Features Magazine Volume 69, Issue 5

When the Press Goes Too Far

Imagine what it would feel like for strangers to be recording your every move, publically analyzing and portraying your actions and reactions as they see fit. Imagine having to retain your composure and smile even as eyes turn against you, their minds twisted and clouded by stories crafted to poison. 

     Although Duchess Meghan of Sussex, previously known as actress Meghan Markle, is not the first woman of color to become a part of the Royal family, her marriage to Duke Harry dominates in this age of digital media. There are a plethora of articles assuming Duchess Meghan’s background and the like from what one can infer to be racist stereotypes. Back in 2016, Harry spoke out about this slander against Meghan in an official announcement on the Royal Family’s website, royal.uk, yet debate as to whether the articles are racist continue today.

     According to The Guardian, the percentage of negative articles concerning Meghan are about double those about Duchess Kate of Cambridge. Additionally, various press organizations have written negative articles about Meghan despite previously commending Kate for doing something similar or identical things. The overwhelming majority of the previously referred to press organizations are a part of the Royal Rota, a system that gives “British media representatives the opportunity to exclusively cover an event, on the understanding that they will share factual material obtained with other members of their sector who request it,” according to the Duke and Duchess’s website: sussexroyal.com.

     The existence of this system leaves room for the spread of erroneous or unethical stories, many of which have been addressed by members of the Royal Family. One of the first things I learned as a Las Lomas Journalism student was the importance of ethical work—an article should not be written nor published if it can potentially hurt someone and has no ethical reason to be published. While many British press organizations have treated the Royal Family with seemingly meager respect for privacy or humanity, new members of the family such as those who choose to marry in have  historically been treated with even less respect. Duchess Meghan has been the victim of this press, taken farther than any new princess before, likely because she is half African American, American, and supportive of modern and liberal movements— while Britain tends to lean more towards the conservative side.

     This past January, Harry and Meghan announced that they planned to “step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family, and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen.” On the couple’s website, they thoroughly laid down guidelines as to how they wanted to operate, including a section on media relations and their removal from the Royal Rota system and supporting young journalists and objective reporting.