with the oxygen of publicity and stop continuously reporting on their own activity. Trying to make things better often makes things worse.
It should also be noted that this revelation shouldn’t be lost on particularly smug Boar columnists – like this one, for example.