There is a diabolically delicious stench of hypocrisy about the British press. I speak as one who is as guilty of causing a stink as the next circulation chaser.
WASN'T I the editor best remembered — if remembered at all — for running the Princess in the gym pictures in the Daily Mirror? Indeed I was.
DIDN'T the Princess of Wales issue a writ against me over their publication, thus providing my Mirror with yet more self-serving headlines to boost circulation? Guilty as charged, m'lud.
DON'T I still view, admittedly with a sense of profound sadness, the night in August 1997 when I hands-on edited the Sunday Mirror, replating editions until noon the following day, as my finest ‘professional' hour? Sadly, yes.
But did my feelings of guilt in any way prevent me adding my voice last week to the chorus of outraged disapproval which condemned publication of the picture we ALL knew existed… the last photo, The Dying Princess?
"Appalling," I burbled to any radio programme that rang for comment.
"Should be allowed to rest in peace… new grief for her sons…unforgivable intrusion into a human being's most private moment…"
I wasn't alone. "Outrage!" thundered the Di-obsessed Daily Express, only to intrude yet further into the long-dead woman's memory a couple of days later with its tedious, 50-somethingth "Di Exclusive! Bodyguards to Face Quiz".
"Shame on You!" ranted The Sun, quite ignoring the fact that Rebekah's own muckrakers were about to exhume, years after the event, yet another Di conquest — an adulterous, small-time TV presenter.
Fact is, any of the above — including, but not especially, the Italian magazine's mawkish death scene picture — would sadden and sicken the late Princess's sons.
But William and Harry are men now, not children any longer. Life is hard, thoughtless, opportunistic, sensationalist and brutal. The press mirrors life. And scenes such as Diana's dying moments are no more horrific for the fact that they portray the passing of a muchloved and lovely young Royal than are the images of ‘ordinary' folk in extremis.
Frankly, I was just as upset viewing The Guardian's picture of a recent Mumbai bombing victim, bloodied head lolling dead-eyed as he was hurried from the blast scene in a blanket. I was equally horrified by the ‘suicide leap' picture carried a month or so back in The Times and Evening Standard.
Yes, I can — and did — defend both of those decisions to publish.
Public moments such as those cannot be denied public exposure.
But editors beware: every victim is someone's son, daughter, mother… those who dabble darkly for sensation's sake would do well to remember that their loved ones might one day be lying among the dead and dying.