It is Monday, July 22, just before 1 p.m. and I've just read: "For live baby reaction, click here."
This hyperlink can only be about one baby, of course. Who knew that little Prince George would turn up in the world with observations press-friendly and ready to print?
I would have thought he'd be too busy getting to know his parents, thanking the attending consultants, asking questions about what they do, etc.
This is clearly a precocious child; even without the help of the gold-plated education he will eventually have access to and even without his own press officer, the young prince has turned the excitable world's media into the journalistic equivalent of magpies chasing silver foil.
Thanks be or else they might be forced to cover hard news, which is, well, H.A.R.D. There are interviews and facts and freedom of information requests and stuff.
Just joking with you. I know "live baby reaction" means asking the Prince of Wales what he thought when he toured an abattoir in York as his first grandchild is being born (yes, really), or what the family who drove up from Plymouth and camped out in front of Buckingham Palace talked about as they adjusted their Union Flag toupees and summer hats and awaited news.
The media was in the usual hyperpanic state that comes about whenever they have to compete down to the nano-second for news they will all get at once, with declarations of boredom by BBC hacks outside the hospital to The Guardian newspaper making two home pages — one for republicans, one for royalists — and inviting people to click where appropriate. My personal favourite was the obsequious Daily Mail blasting out its first headline of the birth, only forgetting to mention that the baby was male.
As we know, the Canadian media are generally not boat rockers, cradle rockers more likely, and I could click the Globe and Mail as Baby Cambridge arrived to find a video that contains five things I didn't know about the next royal baby, along with direct links to Twitter reaction.
And if the U.S. press is any indication, Americans want a royal family and they want it yesterday. When you see an American business magazine, as I have, publishing blurry cellphone photos of the gilt-framed Royal Birth Proclamation and commentators writing things like "Advice from President Obama — make sure you get a birth certificate" ...it's hard to think it is just a reaction to the big 'R' Republicans.
Everyone needs to drink too much in celebration/depression, pass out, wake up again and start over.
For 15 years I worked at the wordy coalface of the national British press, and my thoughts flew back to their stressed out newsdesks and their stupid-with-overkill editors.
Many are perfectly decent people having to create this stuff and I can guarantee you that some of them are having a tough time of it. For one thing, it is a manipulation game in which they are not the only ones responsible — Buck House spinmeisters and the public that crave insatiably for this stuff also play a part.
I once witnessed the new prince's late grandmother deftly use the media this way.
In the early '90s I was working for a London tabloid in the features department. The newsdesk was a short shriek away and one day I heard them shrieking to each other over a phone call they'd just received.
It turned out that a woman "with a posh voice" had told the news editor that Princess Diana was going to be at the home of her college friend Caroline Bartholomew, a woman who had just been attacked in the press by Prince Charles or a member of his coterie for some stupid reason, like supporting his abandoned wife.
The photographers went and dutifully took photos of Diana kissing Caroline hello, and it was one of the first indications that Diana was breaking away from The Royal Firm. After that, she or a trusted friend managed a lot of media contact themselves.
There are other stories, of course, and goodness knows Diana was hunted by the paparazzis in a reversal of fortune, as her brother said in his eulogy of her in 1997.
As for me, I would say I am with Canadian activist Dave Meslin on this topic. His response to the new prince on Monday? "Breaking news: Approximately 370,000 babies will be born today."
Indeed. That is actually big news with big implications.
I'd like to welcome all you babies now born into a world in which the differentiation between you all is determined before you draw breath. You are all worthy of golden-framed public declarations, and I want to be part of a world that cherishes each of you.
Babies born today will have a lot to contend with: an environment under threat, overpopulation, the end of fossil fuel mania and the start of whatever comes next, jobs uncertainty (unless born into one), struggles for sharing resources, pressures on education, pensions, social safety nets and the like.
I wish better for them all.
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