Harry, Meghan, and the tabloids | Mann Overboard

Bill Mann
Posted 1/20/23

There’s an old truism among the sensational tabloid newspapers on Fleet Street: “Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story.” 

That was my experience when, years …

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Harry, Meghan, and the tabloids | Mann Overboard


There’s an old truism among the sensational tabloid newspapers on Fleet Street: “Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story.” 

That was my experience when, years ago, I wrote stories for the Sunday Express in London. 

One time, I was filing a story about a bartender in a small town in Wyoming.

My editor in London asked, “By any chance, were there any Indians involved?” 

I thought for a moment. “Um, I do seem to recall some,” I lied, not wanting to jeopardize my story fee.

I had no idea Brits were so keen about the Wild West and stories about — the acceptable term then — Indians. I quickly inserted a mention of Indians. 

And I started putting Native Americans in my stories whenever possible. 

I’ve been thinking about the tabloid press a lot while watching Netflix’s far-better-than-expected six-parter, “Harry & Meghan,” about the royal couple under constant siege by the vicious and voracious tabloids. 

I hadn’t realized before this series that the Palace has a de facto working agreement to give access to the tabloids, the Royal Rota. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle did not adhere to it, and so became constant targets for, among other tabloids, Rupert “Fox News” Murdoch’s Sun and The Times of London. 

A few years later, in between daily newspaper jobs, I freelanced for supermarket tabloid The National Perspirer, er, Enquirer. Why? The Enquirer paid very well. 

I did an orientation at the Enquirer’s offices in Lantana, Florida, near West Palm Beach.

I was surprised to learn that the Enquirer reporting staff was largely hard-drinking Fleet Street vets. (One Brit reporter told me that American sources would usually more readily agree to talk to reporters with British accents than to Americans. (That’s one main reason The Enquirer hired so many Brits.)

One fearless Brit I sat next to in the newsroom was having a heated conversation with, of all people, Frank Sinatra, who was refusing access to his Palm Springs home to the reporter.

The angry Cockney reporter hung up on Sinatra after yelling, “We’ll get you in your box, Frank!”

“Are you crazy?” I asked. “Sinatra once fractured his agent’s skull with a phone.” The reporter shrugged.

What did he mean by, “We’ll get you in your box?” 

That was Enquirer speak for taking a photo of someone in their open coffin.


They’d famously run a photo of Elvis “in his box,” causing the Enquirer circulation to jump 6 million in one week. They ran the dead-Elvis photo again, further goosing circulation. 

This is the kind of insensitivity the pleasant royal couple had to deal with. So they fled the country, first to Vancouver Island, then to L.A. There were three elements working against Meghan in the bigoted tabloids, the Netflix series shows: She was black, an American, and an actress. 

Check out this series. And Harry came across as a decent chap in recent “60 Minutes” and Colbert shows. 

One story I worked at the Enquirer was titled, “Your Salad Dressing Reveals Your Personality.” Not some of my better newspaper work.        

My Enquirer editor, an Aussie like Murdoch, was recruited by Rupert to become editor of the London Times. The Times, aka “The Thunderer,” was once THE class act of Brit newspapers. That is, until Rupe gobbled it up and recruited editors from The Enquirer. 

— A few years later, I had dinner in San Francisco with Robin “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” Leach. We exchanged stories about Fleet Street, Leach’s long-time employment venue.

At one point, Leach smiled, “You want to know the keys to success on Fleet Street?” 

Leach picked up a napkin. He wrote two words on it: “Exaggeration” and “Hyperbole.” 

— Speaking of Elvis and The Enquirer, one of The Perspirer’s favorite stories was that Elvis was still alive and hiding on some remote island. 

Which prompted the Memphis coroner to declare: “If Elvis is still alive, he’s walking around without any of his vital organs.” 

(PT humorist/tabloid vet Bill Mann can be contacted at Newsmann@gmail.com.)