Royal baby fever has struck the UK press once again, with the Daily Mail getting an exclusive on Meghan Markle’s hospital birth and BBC royal reporter Nicholas Witchell abandoning a live report on the child.
BBC News staff have leapt to Witchell’s defence after he cut short a piece-to-camera about the birth of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s newborn son during last night’s News at Ten bulletin.
Witchell handed back to the studio after first stumbling over his words, telling viewers: “Excuse me, just let me collect my thoughts.”
BBC News at Six and Ten editor Paul Royall tweeted: “For those asking about Nick Witchell – he’s absolutely fine. Highly unusually for Nick he lost his train of thought on the #BBCNewsTen and decided to hand back to the studio.
“This can happen sometimes even to the most experienced and respected in busy live news broadcasting.”
Anchor Huw Edwards added: “For the record. Nick Witchell’s supreme professionalism is — and always has been — the envy of all his colleagues.”
The BBC was among a number of news outlets who reported that the new royal baby, born at 5.26am on Monday, was delivered at the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s home at Frogmore House near Windsor, Berkshire.
The Daily Mail’s royal correspondent Rebecca English broke the news that the pair had in fact gone to a hospital overnight for the birth, managing to evade the world’s media in the process.
The Mail quotes sources confirming a hospital birth, but Buckingham Palace has not confirmed this. The Sun was among those forced to amend its coverage as a result, choosing the new headline: “Mum’s The Ward.”
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have striven to keep details of the birth private, breaking with royal tradition by eschewing a postnatal photocall outside the maternity ward. They announced the birth on Instragram.
English told Press Gazette: “It’s difficult to get good exclusives when it comes to William and Harry. They have surrounded themselves by a very tightly-knit group of friends, staff and advisors, all of whom see themselves as gate-keepers.
“But reporters are still able to cultivate trusted sources and break good stories, yet retain a positive working relationship with members of the Royal Family and the various palace press offices.
“I think that honesty, transparency and respect is the key on both sides of the fence.”
The Mail today ran 23 pages on the royal birth, amid some criticism that media coverage had been overblown given the child is not likely to ever take the throne, unlike the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s children.
Defending its decision, the Mail said it sold an extra 210,000 copies on 20 May last year when it ran a 47-page wedding souvenir cover of Harry and Meghan’s wedding. The day after, the paper ran a 32-page souvenir photo album of the wedding, with an uplift in sales of 102,000.
A number of national newspapers led this morning with news that the royal baby is a boy.
Picture: Steve Parsons/Pool/Reuters