Meeting Prince Charming must be every young girl’s fantasy. For Kate Middleton, a student at St Andrews University, fantasy has become reality and, thanks to the Sun, the Great British public is now well aware that she is dating the teenager who is destined to become King of England.
The news was splashed across the Sun late last week, with a world exclusive on photos, which were allegedly taken in a very public area of the ski resort Klosters. However, the Palace has been outraged by what they believe is a blatant breach of good taste. Since their mother’s death, Prince William and his brother have been more than shielded from the prying eyes of the paparazzi but now, it seems, with the publication of these photos that all bets are off, especially for the Sun.
So are these photos truly in the public’s interest? Or is it a way for the Sun to leapfrog over its rivals and cement its position as the number one story-breaking tabloid in the UK? And does this herald a start in the fight-back of the tabloids against the monarchy?
Charlie Mann of Weber Shandwick argues that the paper was fully justified in printing the pictures of the woman who one day could be queen. He comments: “I do feel that the paper was entirely justified in doing this. I mean, she could be our future queen one day and, from what I can gather from the reporting that has been done, this is quite a long-term serious relationship, which in my mind makes it different. At the same time, I can understand the row that has erupted from the Palace, seeing as they had put together a stunted press call.
“However, I do feel that banning the newspaper from all Royal events is a silly move to make, as what will happen is that they will find a way round reporting. In terms of a PR move, banning someone from an event never really helps the problem and seems a very draconian stance to take. Banning someone in the PR world never really helps the matter and makes the position become untenable.”
Scott Thornton of Scot PR, however, takes a slightly more cynical view. “Having worked for Reuters for a number of years, and having had to go on official press tours with the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, I would have to say that the press office at Buckingham Palace is far less draconian than it once was. The problem is that William is in the public eye and it is therefore difficult to defend these things. At the same time, I would say that most tabloid journalists are entirely hypocritical in their reporting, saying that this is a justified and moral reporting, while at the same time peddling soft porn. It is, when it comes down to it, a ratings war for the Sun. They want to be top of the circulation figures and in doing this they can keep ahead of their competitors. This will blow over in a few days’ time. It always does and then people start to wonder what all the fuss was about. The photographer will be re-instated and life will go on.”
Indeed, on calling Wapping HQ to ask for an official comment, The Drum was told that Arthur Edwards, the paper’s official photographer, who took the photo, was photographing the Queen in France that day. Asked if there was not a ban on his being present at Royal events, the PR woman laughed and said: “Well, it is meant to be for William but that was last week and I am sure the ban will be over by now.”
So, what does this say about the Sun’s attitude to the Royal photographers? And are all bets off now that Prince William has turned 21?
Mann hopes that the newspapers will still treat the Prince with the same amount of tact and dignity that was allowed him before he came of age. He comments: “I do hope that it is not the case that all bets are now off in terms of the reporting that is done on the Prince. Yes, he may well be 21 and at university but, still, I do think that he has a right to privacy.”
Graeme Jack, director of UK regional operations at Trimedia, is, however, critical of giving the Prince the maximum amount of privacy now that he is 21. He comments: “I did have a certain amount of sympathy for the Royals when the two princes were minors. However, you have to remember that they have been groomed for this from a very young age. The old argument of whether it is in the public’s interest does not stand up. People are always interested in this kind of story, because it’s what the papers are always publishing. Therefore, the argument, to me, does not really stand up.”
While there might have been some indignation from certain rival media organisations, Jack believes that this is merely the nature of the beast when dealing with tabloid newspapers. “When something like this happens, it normally does descend into a bun fight. The paper is being vilified by other newspapers simply because they did not get the story, and it is easier for them to take the moral high ground. The Sun and the Daily Record in Scotland are very good at judging the mood of the nation, and know what is acceptable or not. I don’t think that they have overstepped the line, and I have a feeling that the readers don’t either. And they are the ones that the newspapers really care about.”