The Prince and the Ghostwriter - A Media Fairy Tale -- Andrew Crofts
What a strange and interesting world we in the media have created for ourselves, as we pick up characters and stories, some real, some fictional, and then exaggerate and distort them in order to hold the interest of our readers and viewers - or sometimes perhaps to amuse ourselves.
One upon a time it was Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, then Princess Diana, Katie Price, the Beckhams, O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, the Kardashians and all the others who took their turns in the media mincing machine, sometimes as heroes, sometimes as villains.
At the moment, it is Harry and Meghan who have had their pretty interesting personal story twisted, inflated and turned into an intellectual property which will, no doubt, generate billions of dollars for the global media barons, before it has been sucked dry of all possible new angles, and the public has grown tired of them. (Some of us are old enough to remember a time when both Prince Charles and Prince Andrew were depicted in the media as dashing figures of romance and adventure, before being recast as pompous old villains).
Upon the announcement that Prince Harry had been working with the distinguished journalist, author and ghostwriter, J.R. Moehringer on his autobiography, I received emails from both the Times and the Sunday Times, asking for articles on ghostwriting in general, and this news in particular.
Always happy to explain the joys of ghostwriting to anyone who will listen, I agreed. The Times changed its mind but the Sunday Times duly printed my thousand words on the subject.
I suggested in the piece that the prince would be a dream client for any ghostwriter, since he likes talking about his feelings and wants to be honest, and that one of the ghostwriter’s main tasks would be to steer him away from sounding bitter about his past, and to help him maintain the moral high ground.
The following morning, I was startled to find that every one of the tabloids, and a great many news websites I had never previously heard of, had cannibalised the story and it was now all over the internet, under sensationalised headlines such as one claiming that I had warned that the prince "must be stopped from score settling”.
I guess if you are writing or speaking in the media, you always have to be aware that any of your words can be taken out of context, and will consequently make a very different impression to the one you intended.
The experience, however, reminded me that very early in my career I wrote a few articles for one of the most spiteful of the tabloids, but stopped once I saw how the editors would make changes to the text, which was going out under my by-line, which bore little resemblance to my actual thoughts and opinions. In some cases, they inserted gratuitously offensive comments about the people I had interviewed, which I was sure would have been hurtful for the subject to read. Unable to take the heat, I got out of the kitchen and moved to the altogether more congenial worlds of fiction and ghostwriting.
I look forward to seeing how Mr Moehringer handles this story, and in how many ways the media will then be able to twist his words to fit their preconceived ideas about this fairy tale of a dashing, but damaged, young prince, who married for love and was then forced to face the terrible consequences.