Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, have officially begun a privacy lawsuit against The Sun and Daily Mirror, two widely popular British tabloids, according to The Guardian. Although these claims are related to alleged cell phone hacking, Markle also filed a case against the Daily Mail after they published a letter she sent her father, whom she is mostly estranged from, with his permission but not Markle’s.
Harry made an unprecedented statement regarding the media’s coverage of Meghan Markle last Tuesday, blasting tabloids and the like for consistently publishing “knowingly false and malicious” information about the Duchess.
Tabloids like these often have a greater circulation than traditional newspapers in the United Kingdom and have a reputation for stretching the truth in order to gain readership. But with this irresponsible journalism comes many lawsuits, although few hold as much impact as a legal battle with the royal family.
Until recent years, British tabloids faced no consequences for unethically obtaining personal information, whether true or false, but they have increasingly been sued lately in order to hold them accountable for their smear campaigns based in falsehoods.
America is not totally immune to this phenomena, with tabloids like TMZ still securing a large readership and the paparazzi industry thriving on invading the privacy of celebrities and their friends and family. But Britain is known for their specifically callous brand of tabloids.
The New York Times even reported during the height of Brexit discussions that politicians make tabloid coverage a top concern because of the impact they have on public opinion. This is a scary realization when pairing it with the often shoddy reporting that these institutions practice.
Every journalist doing their job correctly has probably complained about fact-checking their pieces at one point or another. Thousands of dedicated reporters go to extreme lengths every day to ensure what they are writing is true and responsible in order to provide reliable and quality information to the public.
It can feel restrictive to not be able to put one sentence in a piece without scouring reports and documents to verify that it’s true, but moments like these remind us why that legwork is so important to the sanctity of publishing.
When false or exaggerated content is allowed to thrive, figures like President Donald Trump can use examples of “journalism” from publications like these and apply the same logic to well-established, credible sources. Loose definitions of what is and is not acceptable to publish hands people that don’t want truths about them revealed to embark on campaigns against “fake news.”
Although the royal family is justified in suing these tabloids on the basis that they’re obtaining information secretly and possibly illegally, we cannot let this set a precedent for public figures with looser claims to attack any journalism that may be perceived negatively.
The general public are not able to verify every fact they see in an article — that’s what editors are for. Journalism is by definition meant to inform citizens of what is happening in the world, not to decide the world needs to be more “sensational.”
In a perfect world, we could trust readers to be careful about where they obtain information, but in a perfect world no one would be publishing lies in the first place. If readers aren’t holding journalists to higher standards, it is our responsibility to do it ourselves.
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