A Good Home, Insight

Fighting with Journalists

I’ve been cheating on you, my friends. 

Instead of reading your posts and replying to them at late night or morning, I’ve been reading stories from across the pond.

And before I knew it, I was smack-dab in the middle of a heated fight.

For a mild-mannered, disabled, Canadian author, this is an unfamiliar situation. And that, plus my former profession, may be the only things I have in common with royal reporters.

Royal reporters (RRs, for short) are being fact-checked, corrected, chastised for sloppy practices by hundreds of Twitter-users every day, many of whom are providing evidence of what they see as shoddy treatment of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. 

Blog Photo - MM and PH smiling

Who are these Twitter users?

In the last few weeks, I’ve received a crash course in the identities and concerns of some of the people who are defending the couple.

I found a complex and diverse group, many of whom appear to be well-educated women (and a few men) from the US, the UK, France, Canada and some African countries.

Many are “black or brown”, but some are white, mixed-race or other.  They include university professors, journalists, businesspeople, lawyers, retired educators and other professionals.

Many never followed the royal family until Meghan Markle got engaged to Prince Harry.  They were appalled by the stories in the UK media, particularly the tabloids, and their readers’ replies.

They expressed shock that anyone can “verbally abuse or lie” about the royal family without being held accountable.

Marrying a royal is worse for a mixed-race woman: there’s racism and sexism involved too.  (Say goodbye to your good reputation.) Tabloid ‘click-bait’ headlines, instigating hateful responses to the young royals, are numerous.

Wikipedia describes View Park−Windsor Hills, where the duchess’ mother lives, as “one of the wealthiest primarily African-American areas in the United States” but tabloid stories called her home and neighbourhood “gang-scarred”.

Blog Photo - MM at British Fashion Awards - Credit Harper's BazaarBlog Photo - MM story - W and K at Bafta - Credit Kensington Palace

More recently, a supporter juxtaposed photos of the duchess and her sister-in-law, both of whom wore one-shouldered dresses, just weeks apart. The supporter noted that the duchess had been called ‘vulgar’ but her sister-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge, was called ‘ethereal’, ‘stunning’ and ‘princess-like’ in some tabloids.

The unending double-standard galvanized some Twitter-users:

“It has certainly turned me from being a passive observer of our into an activist for fairness & the protection of a woman trying to live her life! It is disgusting & racist how she is treated and deserves to be called out!”

Earlier, the duchess spearheaded a massively successful fundraising cookbook of recipes by the women of Grenfell, a mostly poor high-rise neighbourhood in London that was devastated by fire.  Ironically, the tabloids then linked her to terrorism.

Blog Photo - MM favourite snack - avocado

She’s been linked to drought, murder and human rights abuses, all because she likes avocados on her toast.

She’s been linked to environmental damage. That’s because, at 7 months pregnant and just 2 days before visiting Morocco at the UK government’s request, she accepted a ride back from New York to London on a friend’s private airplane. 

Blog Photo - MM and PH in Morocco - Credit Kensington Palace

Supporters of the duchess have watched all this with keen and anxious eyes. And they’re making it almost impossible for a royal reporter to write a story without a response from Twitter these days.  Users are quick to spot inaccuracies and perceived unfairness

It’s a remarkable media watch: the scrutiny is skilled, informed and fierce. Many responses are calm and evidence-based, but others are dismissive or furious. Some include charges of racism, which royal reporters say is unjust.

While most of the monitored reporters work for the UK’s tabloids, some also write for The Telegraph, The Times and even Canada’s own Maclean’s news magazine.

Earlier this week, The Telegraph released a report by a European consulting firm. The firm said it studied the identities of Twitter users defending the duchess and found a “network” working closely together to attack royal reporters.

The existence of this network, the report said, “could point to an orchestrated campaign to manipulate public opinion by an organization or state.” 

One RR tweeted: “You have to ask, in whose interest might it be to foment discord between the UK and the US over something as anodyne as a royal marriage?”

The findings and reporters’ replies elicited outbursts of dismissive laughter on Twitter. One hilarious response followed another. But after the laughter, there was serious concern.

Shockingly, respected Harper’s Bazaar journalist Omid Scobie was one of several the report named in the “network”.

Blog Photo - MM story Omid Scobie

UK photographer and writer Benjamin Wareing quickly responded with a series of posts, questioning the findings:

“Some of the biggest accounts in this research, I KNOW aren’t bots… Reports of a ‘swarm of Meghan bots’, with implied suggestions it is Russian involvement, seem exaggerated to me and, in a few cases, targeted to dismiss differing views or to shut down certain debates.”

When someone tweeted that Barack Obama was listed too, Wareing replied, simply:
“Jesus Christ…”

Canada’s Maclean’s magazine carried the story next, this time written by a local journalist.  That’s when I unwittingly jumped into the fray.

I breezily commented that some royal reporters deserve to be held accountable (“feet to the fire”) and that some of the alleged “bots” are doing a great job of fact-checking journalists and pointing out slip-ups and bias.

Her reply surprised me: “Your defense of threats, vitriol and personal attacks is well, indefensible.”

Huh? Nowhere had I done so.

Yes, I’ve seen threats: people threatening to stop reading the RR’s columns, or those threatening to keep monitoring their stories.

But the journalist’s reply made me understand that some RR’s do feel under attack.  They consider themselves victims too —  and they get triggered.  

Soon after, she received dozens of tweets, most calling out reporters’ hypocrisy.  Examples:

“And your defense of threats, vitriol and personal attacks on the Duchess of Sussex is well, indefensible also.”

“Was it polite criticism when people continuously deliver death threats & vitriol to the DoS, Prince Harry, & their unborn child?”

“Your selective outrage is disgusting. The DoS has been subjected to the most disgusting character assassination of any public figure I can think about and you could not care less about it.”

This reply came with a graphic:

“Jesus, Patricia, little research will confirm Duchess Meghan had millions of fans years before Harry. did you expect us to accept yr lies and innuendos because reporters never ever got pushback?”

Blog Photo - MM Twitter comment

Strangely, the volume of responses made me feel responsible for whatever came next. Some RR’s had complained of threats, so I monitored the comments. I found expressions of outrage, frustration, some insults too — but no threats. 

In recent weeks, some RR’s have retreated to their bunkers: they’re blocking their fiercest critics and supporting each other against criticism. 

It won’t cease hostilities, though. There’s no sign that most of the duke and duchess’ supporters will overlook practices they consider unjust and unethical.  

But as a former journalist, I believe this is “a teachable moment”.

RR’s could learn a lot about their readers and find original stories if brave enough to talk with the people criticising them. It could be a mutual education.  

I’m not holding my breath, though.

 

 

52 thoughts on “Fighting with Journalists”

  1. I leave the the automatic systems on wordpress to post to twitter, and only go to look when twitter tells me to look at notifications. That’s about as much contact as I want with it. I know a lot of people in the UK to regard it as a poisonous world where trolls, social justice warriors and bots fight for supremacy 😉

  2. Wow Cynthia – what a morass to have found yourself in! I have to congratulate you in standing your ground though – and even entering the fray. The ‘information and media’ world is a crazy ass place to be these days. I have noted some of the headlines on the populist womens mags that line the aisle to the checkout in the supermarket and without reading further know they are more than likely untrue, racist or biased in some manner and probably all three. I wonder why anyone reads them any more. My personal opinion is that all people of sense should cease and desist in taking part in anything labelled ‘news’ unless it comes from a reputable and proven source and is published outside of the elite owned news empires. But I guess that isn’t going to happen. The world is divided and the camps are indeed hostile! Maybe your hubby is correct …. 🙂

  3. Thanks for caring Cynthia. I applaud your willingness to jump in the fray. It does seem unfair that she is being attacked and slandered. Yet, that seems to be the nature of media these days. I try not to pay attention to the news, most of it seems to be junk, fake and/ or corporate agendas.

  4. Cynthia, I’m sorry you got dragged into this…as I see it, Meghan needs you and all of us to help fight the injustice going on! RR attack her because they know she cannot defend herself. There comes such a time we cannot stay silent and I’m thankful that you didn’t. I got sucked into this too by reading on twitter and was outraged. Like all of DoS supporters I will stand and fight this battle with all that is in me!

    1. And I know you will. It’s a remarkable group of individuals who are defending her and her husband. I think it’s the stunning unfairness of it that gets people. and as you say, there comes a time when we cannot stay silent. I’ve long wanted to write something on this topic, but I’m a children’s author with a brand to protect, and I debated it. People like you have inspired and strengthened me. Brava.

  5. Good grief! You got yourself into the middle of it, didn’t you!? But you’re so right, that the treatment of this young woman is beyond unfair, and I give you tons of credit for your commitment to addressing that!

    1. Thanks very much for commenting. The things that are written about the duke and duchess are frightening: many stories seem to be published only to incite anger (or worse) against them.

  6. Wow… You’re back to journalism! Great post, Cynthia. I leave wordpress to automatically post to twitter, so people only see my reviews. Meghan recently commented during an interview that she doesn’t read the comments on twitter, or the newspapers. She sees them as a distracting noise. Lol

    1. Good to hear from you, Kev. I am glad the DoS doesn’t read the comments as many are horrible. I think that’s why her supporters think they have to fight back against the racist and sexist vitriol.

  7. Excellent article! Thank you!

    Just by being all of herself: a demonstrably decent human being; female; educated; articulate; informed by her experiences of the wold and the realities of others; as well as being a bi-racial divorced, American woman….the Duchess of Sussex has garnered unprecedented interest in herself and the BRF.
    Even tho I am a citizen of a Commonwealth country, i must confess that my interest in the BRF only became ignited with Meghan’s entry int it.
    I, also, have felt a burning outrage at the nasty critters calling themselves RRs for the fomenting of hatred, envy and jealousy in the social media posts of the already mentally unstable who hide their defects behind the anonymity of their keyboards.
    So thank you for lending your significant voice to those pushing back against this blatant injustice.

    1. That’s what I believe too. Our days on this earth are so few and therefore so precious. Why spend them attacking anyone? I’m the daughter of a minister who once asked my artist husband to letter these words from Micah 6 – “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” While I’m no longer a “church-goer” and rarely quote the Bible, these words still shape my thoughts on how one should spend their life. I’d update them by adding “to speak out against injustice.” Good work, Cynthia.

      1. To act justly and to have mercy certainly doesn’t appeal to some of the newspapers there. Allowing their readers to publish vile comments as they do should be a crime.

  8. I am a supporter of the Royal Family but not a Royal watcher. I don’t read newspapers or magazines or use Twitter or any social media except Facebook now and then but have picked up a little of what has been going on. Well done you, for taking up the fight. I hope that eventually reporting will become fairer and unbiassed but I too, am not holding my breath. This world is getting nastier and people appear to believe that they can say and write the vilest things about other people without any proof. I hope the Duchess of Sussex is stronger and has more family support than poor Princess Diana.

  9. I had heard about this, but don’t follow the RF. Isn’t it funny how the RRs feel put upon because they’re being fact checked? Wow. Good for you for weighing in.

  10. Thank you so so much for just being honest. That very hard to come bye, I don’t clickbait. But because of one of the Sussex fans reported on your Article and how good it was I click. So thank again for being truthfully. I’m now a fans.

  11. Wow! As I don’t read the tabloids and have not seen this Twitter thread, I had no idea how bad this had become. The Guardian has had a few articles mentioning the disgusting and idiotic treatment of the DofS by some sections of the media, but as the people I know – few of them particularly royalty watchers – think her arrival is the best possible thing that could have happened to the Royal Family, I assumed that the problem was not that big. I’m afraid there is a very nasty underbelly in the popular press that panders to the worst prejudices of the nation. Royalty sells, so they have clearly decided to try and use the sisters-in-law to air these prejudices. I am embarrassed for the UK. Thank you for helping to bring sanity to the subject. In spite of everything you may have read, most Britons love Meghan and all she stands for and all the work she and Harry do.

    1. The Guardian is actually the best of the lot, in my opinion. Whether they approve of something or not, the coverage is responsible. I’m glad to hear that many Britons support the DoS. I believe she is in Canada (the queen is our monarch) and the Commonwealth too. Two thousand people from 64 countries read this post in a day, so there’s great interest globally. Meantime, wishing you well, whatever the Brexit outcome!

  12. I think the best way to think about an article is if it is ugly or snarky it probably isn’t true. Unless it’s about the U. S. prez—then it probably is. Sigh. Is it just me or is the world getting crazier than ever?
    Interesting article!

  13. My, the outraged journalist came out! Keep it up – perhaps you should write an op-ed with this post as a start. I don’t keep up with Tweets (can’t seem to avoid our President’s tweets) or tabloids except what I see in the grocery store check-out line. It seems everyone in the public eye is fair game and especially the Royal Family. I wish Prince Harry and his wife all the best! They have to learn to ignore some of the gossip. Good post!

    1. Thanks, Jo Nell. The tabloids, their comment sections and social media have given a home to the vilest human attitudes and Encourage those people who hold them to think they’re right and some even act on their hate. It’s tragic.

  14. Isn’t it sad that “journalism” has sunk to yet new depths in their endless tabloid attacks on people just trying to live their lives (royal or otherwise). I guess if it sells newspapers, so somebody’s happy, but such a shame and such a waste of time. Interesting – and unexpected! – post.

    1. Sure is, Jeanne. I must say: although Queen E is our Canadian monarch, I’ve never paid as much attention to royal reporting as in the last 2-plus years. It’s been shocking. The Guardian does the most responsible reports and columns but some of the others are crazy.

  15. As an outsider looking in, I think Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are perfect for each other and for the world; they have similar values, and have plans to do good for others – and already have. Most people feel this way, but it is the small minority that is loud and dangerous. As Mr. Grange said above, perhaps a book! I wouldn’t worry about the content conflicting with your children’s author hat. The message is the same, and they would therefore support each other. Big smile for you.

  16. Wow. Just … Wow. I had no idea they were giving her this much shit. That’s terrible. I know there was lots at the start when they got engaged but I thought it had died down. Our tabloids are vile though.

    Cheers

    MTM

  17. Oy. While I love how we can all connect through this ether we call technology, I fear so many people are living through it, instead of alongside it. Don’t you wonder how these folks have so much time on their hands? I can barely get dinner on the table after a workday, let alone get into arguments online. The rage some people unleash there is a bit much . . .

    1. When people get passionate about a topic, they make the time. Some use it to be nasty, though, and that’s horrible. I always think if we can pretend we’re face to face with the person we are writing about or to, it might foster respect, and change what we say, whether we are writers or readers. I applaud everyone who holds journalists accountable in a respectful way.

      1. I do too. I guess I just see more of the nasty trolls chiming in than the reasonable people. But I do feel like if we really listen to each other via social media, it would give us all some food for thought :-).

    1. Thanks for taking the time to reply. I wonder if the RRs who cause offense are aware they do but have to adhere to their news outlets’ business case. I would like to find out why they do it.

  18. I’m so clueless about the royal media these days I had no idea they were attacking Meghan Markle, but at the same time I totally would have predicted it. Then again, not this absurdly. Wonderful efforts, Cynthia.

  19. A troll’s work is never done, I guess. Thanks for an enlightening story. I didn’t realize that it had gotten this bad. At least it’s not Trumps vs the Dems (yes that is very US-Centric of me .)

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