The Fake News of the British Tabloids.
“Is the Royal family a racist family, sir?” a reporter asked the Duke of Cambridge as he toured a school reopening after coronavirus closure last week. "We are very much not a racist family," the Duke of Cambridge replied, a typical softball answer to a soft ball question, that did nothing to move the needle on the issue. How else would he be expected to respond to years of vitriolic stories fake news and sadistic social media abuse targeted at a member of the royal family, his sister-in-law? Born in a predominantly racially diverse community, an American, a mature woman, a divorceé, a person of color, and in the eyes of the aristocracy a member of an inherently ‘suspect’ profession, an individual who has expressed mental health issues: this hardly fit the traditional profile for any future member of “The Firm.’ It is not surprising that the shine soon wore off for the press and the palace, and the token acceptance of Meghan Markle into the highest realms of privilege in the land. How dare a ‘nobody’ be brought into and enjoy the benefits and privilege that the Royals have inherited and protected since birth?
Tabloid reaction to the Oprah interview has been predictable. The Sun told its readers that the interview was nothing short of a plot by the duke and duchess to do ‘’as much damage as possible to the Royal Family,’ Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors, on Wednesday agreed to step down so the organization could "rebuild its reputation,” after stating earlier that it was "untrue" that sections of the UK press were bigoted and racist. One has to ask would there be this sort of knee-jerk reaction if the industry was open, honest and truly diverse. Piers Morgan, a familiar TV face on both sides of the Atlantic, quit (was fired?) “Good Morning Britain” amid an outcry over his comments about Meghan, particularly her description of mental health struggles and suicidal thoughts. He told viewers on Monday that “I don't believe a word she says.” But doubtless, if history can teach us anything, he will soon be snapped up by a far-right-wing tabloid hungry for sensationalism, readership, and dollars.
“The reason this isn’t a mere royal non-story is because it’s ultimately about race and gender and touches on a number of very real contemporary anxieties around fairness, equality, and institutional bigotry…’’ Patrick Freyne wrote in the Irish Times last Monday.
In 2016 the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance found that hate speech among traditional UK media, particularly tabloid newspapers, "continues to be a serious problem" and fuels prejudice. In that same year, a report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found that just 6% of journalists across UK newsrooms don't identify as White. There is not a single ‘non-white in the management upper echelons of tabloids in the UK. So, one has to ask, “when will things change? When will we see more than a token gesture than the firing of a single show host or resignation of an executive director?”
The one sad, troubling, and disappointing conclusion for me out all of this, yet not one I have only recently reached, is that setting aside the real issues of race gender and mental illness, the days are long gone when we can turn to the media to provide us with true, clear and unbiased news. There is simply too much money at stake. Sponsors, advertisements must be maintained, increased, and paid for, and in order to do that, there must be sales and viewership. Quantity will always trump quality in this dog-eat-dog environment and the race to be a sensationalist ‘first.’ If you are looking for truth, honesty, for the facts, then ‘Buyer Beware.’