Can royal watchers redefine their reporting role?

What will happen to the practice of royal reporting, now that Princess Diana is buried and the papers gradually return to a more varied diet of news? We know that the Daily Mail’s reporter Richard Kay was so close to her that she phoned him from Paris just hours before her death. That the Mirror’s James Whitaker was in tears as he composed the paper’s initial tribute. Will this clique of Diana/Charles/Camilla watchers become redundant?

What will happen to the practice of royal reporting, now that

Princess Diana is buried and the papers gradually return to a more

varied diet of news? We know that the Daily Mail’s reporter Richard Kay

was so close to her that she phoned him from Paris just hours before her

death. That the Mirror’s James Whitaker was in tears as he composed the

paper’s initial tribute. Will this clique of Diana/Charles/Camilla

watchers become redundant?



As the Daily Mail’s Sir David English warned, in order to create a new,

kinder, less destructive climate towards the Royal family, with William

and Harry carefully protected from harassment and telephoto lenses, it

will require a new compact between the public, the media and the family

itself. The public will have to wean itself off the Royals as soap opera

they have been indulged with for the past 17 years. The reporters and

tabloid papers in particular will have to refocus and redirect their

energies into new channels now that the ’golden child’ is gone, while

the Royal family is being guided towards a less stuffy, more

ambassadorial role by Tony Blair himself.



But observing the papers as they have flailed around this week making

all sorts of pious public pledges, it is clear that royal correspondents

are cannily realigning themselves, stressing how good their contacts are

with Prince Charles’ camp. It is interesting to see how sure footed his

PR machine has been, ensuring the public knows he had clear differences

of opinion with the Queen and her advisers about the handling of funeral

arrangements and that he turned to Blair to create an alliance.



One of the key points is that Princess Diana’s posthumous royal/saintly

status is serving to protect both the monarchy and, perhaps more

intriguingly, Prince Charles in turn, because he is the father of

William. The Mirror put it this way: ’The Mirror will give Charles every

support in the coming years. It is what Diana would have wanted. Let us

help him rebuild the monarchy which has been rocked to its core.’



And, although the tabloids and broadsheets are rowing openly over the

sincerity of this change of heart, it is the broadsheets which are best

placed to develop the remit and substance of royal reporting in the new

climate. One of the most prolific commentators over the past two weeks

has been Ben Pimlott, the author of the biography of the Queen.



Why? Because he has an evident grasp of the constitutional realities of

modern British life, reinforced by expert knowledge of the monarchy, its

courtiers and protocol. Here is a chance for royal reporting to turn

from personality-led tittle tattle to those intriguing questions

concerning the monarchy’s modernisation, tone and relevance to Britain,

themes which helped make Earl Spencer’s speech so popular. Arise a new

breed of royal constitutional reporters?



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