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Making Sense of Royal Baby News Coverage

Jul 29, 2013

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You can understand why the British were hanging on every scrap of news coverage about the impending birth of a baby to Princess Katherine and Prince William.

But, why was there so much American coverage of the birth of George, now third in line to become King of England?

Are Americans that interested in a powerless monarchy we once fought a revolution against?

"The narrative of the royal family in Britain is the narrative of so many archetypes that bring meaning to us in human stories," Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's "Sense-Making" project explained. "You know, a prince finds a princess. A baby is born. These are stories that are very familiar to us. And, then, when those stories go off the rails -- like when Prince Charles and Princess Di split up -- that becomes even more compelling and more tragic."

Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised by all the coverage of the royal birth.

McBride points out that it is really a continuation of one of the most covered events -- ever.

"We have to remember Princess Di's death was one of the single biggest news event worldwide. A lot of news directors I know who were working the day that happened were blown away by how interested the entire world was in this story. And this is the epilogue to that story."

When it comes to the coverage of the royals, McBride said the difference between the Diana days and now is that people really can choose not to consume news about the British Monarchy.

"Back in the day when Diana and Charles got married, it might have felt like the coverage was being rammed down your throat," McBride said. "But in this day and age, you the news consumer get to control everything that you choose. "The Guardian" in London had this really great little gimmick on their website where you could click a little button and you could click Republican, meaning no royal family coverage, or Royalist, meaning give it all to me. And, 700,000 people clicked on the Republican version."

So, in the end, was there so much coverage of the royal birth that -- as "The Daily Show's" John Oliver put it --  "News is on maternity leave?"

McBride doesn't think so.

"You know, I didn't think it was as bad as all that," McBride said. "Certainly you saw on the cable news shows lots and lots of coverage. On the nightly news, once piece, not a lot. And on websites and in newspapers you saw a single story, maybe two stories. So, I didn't think it was that over-the-top. I think people who watch cable news think that that represents all journalism when it really doesn't."