The British press has had a field day with their latest royal target, who has not long left school, Prince Harry. This disproportionate attack on the young Prince who has already taken up significant charity work in Britain and in Africa, was not an aberration, as the press has long regarded members of the Royal Family as fair game. The intrusions into their and others private lives, the bias and the publication of untested rumour are systemic. There are of course exceptions, but these seem to be a minority.
The result is that because of this tendency which is exhibited in other areas of reporting, the institution has lost its credibility among its own people. Research undertaken recently by a leading US researcher, The Harris poll, has found that the British press is by far the least trusted among the 25 member countries of the European Union. Only 20 per cent of the British tend to trust their press, unlike the other large European powers. Sixty one percent of the Spanish tend to trust their press, 60 per cent of the French tend to trust theirs, in Italy and Germany, 44 per cent and across the EU, 47 per cent.
For an institution which demands accountability and high standards from others, this conclusion must be a serious blow to the British press. They know how to correct this. Incidentally, I liked the observations in a letter from Nicole Stephenson in The Sydney Sunday Telegraph, 23 January, 2005. She says the whole idea of a costume party is to wear something you would not usually wear. Whatever you wear does not necessarily reflect your views. She says more attention should be paid to the real problems of the world, such a war and poverty, rather than such trivia .