December 27, 2021

Deception, Intimidation & Calculated Attacks: The Tabloid Industry versus Meghan Markle.

 

It’s just a court-ordered apology, but it might be the beginning of a much bigger conversation.

Why would a magazine publish a private letter?

That’s how this three-year-long legal battle started. The Mail on Sunday thought it was okay to publish a letter written by Meghan Markle to her dad in a national newspaper. Markle did not agree—and I am with her on that.

She sued the newspaper and won the case, but Markle wants to go further than that. She wants to reshape the tabloid industry. And again, I agree.

Let me explain. Do you remember the outrage after the interview with Meghan and Harry on Oprah? I remember writing an article on this story.

I thought this story was about a privileged family dealing with mental health issues and racism. Meghan and Harry were the victims in this scenario. But outside the United States, there were also different opinions on this.

I saw German tabloid magazines bashing Markle for exploiting her fame to make money. I read British tabloid magazines that blamed Markle for ruining the reputation of the Royals. And I overheard some conversations in public that followed exactly that narrative.

Not to forget Piers Morgan. He was vilifying Meghan and Harry and felt sorry for the Royals. Really? But then we found out why.

But this case isn’t only about this particular story, as Markle explained, “This is a victory not just for me, but for anyone who has ever felt scared to stand up for what’s right.”

And she continues, “While this win is precedent-setting, what matters most is that we are now collectively brave enough to reshape a tabloid industry that conditions people to be cruel and profits from the lies and pain that they create.”

Tabloid magazines basically face the same systematic problems like social media: hate, rumors, and sex are the bestsellers.

And I agree with Markle on that. But I am wondering about our role in this. It’s true that sensationalism is a huge problem, but if you are an author who writes stuff nobody wants to read, you also have a problem.

I understand why the folks at The Mail on Sunday thought it was a great idea to publish these private letters. I understand why Morgan defended the Royals. I understand why tabloid magazines take sides with one of the last monarchies in Europe. But that doesn’t make it right.

What’s wrong with a little gossip? Well, that’s exactly what this case is about.

It might be entertaining to speculate on the well-being of celebrities and their relationships, but how much fun is it to be on the other side of this? Is it our right to know what Markle writes to her dad in a private letter? I don’t think so.

But what’s the difference between giving an interview on Oprah talking about family matters and publishing a letter on the same topic? It’s about choice.

Of course, the details shared in the interview were also quite intimate. I am sure the Queen was not amused. But it’s Meghan’s and Harry’s right to explain themselves after receiving so much criticism for shifting away from the family. And guess what started all of that? Tabloid magazines.

When the couple decided to move to the United States, many folks in the United Kingdom were upset. They felt as if Markle was a bad influence on Prince Harry. Maybe that’s why Markle felt the urge to share the real story behind their decisions?

Prince Harry and Markle do not owe anything to the British public. They can do whatever they want to do.

This is not about Markle against the Royals; this is about everyone who doesn’t want their private conversations published in a newspaper. This is about choice.

Just because we share something on social media doesn’t mean that others get to share anything about us online. There is a difference between me posting a cute family picture on Instagram and a local newspaper printing a story about our last fight on their cover.

But if someone illegally publishes a story that insults my partner, you bet that I would go on Oprah to defend her. The same goes for anyone publishing letters that I wrote to my mom years ago; I would sue the sh*t out of you.

I hope this story is just the beginning of a bigger conversation. I agree with Markle. We have to reshape the tabloid industry. But how?

Let’s treat a breaking story like a nude picture. Here are three examples:

1. If a tabloid magazine finds out that someone got cheated on, maybe let that person know before publishing the story. Oh, they don’t want that story published? Then don’t publish it. End of the story, literally. 

2. If someone wants to share intimate details on their life in an exclusive interview, then they should go ahead and speak their truth. But that doesn’t mean that the interviewer is allowed to publish any intimate details in the future—just that one story both parties agreed on. 

3. If a media outlet feels the need to publish a story without the consent of the ones who are involved, it’s quite similar to exposing a nude picture of someone against their will. It’s as simple as that. 

And just to be clear, we are not talking about real news.

If someone committed a crime, there is nothing wrong with reporting on that. If there is a public interest, any reporter is obviously allowed to do their job.

But we have to draw the line somewhere. We have to ask ourselves, “Is this public interest or just gossip?”

Let’s put it this way: a phone call between the former president and his son on January 6th talking about the insurrection is of public interest. Melania Trump calling a friend complaining about her horrible husband would be gossip.

Let’s talk more about things that are public interest and less about gossip. Let’s be interested in what’s interesting.

Princess Diana, Britney Spears, and Meghan Markle are three examples of what could go wrong when we cross these lines. All three women went through hell because of tabloid magazines and our addiction to gossip.

At the same time, folks like Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Matt Gaetz are also going through challenging times because of the media. But there is a huge difference because these three men actually did things that are of public interest.

Let’s focus on these stories—and leave Meghan alone.

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