Royal timing lets regionals break news of engagement

By Sarah Lagan

For once regional evenings were in a position to break a major royal story.

The
news that Prince Charles and Camilla Barker-Bowles are to wed broke
just after 9am on 10 February – far too late for the nationals.

Editors
in the regions often complain that royal and Government announcements
are timed to get maximum coverage in the nationals.

Manchester
Evening News editor Paul Horrocks told Press Gazette that he recently
wrote to Prince Charles’ press secretary Paddy Harverson disputing the
way Clarence House and Buckingham Palace always release stories in time
for the national press.

He said of the wedding announcement: “I
thought they’d finally listened to me, but it later transpired that
they only reacted to an Evening Standard scoop.” It was confirmed by
Clarence House that the story was an exclusive for Standard royal
correspondent Robert Jobson.

The Manchester Evening
News’ overnight edition missed the story, but the second edition
was turned around by 10am and included a splash and page two
background. For the later editions the leader was changed, a comment
piece and two features were added.

Horrocks said he was shocked
by the lack of interest in the story from the city’s public. He said:
“We reacted like all papers did because we thought it was such a big
story, but from the public we detected apathy.

“It was made into a bigger media event than they wanted.

“The
next day we canvassed the views of nearly 600 people in Greater
Manchester to ask whether they were interested in the wedding and only
18 per cent said ‘yes’.

“This has certainly coloured my judgement
over the amount we will cover about Charles and Camilla in the coming
months. We only had 14 letters from readers, which I regard as pretty
low.”

Despite the relative indifference to the marriage, 80 per
cent of people in the MEN poll said they were against the constitution
being changed so Camilla could be named Queen if Charles was named King.

The first edition of the Express & Star in Wolverhampton was off the stone at 11am.

Chief
feature writer Peter Rhodes, who had attended Prince Charles and
Diana’s wedding, wrote a comment piece and the paper was able to print
the correct 8 April wedding date, where many others had it down as 6
April. By the later editions there were five pages of coverage,
including a readers’ poll with 72 per cent of the vote in favour of the
marriage.

Keith Harrison, deputy editor, said: “Many papers have
said the public are not interested, but there is plenty in the Black
Country.

“We have a history of covering big royal stories and we
aim to continue that. We will have a team down at Windsor on the
wedding day to cover every cough and spit.”

When one of the last
editions was being printed the official engagement pictures had come
through. The paper had to replate the edition despite most of the
issues having come off the presses.

“We had to turn the story round in 10 minutes.We just did what good evening newspapers do,”

Harrison said. Early figures show the Express & Star put on 5,000 sales.

Newcastle
Evening Chronicle reporter Amy Cartmell used to live in Northumberland
and remembered that Duncan Davidson, a cousin of Camilla’s lived there,
so the paper bagged an exclusive interview with him.

The first
edition came off the stone at 10am, after the 9.11am announcement,
including a front-page picture of the couple and a cross-reference to
the full story on page four. By the final issue there was the front
page and a doublepage spread.

Chronicle editor Paul Robertson
said: “It was a good old-fashioned breaking news story and everyone
worked quickly and efficiently to get the story out on time. We don’t
normally run many royal stories, our reason to be is local news, but
you can’t ignore a story on this scale.”

The timing of the announcement was ideal for Middlesbrough-based daily the Evening Gazette .

Offstone
deadline for the first edition is 10.40am, so the Gazette had three
pages in the first edition, extending to five pages for the second,
including a vox-pop and reactions.

Editor Steve Dyson said: “This
was a massive royal story breaking at a time which meant it was in no
nationals. But it was all over all TV and radio bulletins, filling
pages of all nationals the next day.

“By responding quickly and
making a real feature of it on the breaking day, we were able to show
our readers that we were smack up to date with the news.”

Bristol Post keeps it local

The Bristol Evening Post carried the headline “Tetbury man to wed”

on
its South Gloucestershire edition front page. On other editions selling
in Bristol and the surrounding area, the headline was the more
conventional “Charles and Camilla to wed”. Editor Mike Lowe said:
“While it was a huge national story for every newspaper, for the
edition of the Evening Post that circulates in Tetbury, it was a very
local story and local news still sells newspapers.”

Polo pic puts Rex on a roll

The
famous shot of Prince Charles and Camilla by a tree at a polo match in
1975 has proved to be one of the most used pictures in the archives of
agency Rex Features. Rex editorial director Mike Selby said: “It was in
our files since around 1975 but nobody realised its significance until
their relationship became public knowledge. Since then it has become an
iconic picture and sold like hot cakes for many years.” Most of the
nationals used it in their royal engagement specials.

Don’t hold your breath for an OBE

Some
national coverage of the wedding news was far from gushing. The Daily
Star headlined the story “Boring Old Gits to Wed”, while The Indy
carried on its front a digest of hard news stories readers might have
missed, along with a small box stating: “And in other
news… Charles to wed”.

The
Gloucestershire Echo was one of the papers able to get news of Charles
and Camilla’s wedding announcement in the paper in time for their first
edition.

The announcement from Clarence House of the royal
wedding came at 9.11am – one minute after the paper’s first offstone
deadline of 9.10am. The front page was held back for 10 minutes to
allow a nine-paragraph story on page one under a “stop press” tag.

Later editions were updated to include a front page splash and two pages inside.

Prince Charles is big news for the Echo as his Highgrove estate is in Tetbury, Gloucestershire.

Editor
Anita Syvret said: “The story broke at exactly the right time for us –
although we couldn’t have cut it any finer to get it in our first
edition.

“We were able to update the story when details of the wedding were released, but it was an excellent team effort.”

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