Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Reader's Editor: Royal couple will be in the eye of a media storm

Readers' Editor Paul Connolly

Brace yourself for a veritable orgy of newspaper coverage between now and the summer over the admittedly not-insignificant matter of the Prince William and Kate Middleton marriage.

Expect, also, high jinks as the tabloids battle to outdo each other with royal scoops, sensations, interviews and investigations.

Even readers of high-minded ‘broadsheets’ should prepare to ingest large dollops of codswallop as their papers snootily condemn the tabloid muckrakers — and then publish in detail all the best royal stories anyway dressed up as constitutional analysis.

That's not to say that things haven't changed since the days of the great royal upheavals of the Charles and Diana era.

Self-regulation is much more effective, and the Press Complaints Commission is a more muscular organisation.

In particular, tabloid editors should find it easier to resist the kind of paparazzi photos that defined the Charles and Di years.

The initial public outrage to the hounding of Diana was almost as strong as the near-mutiny against the House of Windsor for casting her out and later appearing to grieve insufficiently.

The UK national press may well be restrained initially, but given the global value of ‘pap' pictures of William and Kate the pair are still likely to be hounded to distraction by unscrupulous photographers even on UK soil. And if British editors are faced with an astonishing pap photo, will their collective resolve then evaporate?

Regional newspapers don't as a rule purchase paparazzi images (partly because we’re intensely proud to be local and partly we couldn’t afford them anyway). But their readers maintain a burning interest in the royal wedding.

So, how should regional papers handle what is the ‘biggest story of 2011’? The editions of this Wednesday’s papers might serve as a guide. The Belfast Telegraph’s coverage was across seven pages while the News Letter, perhaps unusually given its politics, set aside three pages and a leader page comment. The Irish News made its own political statement by dismissing it in a single page.

Compare these to a random and unscientific selection of the UK nationals: the Mirror 17 pages, The Times 16 pages and the über-royal Daily Mail 30 pages.

Belfast Telegraph editor Mike Gilson pledges this paper’s coverage will be intelligent without being fawning, and comprehensive without going over the top.

Even readers with strong Irish nationalist beliefs, he says, are enthralled by the human dramas of what is probably the world’s best-known family. Mike adds that the coverage will be colourful and he won’t hesitate to take a critical stance if and when events demand it. I expect a weighty and vibrant postbag in 2011.

Meanwhile, apologies to Steven Jaffe of Northern Ireland Friends of Israel, whose Kibbutz movement article was published in the print edition. Steven was understandably suspicious when it appeared online that day and then mysteriously disappeared.

The answer was, as usual, cock-up rather than conspiracy. Comment articles aren't supposed to be published on the internet until the following day but due to a technical error it was published too soon and then taken down. Our mistake.

BTreaderseditor@gmail.com

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