The Royal Media

Leading up to Prince William and Kate Middleton’s Canadian tour, the CBC News website posted an article under the headline, “Royal visit a tough assignment for world media.”

I tried to ignore it. I had vowed to stop reading about the Royals ever since choking down a piece in the Globe and Mail which described how the Toronto police once escorted a van full of mushroom risotto through rush-hour traffic – all to save the Queen, Prince Philip and Prime Minister Stephen Harper the tragedy of delaying their dinner plans.

Still, I read on to find out why the “world media” is so stressed out. The author of the piece seems to suggest that Canadians should be awestruck – not by the fact that there are more than 1400 journalists focused on Kate and William’s every move throughout their tour – but instead, by the heroic way in which these journalists endure the hazards and psychological turmoil that an assignment like theirs implies.

A fate worse than cold risotto, the author laments that journalists will find it impossible to get an original story angle on the Royal visit – a likely scenario considering that 1400 of them have gathered en masse to stare wide-eyed at exactly the same thing.

Worse still, the British and Canadian authorities have put restrictions in place. Sadly, journalists are not allowed to record private conversations between the Royals and the public. Their “only recourse” is to “talk to onlookers immediately after their royal encounter.” I was under the impression that this was simply called an interview – pretty standard procedure for so-called world media types.

The article concluded with a plea to the public to realize that reporting on the Royals, while unquestionably “prestigious,” is not all glitz and glamour. No. It makes journalists feel tired. It makes journalists feel unoriginal. It makes journalists feel as if they need, and I quote, “psychiatric care.”

I tried my best to pass this article off as a particularly extreme display of egoistic, narcissistic and utterly self-aggrandizing journalism – one to which no thoughtful person would give credibility. That was until the Montreal Gazette saw fit to prove me wrong. As if old soldiers were comparing battle scars, a Gazette reporter filled an entire page with tales of her own journalistic war. The headline read: “On the front lines.”

In excruciating detail, the author recounted her “less-than ideal conditions,” the “standing for what seemed an interminable time,” and the embarrassment of “having to look through a photographer’s telephoto lens” to analyze the details of Kate’s dress. Not to mention she had to take notes, take photos, and, file to the internet. “I needed more hands,” she recalled.

I feel ridiculous even quoting these people. If it were simply a case of calling out another meaningless article in the newspaper, I surely would have contained my rant within the walls of my local bar. But their arrogance strikes me as in particularly bad taste given the hostile environments in which many journalists dedicate themselves to their work.

In my last post I wrote that radio journalists in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan are risking their lives to go on-air amidst air raids from their own government. Despite the fact that cell phone networks are down, that bombs have barely missed their radio station and that the remainder of their time is spent in mountain shelters, these journalists feel compelled to keep their community informed in a time of crisis. It might seem like an extreme example, but it is happening as we speak and is only one example of many. As long as situations like this persist, it seems farcical for royally inclined journalists to devote entire pages to their hardships, especially in such militaristic and psychiatric language.

I have to wonder how out of touch a worldly media professional has to be to interpret his own sad state of affairs as deserving all at once our admiration and sympathy. While journalists around the world are fighting to have their voices heard, it is unfortunate that some use their privileged position simply to amplify their sense of entitlement and self-pity.

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