How 'The Sun' jumped the gun on Harry – and vindicated his view of newspapers
"We heard this posh voice come over the radio and knew it was Big H"
Ian Burrell is Assistant Editor and Media Editor at The Independent, i paper and Independent on Sunday. He covers news from the whole media sector from television, press, radio and advertising to technology. His weekly column on the media appears every Monday in The Independent and i paper. He also writes on media, music and culture, including long-form pieces for The Independent’s Saturday magazine and the Independent on Sunday’s magazine, New Review. He is a regular presenter of BBC Radio 4’s What The Papers Say and a specialist commentator to Monocle 24 radio. He has contributed to most major broadcast outlets including BBC television and radio, CNN, Sky News, Al Jazeera and LBC. He has also written on media for GQ magazine. Ian has been reporting on the media industry for The Independent for more than a decade. Previously he was the newspaper’s Home Affairs Editor. He worked at The Sunday Times for five years, including as a member of the investigative Insight team, covering stories on political funding, industrial espionage and the arms industry. Previously he worked in ITV for London Weekend Television, on a weekly current affairs programme presented by Danny Baker. Ian trained at the Birmingham Post & Mail and was Regional Reporter of the Year in Press Gazette’s national awards.
Monday 21 January 2013
When Prince Harry last went to Afghanistan, five years ago, the British media maintained a strict media blackout – only for the American Drudge Report website to reveal his presence on the front line.
For this latest 20-week tour of duty, the Ministry of Defence took a different approach, allowing him to be interviewed by an embedded print journalist and a single broadcast crew, first in October and then in December. Possibly thanks to the Leveson Inquiry (which reported during the Prince's deployment) the embargo held firm, though with one notable exception. Two days before Christmas, The Sun – the same paper that pictured Harry nude on its front page in August – tried to win back his approval with a splash story: "Harry kills Taliban chief."
The "world exclusive" was based on a military broadcast, overheard on patrol in Afghanistan. "We heard this posh voice come over the radio and knew it was Big H," said The Sun's source. "The Apache then let off some Hellfire missiles and its 30mm cannon and 'boom'. It was Big H all the way."
Although the Prince did concede in his latest embedded interview that he has taken enemy fighters "out of the game", The Sun's story was the result of mistaken identity and untrue.
It is a reason why, no matter how successful this media operation was, Prince Harry will remain deeply suspicious of the tabloid journalists who earned his lasting contempt by their treatment of his mother. "It's fairly obvious how far back it goes. It's when I was very small," he said.
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