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Archie's Birth & the Media Storm + Godparents

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Quick thoughts on the godparent kerfuffle. If you missed it, Archie will be baptized in the Private Chapel at Windsor Castle on Saturday. The Sussexes said that the godparents are private individuals and will remain anonymous"in keeping with their wishes." I think the obvious elephant in the room is that anyone willing to pony up £30 may view the records, and obviously any number of papers will do so, and the godparents will be known to everyone. So why refuse to release them?  I don't know what the answer is. Perhaps the Sussexes think this is a good precedent to set, and that they are drawing a line between private and professional. If that is the thinking, I think it is very obviously a bad plan. No one can ell where the line is, and rather than appearing like royals walking the thin line of public and private, they seem fickle.

Perhaps they have chosen a number of the celebrities (not exactly private people) many have speculated they might, and knowing that their choice will be gossiped about and criticized (rightly or wrongly), they are trying to play this discreetly so at least when it hits the papers they can say, well we didn't make a big deal of it. Also not a great strategy.

I don't know what the logic is on their end. I am perplexed that the Sussexes continue with a course of action (blowing hot and cold with the public) that is clearly garnering them negative coverage, even from people who had been, or otherwise would be, fans. It seems counter-productive and a little self-defeating.

This seems a good moment to quickly answer the many requests to elaborate a little about the kerfuffle surrounding Archie's birth.

To recap briefly, the Sussexes issued a press release about a month before the birth in which they said they planned to keep the details surrounding the birth of their baby private. In the second half of the release (the private notes to the press), the Sussexes told the media that the Palace would inform the media when Meghan went into labor, at which point the media could set up along the Long Walk at Windsor and begin their live feeds. The notes included operating hours for the media, and the directive informed the media they could stay 72 hours after the labor announcement. The directive also said that the Sussexes would then tell the media, when they were ready, that the baby was born. Fair enough. 

Apparently, Meghan went into labor Sunday afternoon. "Chatter" was heavy on Twitter late Sunday night (U.S. time, so dawn in Britain), suggesting that something was afoot with Meghan. It has now been reported that the Duchess of Sussex was taken to a hospital by Harry and their security team on Sunday afternoon, stayed the night (presumably in labor), and delivered her son at 5:26am local time. 

The Sussexes issued a press release on May 6th around 9am EST/2pm local time reporting that Meghan had gone into labor in the early hours and an announcement would be issued shortly.  Less than 45 minutes later, perhaps as little as half an hour, the Sussexes posted on Instagram that the baby had been born and it was a boy. Apparently this was posted simultaneously with an official press release to the media. So, to be clear, the Sussexes did not inform the media when Meghan went into labor--not even around the time the baby was born. They waited hours after the birth to say she had gone into labor and then immediately broke the bigger news that the baby had arrived.  

The Sussexes said they would do one thing, and they did another. You can't really slice it any other way. Had Meghan gone into emergency labor and the baby had arrived quickly amidst tension and worry, no one would have begrudged the couple a change of plans brought about by necessity. That did not happen. At the time, I saw lots of people brush this off, remarking that all that matters is that the baby and mother are healthy and happy. It's great that Meghan's labor and delivery were without incident and that Archie is healthy. We all hoped for as much and are delighted that nothing went wrong. That is entirely separate from the issue, which is the fact that the Sussexes said they'd do one thing, and then did another. 

What is doubly strange about this scenario is that it all could have been avoided. Although lots feel the Sussexes owe the public updates about their baby, and there is an argument in both directions on that, they chose the parameters they gave to the press themselves! They could have said from the start, "we aren't going to inform you of anything until we are ready. Once we make an announcement, you can set up on the Long Walk." That might not have been popular, but it would have been honest, and it would have presented a consistent stance. I would have supported them in that. Instead, they themselves committed to telling the media when Meghan went into labor, and then they did not follow through.

What is quite bizarre is that this behavior is self-defeating. Meghan and Harry alienated the press,   and doubtlessly irritated the senior royals and senior staff who had to play catch up and clean up.

A baby should be a slam-dunk positive news cycle for proud parents. I thought that after some difficult months of bad headlines, the arrival of their baby, at least, would be rosy and glowing coverage from start to finish--despite the fact they were keeping the arrangements private. It was amazing to me that thanks to a tangle of their own making, they turned the majority of the early coverage into a media storm of criticism.

The ultimate fall out here is that the media and the public are no longer certain that they can trust what the Sussexes say when they say it. That will take a very long time to repair.