Friday, February 29, 2008

Prince Harry, Drudge & Afghanistan
The "real" big story behind the story

There's lots of news and speculation ... oh wait! I guess they are one and the same in today's info era... about the leakage of Harry's whereabouts in the battlefront against the Global Islamic Jihad Movement. But I, for one, think everyone is missing the genuine BIG story here.

And that is how the British press rallied around responsibility, and showed voluntary restraint by doing a blackout on the story. It was 10 weeks before lesser ethical peers spilled the beans.

From today's Guardian,
"NoW's Wallis Attacks Drudge over Harry":

Wallis, one of the key figures to broker the non-reporting agreement struck in December by newspapers and the Ministry of Defence, praised the conduct of British media and suggested that foreign outlets were more careless about the Prince's safety than their British counterparts.

Drudge Report: how US website reported the story "For him [Drudge] to claim an exclusive on that was a cheap hit," Wallis told Sky news. "Any number of newspapers or broadcasters in this country could have claimed that as far back as December.

Indeed. Hard for Drudge to claim an exclusive when many knew the story, but bypassed for responsible reasons. Then there's that pesky detail that many say that the Australian women's magazine, New Idea, let the cat out of the bag first.

Whether American or Australian media, two points remain unchanged:

1: Neither genuinely had an "exclusive", as the story was known by British media for months

2: Neither had the restraint, nor inherent ethics, to respect they were not only endangering the Prince, but also his fellow regiment soldiers, in exchange for their hits on this non-exclusive story.

Forgive me if I'm not impressed with their big splash reporting. On the other hand, I am impressed with the British press holding their keyboards in cheek, so to speak.

"There was a consensus that was stuck to rigidly ... this is not about censorship this is about responsibility."

Wallis helped negotiate the deal with other senior newspaper executives including the Mail on Sunday editor, Peter Wright, and Bob Satchwell, the executive director of the Society of Editors and former Cambridge Evening News editor.

The question of how to report Harry's deployment is understood to have been discussed as far back as August last year, leading to the deal which was briefed to British journalists and broadcast media on December 12. This allowed an unprecedented 10-week news blackout on his deployment.


The chief of the general staff, Sir Richard Dannatt, head of the British army, has also expressed dismay over the leak.

"I am very disappointed that foreign websites have decided to run this story without consulting us," Dannatt said.

"This is in stark contrast to the highly responsible attitude that the whole of the UK print and broadcast media, along with a small number overseas, who have entered into an understanding with us over the coverage of Prince Harry on operations."

There was a contingency to the deal... that if the report appeared on foreign websites, the voluntarily mum UK press had a hotline to call to see if the story was then fair game for mass release.

But that phrase sticks in my mind. "This is not about censorship. This is about responsibility." Music to my ears. Kudos to the UK media - willingly putting country before the almighty ratings and a Euro.

Were that our western media could ever demonstrate such integrity and wisdom.

No comments: