At this point I don’t think you can overstate the impact that the Television Event of the Year is having – on the British royal family and the overall culture. And I’m not just talking about the fact that this was a monoculture moment at a time when monoculture was thought to be dead. Fallout from Oprah’s interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle has shaken up the monarchy and the British media, two major institutions, that’s how monumental this has been.
As you know, Harry and Meghan spoke to Oprah about the British tabloid press and how relentlessly racist their coverage had been since they started dating. Following the interview, the executive director of the Society of Editors, Ian Murray, issued a statement in response to the Sussexes’ position that certain influential media outlets in the UK perpetuated racist stereotypes, saying that Meghan’s comments were “not acceptable” and that she shouldn’t have made them without “supporting evidence”, and he stood up for the UK media for its “proud record of calling out racism”. He published an essay titled “UK media not bigoted” and characterised the tabloids’ reporting on Harry and Meghan as “holding a spotlight up to those in positions of power, celebrity, or influence”.
In swift response, 168 member journalists of the Society of Editors signed an open letter condemning Ian Murray’s piece, writing that they “deplore and reject” his defence as it “shows a willful ignorance not just [of] the discriminatory treatment of Meghan…but that of other people from an ethnic minority background”. The letter concluded with:
“The Society of Editors should have used the comments by the Sussexes to start an open and constructive discussion about the best way to prevent racist coverage in future … The blanket refusal to accept there is any bigotry in the British press is laughable, does a disservice to journalists of colour and shows an institution and an industry in denial.”
Check the Guardian’s summary of the situation up to yesterday when it escalated even further.
The Society of Editors’ National Press Awards are scheduled to happen on March 31 and were supposed to be hosted by ITV News anchor Charlene White who announced that she would not be presiding over the ceremony anymore, telling Ian Murray that:
“Perhaps it’s best for you to look elsewhere for a host for your awards this year. Perhaps someone whose views align with yours: that the UK press is the one institution in the entire country who has a perfect record on race.”
Many, many, MANY other journalists and member boards soon followed, withdrawing their nominations and refusing to participate because they do not want to be aligned with Ian Murray’s article refuting Harry and Meghan’s claims and refusing to acknowledge that the UK media has to do better. Ian Murray has now resigned as executive director and the Society of Editors now has to repair their internal relationships and the confidence of its membership, in addition to maintaining what should have already been a work in progress – to push for more diversity and inclusion in newsrooms which would then result in a better standard of equality in reporting.
Which brings us to… the royal rota. When they stepped down as senior members of the British royal family, Harry and Meghan openly broke with the royal rota, the group of journalists that covers the British royals, posting an explanation on their website about the royal rota’s shortcomings. Their nickname, allegedly, for the royal rota, is “the Cartel”. The royal rota is heavily white, and if they’re the people responsible for disseminating news about the royals, and providing much if not most the reporting that you and I have read about Harry and Meghan over the last few years, imagine the lens that is being filtered through? The Hollywood Foreign Press Association was recently called out over its lack of Black membership. I wonder if anyone’s going to start wondering when the royal rota will be diversifying.
So to go back to the original point and the Television Event of the Year, this wasn’t just a fluffy interview; the ripple effects of it continue to widen. Harry and Meghan are disrupting the status quo in multiple institutions, the monarchy and the media, with a major assist from Oprah, and not their own family members. In fact, during the interview, Harry said that the British royals are afraid of the UK tabloid media, and that that’s the reason why they won’t challenge it and instead are in bed with them. When you contrast that with what we’re seeing now, and the immediate consequences of Harry and Meghan’s interview, the fact that the media is being challenged, and the media is challenging itself, the British royal family kowtowing to the tabloids becomes that much more pronounced. Like why wouldn’t they want to fight the good fight? Why wouldn’t they want to be onside with what’s right?
Yours in gossip,