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Anorak | Royal Christening: Newspapers Went Gaa-Gaa Over Prince George

Royal Christening: Newspapers Went Gaa-Gaa Over Prince George

by | 27th, October 2013

THE Royal Family cost the taxpayer £33.3m last year. Branding experts say they brought in more than £20bn.

How you regard those figures and which you choose to highlight will depend on your view of the monarchy, a subject on which few of us are ambivalent.

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And so it was this morning with newspaper coverage of the christening of Prince George. The Independent nailed its republican colours to the masthead by recording the occasion as the bottom nib on its last home news page. In so doing, it raised a few laughs and got a lot of free publicity. So in spite of themselves, even sceptics benefit from the Royal Family.

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The Daily Mail went to the other extreme with a 15-page souvenir extravaganza that actually ran to 16 if you counted Bel Mooney’s oped on how everyone loves a christening.

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The Telegraph dropped the puff something papers generally do only in the presence of monumental stories such as 9/11 or the death of a Prime Minister so it could run a full-page picture of the sainted Catherine and her sprog. It was not sufficiently committed, however, to forgo the revenue afforded by the 10×7 ad at the foot of the page.

Who was right? republican or royalist, I’d say that all three were all wrong. They all misjudged the occasion and were all too tricksy for their own good.

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For a start, this was a private event. There were only 22 guests at the Chapel Royal and there was no room for outsiders such as newspaper reporters or photographers. Neither the folk on the pavement in their Union Flag suits nor the true blue Press grasped this. The Mail had cleared buckets of space, but there was little to report and few people to see, so it had to resort to twin full-page pictures on 2 and 3 of the Duke and Duchess holding their baby the full OK Hello monty.

It struggled to keep this going all the way to the comment section, which meant that the first news story the Merkel phone-tapping claims did not appear until page 21.

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Journalists at the Telegraph , whose coverage ran straight through to page 5 before starting real news with Cameron and the green tax on 6, must have envied the Mail its acres of newsprint. The accountants will have been delighted, however, that every news page was jam-packed with ads. Were those guys in suits at the bottom of page 3 christening guests or blokes trying to sell designer clothing? Nothing could breathe. The picture choice was poor, the prose uninspired.

The paper had sent the chief reporter Gordon Rayner. The chief reporter, for heaven’s sake? Chief reporters are in the business of covering and, even better, uncovering hard news stories; the ones that are difficult to pin down, the ones where the leading players don’t want to be questioned about their darkest secrets.

The leading players yesterday didn’t want to be questioned about their darkest secrets, nor even about their lightest moments and this wasn’t the day to ask them. Every piece of information published this morning, apart from the chats with the faithful on the street, will have been available in some handout or press release. In essence there was nothing to say.

And when there is nothing to say, papers need to bring out their finest voices (often to be found in the features or sports departments) to say nothing in 1,500 words of panache, elegance and wit.

There were ten areas to be covered yesterday:
did the baby cry?
the choice of godparents
the guest list
what the Duke and Duchess said
what the baby wore
what everyone else wore
what the Archbishop said
the order of service and who read the lessons
random details such as the font, the water, the cake, the chapel
what the crowd thought

All of that could satisfactorily be packed into a 500-word story with a picture as the Guardian proved with its page 3. But this was the christening of ‘our future king’ and statements needed to be made, not in words, but in space.

guardianinside 24-10-13 (1)

Just before the Prince of Wales married Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 a pithy memo was circulated at The Times:

Please do not refer to Lady Diana Spencer as the future Queen of England.

In those days memos came in paper form and were pinned to notice boards in between the holiday homes for rent and announcements from on high about the chessboard shuffling of specialists. It remained, yellowed and curling, on the one near the loos and the sandwich machines until the paper did its moonlight flit

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Posted: 27th, October 2013 | In: Royal Family Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink