The Duchess of Sussex decried ‘salacious’ journalism in a new video interview today, stressing the importance of reporting done through a ‘compassionate and empathetic lens’ — while slamming what she and Prince Harry describe as the ‘toxicity’ in the ‘economy for attention.’
Meghan Markle, 38, was the finale event for The 19th* Represents 2020 Virtual Summit this week, sitting down for a one-on-one virtual interview with The 19th* co-founder and CEO Emily Ramshaw.
But the former Suits star also offered her own opinions on the state of journalism, opening up about how her ‘personal experience in the past couple years’ has changed her view on the media, noting that both she and Prince Harry believe that there is too much emphasis based on ‘salacious’ details.
It is another chapter in the couple’s war against the media and comes days after the release of flattering ‘unauthorized’ biography of Harry and Meghan Finding Freedom which features a host of intimate information about the couple from an army of anonymous friends and sources.
The couple insist they were not interviewed for Finding Freedom despite an authors’ note contained in the back of the book appearing to acknowledge some involvement from Harry and Meghan – which one author has brushed off as a ‘few words at engagements’ rather than a ‘full interview’.
Particulars of voicemails Meghan sent to her father and tense conversations between Harry and William have been published in the book, which its authors say was based on interviews with more than 100 sources including ‘close friends of Harry and Meghan’s, royal aides and palace staff (past and present)’.
During the Q&A yesterday, Meghan discussed how much influence that media can have — and that quite a bit of that influence can come from a single person or a single place.
‘What’s so fascinating, at least from my standpoint and my personal experience in the past couple years, is the headline headline alone, the clickbait alone, makes an imprint,’ she said.
‘That is part of how we view the world, how we interact with other people.
‘There is so much toxicity out there in what is being referred to as, my husband and I talk about it often, this to the economy for attention,’ she went on. ‘That is what is monetizable right now.
‘So if you’re just trying to grab someone’s attention, you’re going for something salacious versus what is truthful.
‘And I think that once we can get back to the place where what you’re creating is so important, where people are just telling the truth in their reporting, and telling it through a compassionate and empathetic lens, it’s gonna help bind people.
‘It’s gonna build community in a way I think that at the moment we’re feeling much more of a disconnect in a space where it could be one more of connection.’
Meghan said she hopes that The 19th*, which bills itself as ‘a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom reporting at the intersection of gender, politics and policy,’ will help lead the way in the kind of reporting she wants to see.
‘People are craving a change,’ she said. ‘I think in the place that we’re all in right now, people are starting to question the systems that we’ve always believed in, where we are getting our information from as well.
‘I think, you know, you want to have trust in journalism, and you want to have trust in what you’re reading, and hope that it’s fact.
‘We’ve become so, sadly, comfortable with the idea that we are just getting all this stuff and it becomes noise as opposed to truth and accurate journalism, so I think, if this can be the catalyst for reset for other news organizations, my goodness, it’s going to change the game so much.’
On the subject of influence in the media, Meghan said she was recently reading an article about suffragettes, and how the term was initially coined by a man in 1906 to belittle the women involved.
‘What I find so fascinating is that was then, before digital media, before the online space, before things could travel around the world with rapid fire. And the American women who started the suffrage movement didn’t want to be called suffragettes.’
Yet the term, she said, stuck.
‘When you look at that, and when you look at it through that lens of the power of one person’s influence in the media, to be able to shape an entire movement, or way of thinking, or an ideology, or an identification, if women have their voice heard as equally, how different that would have been,’ she said.
What stuck with her about the article was ‘the ability of influence, and if it’s only coming from a patriarchal lens, how that’s shaping everything that we see.’
Meghan — who also revealed that she spoke to feminist icon Gloria Steinem yesterday — spoke briefly in the interview about the upcoming presidential election in the US, saying that ‘voting is so incredibly important’ and ‘it’s something I am very passionate about.’
‘I think it’s often challenging for men and women alike, for people to remember just how hard it was to get the right to vote. And be really aware of not taking that for granted,’ she said.
‘I look at my husband, for example. He’s never been able to vote. And I think it’s such an interesting thing to say, the right to vote is not a privilege, it’s a right in and of itself.
She added that women’s ‘voices are needed now more than ever and the best way to exercise that is through voting.’
‘There is still so much work to do, we think about the Voting Rights Act, and how even at this point, I was having this conversation just yesterday, it feels like we make so many strides forward, and yet there is still so much more to do.’
The Duchess spent a few moments, too, discussing her recent move back to the US with her husband and son, and how it was ‘devastating’ to come home in a time of so much social unrest.
‘I’d come back after being away for so long, I haven’t lived in the states for 10 years. I lived in Canada for seven years for work. So a really long lapse of time from being here,’ she said.
‘To come back and to just see the state of affairs, I think at the onset, if I’m being honest, it was just devastating. It was just sad to see where our country was at that moment.
‘If there was any silver lining in that, in the weeks that were happening after the murder of George Floyd, in the peaceful protests that we’re seeing, in the voices that were coming out, in the way that people were actually owning their role and acknowledging their role that they played either actively or passively in the discrimination of other people, specifically of the black community — it shifted from sadness to a feeling of absolute inspiration because I can see that the tide is turning.
‘I think for so many of us, its very easy to focus on the negativity because it’s what you hear out there… The loudest voices are often the negative ones, sadly,’ she said.
‘So I think, from my standpoint, it’s not new to see this undercurrent of racism and certainly unconscious bias, but I think to see the changes that are being made right now is really something that I look forward to being a part of, and being a part of using my voice in a way I haven’t been able to of late.
‘So, yeah, it’s good to be home,’ she said.
Last week, the Duchess, who lives in Los Angeles with Prince Harry and their 15-month-old son Archie, discussed the upcoming interview in a statement to Glamour:.
‘The 19th*’s commitment to reporting and storytelling that lifts up those who are too often underrepresented in the media has never been more important,’ she said.
‘I’m looking forward to asking the co-founder what it means to build a media outlet with gender equity, diversity, and community at its core.’
Ramshaw said the Duchess ‘reached out’ to the organization after learning of its work.
‘She [Meghan] told us that our vision for The 19th* — building a truly diverse and representative newsroom that covers women with nuance — spoke to her immediately.’
Ramshaw admitted the idea of being interviewed by Meghan is ‘surreal’.
The 19th*, which launched just two weeks ago, describes itself as ‘a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom reporting at the intersection of gender, politics and policy.’
Its website description reads: ‘We aim to empower women — particularly those underserved by and underrepresented in American media — with the information, community and tools they need to be equal participants in our democracy.’
The entire 19th* summit, which was held through the week, featured an impressive line-up including US Senator Kamala Harries, Melinda Gates, Hillary Clinton, and Meryl Streep.
The interview today marked Meghan’s second appearance at a virtual summit in recent weeks, following her address to young women around the world last month for the UN initiative Girl Up.
In the months since moving to Los Angeles at the start of lockdown, the Duchess of Sussex has made only a handful of virtual appearances.
In the immediate wake of the death of the Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, Meghan delivered a speech to the graduating class of her former high school about racial equality and justice.
She also joined Prince Harry for a virtual roundtable discussion with young leaders from around the Commonwealth.