Applause for Kate Middleton, she's beaten the news media
Future royal has displayed flawless comportment under intense scrutiny, Michael Valpy says
Applause for Kate Middleton. She's won, she's beaten the news media.
She got through an eight-year relationship with Prince William, the man she marries on Friday, with her dignity and privacy intact, minus a few bikini photos and a nocturnal thigh-shot getting out of a car at London's Boujis night club.
Throughout, she's displayed flawless comportment.
She successfully employed lawyers to get the paparazzi out of her face. She suffered through a British TV network using a lip reader to report on her private conversations.
She put up with humiliating comments about her family and an appalling former schoolmate who made statements to the press about everything from her virginity to her baring her bum out school windows.
More than all that, her experiences have revealed just how much the British press — which many of us have been brought up to believe is the finest in the world — lies.
The amount of BS the media has reported on Middleton and her romance with the Queen's grandson is mind-blowing. Those outlets that don't make things up blatantly copy from those that do.
Which summons the question: Have the British and world media improved on the tidal wave of sentimental slush with which it flooded the engagement and wedding of Prince William's parents, Charles and Diana, 30 years ago?
No, it has become worse. It has grown nastier, more amoral, more venally desperate for the celebrity tattle of private lives that has become the life support of mainstream media.
7,000 journalists to be in London
Consider how much time and space the media has given to Middleton and the prince since they first met as students at Scotland's University of St. Andrews.
Consider how much potentially reporters could have got to know about her — stories from childhood playmates, fellow pupils at her elementary and secondary schools, from university friends, workmates, ex-boyfriends, friends of her family, social media chatter.
Consider that 7,000 journalists are in or on their way to the British capital to report on her wedding. Among them: the CBC's Peter Mansbridge, CBS's Katie Couric, NBC News's Brian Williams, ABC's Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer, Fox News's Shepard Smith and CNN's Anderson Cooper and Piers Morgan.
Consider that the Game Show Network will build a week's worth of "Newlywed Game" around royal themes; the Food Network will have a royal wedding cake competition, Oprah Winfrey's OWN-TV will have two 90-minute royal wedding specials and the Weather Channel's Al Roker will host "Wake Up With Al" all week from London.
The Los Angeles Times says CNN alone will have at least 125 reporters on the ground by the dawn of April 29. What can 125 reporters do on a single story?
"The world is looking for unifying events, happy occasions where we can celebrate together," says Perry Simon, general manager of BBC Worldwide America. "These opportunities don't come along very often."
That, too, is likely BS. Whatever the world is looking for, the important thing is that the media is looking for eyeballs.
And what is extraordinary about its coverage of Middleton is how little has been found out about her.
For seven years the press has relied on interviews with one former schoolmate of Middleton's, Jessica Hay, to report that she had feces smeared on her dormitory bed by bullies at her lower school (an odd account, given that she was a day girl without a dormitory bed); mooned boys out her dormitory window at her secondary school; had a photograph of William pinned up in her room years before she met him; was given hotness scores of no more than one or two out of 10 by boys at the school; and was a virgin when she met the prince.
British papers have reported with straight faces that Hay was not included on the wedding guest list.
This month, when Hay was asked by a reporter to account for the implausibility of her feces story, she replied: "I'd love to talk but I have given too much away for nothing, not even a thank you for being nice about my school friend."
The poor mum
The reporting about Middleton's family, especially about her mother, has been cruel.
Carole Middleton, a former flight attendant, has been described as "the number one embarrassing mum," who chewed gum at William's military graduation with the Queen present, who employed the déclassé "toilet" instead of "lavatory," who's been accused of plotting to get her daughter married to the prince the moment she heard he would be attending St. Andrews.
She has been called a pushy social climber.
The media reported that William broke off the relationship for eight weeks in 2007 because the Queen was uncomfortable with her mother.
Kate Middleton herself was reported to have blamed Prince Charles for the hiatus — an accusation that she had her lawyers deny. She also was said to be hurt by William "dallying with two society beauties," as well as incensed that he'd been seen holding a woman's breast in a bar.
All that she's had to put up with. Plus paparazzi photographs of her in a bikini that sold for $47,000. Another picture of her being handed a parking ticket went for $11,000. Who knows what the thigh shot was worth?
Then there is the report that the man who's marrying the couple on Friday, Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the global Anglican Communion and the state Church of England, doesn't want her in a white wedding dress because she's not a virgin.
Williams? If Middleton came down the aisle nine-months pregnant and topless, Williams would solemnize the wedding.
A few days ago, the Guardian's royalty reporter, Stephen Bates, wrote that virtually everything the media have said about Kate Middleton has been "flim, flam and speculation."
Well, it's almost over. With skill at the end of the week — and Kate Middleton has no shortage of skill -- she can slip into being a boring princess.