Royal baby: Media corps report on ‘eight-step event’

There were an estimated 300 photographers camped outside the west London hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth.

Note: This article is from the Guardian.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Royal baby: media corps report on an ‘eight-step event’” was written by Lisa O’Carroll, for guardian.co.uk on Tuesday 23rd July 2013 16.37 UTC

It was, in photographers’ parlance, “an eight-step event”, and the last time they had one of those was when Abu Qatada was deported at the RAF Northolt airbase a fortnight ago.

The birth of the yet-to-be-named royal baby has prompted a global media feeding frenzy at St Mary’s hospital in London, with some photographers on standby with their ladders for as many as 21 days in the barricaded media pen.

Andrew Parsons, photographer and owner of picture agency i Images, has had his three ladders chained in position since 1 July, when Kate-wait started in earnest.

‘We started with six [step ladders] but then as time went on we had to go up to eight, some are even at 12,” said Parsons, who struggles to recall any other event bar the Qatada departure when he had to scale such heights for a photo.

There are an estimated 300 photographers camped outside the west London hospital, with dozens more milling around the cafe and washrooms inside – one reporter said it has been a pickpocket’s dream with expensive computers and cameras going missing in the melee.

It’s also rather chaotic. Several journalists complained they didn’t get anything to eat yesterday as they didn’t dare leave their allocated spot. Patients, some frail and elderly, have to compete with the media to get in and out of hospital.

For those broadcasting live to camera, it’s been a struggle to fill airtime.

Simon McCoy, the BBC News presenter, has won praise in certain quarters for being frank with the coverage on Monday when the press waited more than 12 hours for news of the baby.

“Plenty more to come from here of course, none of it news,” he told a BBC News presenter on Monday morning, shortly after news broke that the Duchess of Cambridge had arrived at the hospital. “But that won’t stop us, we’ll see you later.”

He told the Guardian: “The difficulty with this story is that you are always going to have fewer facts than any other story, but it is the nature of royal stories that people what to know what is happening. It is one of the toughest jobs in that you have to fill airtime when nothing has changed since the last time you were on air. The worst thing you can do is treat people like an idiot. People switch on the BBC and they don’t want too much speculation. It’s our job to say nothing has happened if nothing has happened.”

Arthur Edwards, the veteran Sun photographer, recalled that when William and Harry were born at the same hospital, the press were told exactly when the new-borns would emerge for the first official photo opp of their lives.

“It’s been an absolute feeding frenzy with people interviewing each other because there has been nothing to report until the baby was born – and it will be the same again if the baby doesn’t come out until tomorrow,” Edwards said. “All readers want to see is the royal baby. When Harry was born we brought two cameras and we were told in advance what was happening, there was none of this – it might be 6pm when she comes out but it might not. Back then, Prince Charles’s press officer, Vic Chapman, would talk to us then talk to Charles and sort it out.”

But this is the first royal baby born in the era of social media and round-the-clock TV news. Edwards recalled that when the Duke of Cambridge was born, there were only two cameras outside St Mary’s – from the BBC and ITN.

He’s not the only one who thinks the palace could have had someone keeping the press informed. “The palace could have come down here this morning and told us this and told us we could stand down,” said Tasmin Lucia-Khan, presenter for NBC Extra. She didn’t eat all day on Monday because none of their crew dared leave their spot.

Next door to her, Garth Bray of New Zealand’s TVNZ has just returned from covering Nelson Mandela’s latest illness in Pretoria and noted that although the press corps didn’t get anywhere near the hospital, at least the South Africans had the foresight to install portaloos for the media.

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