By the end of their African tour last year, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were clearly done dealing with the British press outlets the same old way as other royal households. The Sussexes launched two lawsuits, sort of. Meghan separately sued the Mail on Sunday for publishing parts of her letter to her father. Harry joined an ongoing lawsuit against the Daily Mirror and other British tabloids for all of the wiretapping and illegal recording they had done on him for years. By the time Harry and Meghan announced their Sussexit in January, they clearly formed a plan to reject the “Royal Rota” almost entirely – the rota consisting of the Mail, Sun, Mirror, Express, etc. And now they’re making it even clearer:
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have told the editors of British tabloid newspapers that they will never again deal with their outlets, in an unprecedented direct attack on a large part of the media that leaves little chance of repairing the relationship. On Sunday night Prince Harry and Meghan sent a letter to the editors of the Sun, Daily Mail, Mirror and Express saying that from now on they would not respond to any inquiries from journalists working for the outlets. Instead there will be a policy of “zero engagement”, except when necessary through the couple’s lawyers.
In a strongly worded attack, the duke and duchess said they refused to “offer themselves up as currency for an economy of clickbait and distortion” and accused the outlets of running stories that are “distorted, false, or invasive beyond reason”. The move is designed to signal to the wider public not to trust any of the reporting about the couple carried by British tabloids. It comes as Meghan prepares to take on the Mail on Sunday in a court case over its decision to print a letter she sent to her estranged father, with a virtual hearing scheduled to take place on Friday.
In the letter Harry and Meghan tell the editors that they believe a free press is a cornerstone to any democracy that can “shine light on dark places, telling stories that would otherwise go untold, standing up for what’s right, challenging power, and holding those who abuse the system to account”. The message from their representatives says: “It is gravely concerning that an influential slice of the media, over many years, has sought to insulate themselves from taking accountability for what they say or print – even when they know it to be distorted, false, or invasive beyond reason. When power is enjoyed without responsibility, the trust we all place in this much-needed industry is degraded.
“There is a real human cost to this way of doing business and it affects every corner of society. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have watched people they know – as well as complete strangers – have their lives completely pulled apart for no good reason, other than the fact that salacious gossip boosts advertising revenue.”
Addressing the editors directly, the letter continues: “With that said, please note that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will not be engaging with your outlet. There will be no corroboration and zero engagement. This is also a policy being instated for their communications team, in order to protect that team from the side of the industry that readers never see. This policy is not about avoiding criticism. It’s not about shutting down public conversation or censoring accurate reporting. Media have every right to report on and indeed have an opinion on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, good or bad. But it can’t be based on a lie.”
The couple’s representatives said they are happy to engage with other outlets, especially grassroots and new media outlets, “to spotlight issues and causes that so desperately need acknowledging … What they won’t do is offer themselves up as currency for an economy of clickbait and distortion.”
I think this is mostly a good thing, although unconventional. By saying that they will not engage with those tabloids – the Mail, Sun, Mirror and Express – it seems to mean that they will not even bother to deny the most unhinged stories or issue any kind of statement or confirmation if one of those tabloids gets something right. No engagement means no engagement. And while those some tabloids will complain about it, there’s really nothing new here, or nothing to be done? Those tabloids lost access in January, and their lack of access was confirmed when the Sussexit was formalized on April 1st. This is basically just a reminder from Harry and Meghan: by the way, we f–king hate you guys. That being said… of course those same tabloids are going to run crazy stories about Harry and Meghan. Because… the tabloids were rarely getting information from House Sussex anyway, they were getting info from Clarence House, Buckingham Palace and Willileaks at Kensington Palace.
NEW: In a Sunday night letter, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have written to editors of the four major British tabloids – The Sun, Daily Express, Daily Mirror and Daily Mail – promising never to work with them again, barring all access into the future. The letter in full: pic.twitter.com/V4CWc8jKu5
— Mark Di Stefano (@MarkDiStef) April 19, 2020
Photos courtesy of WENN.