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  1. Interviews
January 20, 2023

Camilla Tominey: ‘There’s no anti-Meghan bias, we need to inform the readers’

Telegraph associate editor Camilla Tominey interviewed as she starts her new show on GB News.

By Dominic Ponsford


Is Telegraph journalist Camilla Tominey tempted to sue Prince Harry after being disparaged in his book Spare?

She is clearly identifiable as “this execrable woman” and a royal correspondent who “had always made me ill” and who “always, always got stuff wrong”.

“God, no,” she says. “I mean, that way madness lies. Everyone, myself included, in the past has got things wrong. He’s got things wrong. Everybody involved in this sorry saga, I think, has got things wrong. So, no, I certainly wouldn’t be doing that.”

She does, however, stand by the story that is the source of Harry’s ire and which turned out to mark something of a turning point for him and Meghan.

Headlined: “Kate and Meghan: Is the royal sisterhood really at breaking point?” the Telegraph piece, from November 2018, mentioned “growing froideur” between Kate and Meghan and reported Kate was “left in tears following a bridesmaid fitting”.

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Harry does not mention in his book that Tominey was the journalist behind another royal story we definitely know to be true: a world exclusive for the Sunday Express in 2016 revealing his romance with actress Meghan Markle.

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‘I stand by my story’

Talking about the now infamous Kate-in-tears article to the Press Gazette Future of Media Explained Podcast, Tominey says: “If you read back on the article, which it seems perhaps Harry hasn’t, it’s really balanced and nuanced. It talks about a culture clash between two different women, Kate and Megan. And it talks of tensions, but it attributes some blame to the Cambridge side as they were then known, as well as the Sussexes.

“It points out at the time how well Meghan was getting on with Prince Charles as he was then known. So it’s actually a really balanced piece and doesn’t necessarily apportion any blame on tears.

“It was the Sun that lifted it all the next day and then splashed it as ‘Kate made Megan cry’.

“He’s claiming that we make everything up or we are fed it on a plate by the Palace. But actually what the book does is vindicate a lot of the royal reporting at the time.

“Because we were reporting on tensions, we were trying our damnedest to find out what on earth they were all about.

“The couple themselves say on Netflix, everything changed after the wedding, as if to suggest that there was some kind of motivated agenda, that the Palace changed everything.

“It’s a difficult one for journos because you can never discuss your sources… But I would humbly suggest that there are more sources that could brief on behaviour during a wedding than simply those that work at the Palace.

“I’m saying I stand by my story.”

‘A bit of selective memory going on’

Harry blames the press entirely for the breakdown in relations between himself and the rest of the royal family and suggests Fleet Street had an anti-Meghan agenda that he has ascribed to racism. But Tominey recalls things differently.

“There’s a bit of selective memory going on. I mean, obviously, a lot of the coverage of Meghan particularly was effusive and supportive and congratulatory.”

Harry complains throughout his book about inaccuracies in the press and the royal reluctance to correct the record when it came to disparaging stories about him.

But again, Tominey offers a different perspective: “The only interaction I often get from the Palace or used to get when I was a fully-fledged royal editor were people trying to correct things they perceived as wrong.

“I think there was 28 months between the story that I wrote being published and them then going on Oprah and Meghan turning it on its head. At any point at all, anyone could have contacted me from their camp and said, this isn’t right.”

She adds: “I note that the journalists who are singled out for criticism are those who haven’t always given Harry and Meghan sort of undiluted praise, but that’s not our job. I think people misunderstand it like we are mates with these people.

“Gyles Brandreth said ‘when it comes to the royals, you never confuse friendliness for friendship’. I mean, I wouldn’t even say I got a degree of friendliness, ironically, from any of them but Harry.

“On one hand he’d say, ‘oh, why are you all here?’ and ‘I don’t like you and I don’t want you on this job’. And then on another, you’d get this sense that he was kind of craving coverage…

“Megan and Harry really enjoy the limelight to a certain extent, whereas William and Kate are naturally very introverted and shy. So that was an interesting dynamic from the beginning.”

She says she can only speak for herself but thinks the suggestion there is an anti-Meghan agenda on Fleet Street is wide of the mark.

“You take a position on the information that you’re given. So if there are positive stories, then you write positive things. ‘Oh, Harry’s done something amazing at Invictus. He’s given this great speech. Isn’t he a legend?’

“He was truly impressive on royal jobs. I went on tours with him, saw him touring children’s hospitals with profoundly disabled children. Being so real, genuine, and sort of touchingly emotional with those kids, very much in the vein of his late mother. But equally, if we start hearing things that there are tensions or that have been rows with staff or that staff are leaving in swift succession. If that had affected any other member of the royal family, by the way, we would have delved into it.

“Often journalism is surely about saying, look, everything is not quite as it seems here. I’m not doing the day-to-day royal reporting, which is kind of go to the event on the Tuesday and write it up for the Wednesday. I’m providing insight, analysis and trying to break exclusives.

“We don’t sit on stories. We take information, you get a nugget and then you try and expand it and find out what’s really going on. There’s no bias in it. It’s just: Right, what’s going on? We need to inform the readers.”

As someone who lost her own mother when she was young, Tominey says she has great sympathy for Harry.

But she also says the suggestion that Harry and Meghan have been hounded by the press in the UK is not right.

“If he’s talking about hounding being they were on the receiving edge of some negative publicity, he might have a point, if he’s talking about being hounded by paparazzi in the UK when they were together and married, I don’t recognise that because, as far as I could tell, there was no longer a market for pap photography…

“When they were living in Frogmore or whatever, they just went around completely unbothered. You’d have got in really big trouble if you were a photographer trying to get them on Windsor Great Park grounds.”

Unlike Harry, Tominey is someone who has worked her way to the top – starting out on the Hemel Hempstead Gazette on £10,000 a year before spending 15 years at the Sunday Express.

She ended up being a columnist, leader writer, political editor and royal editor at the Sunday Express all at the same time (a reflection of tight budgets on the title). She moved to the Telegraph as associate editor (politics and royals) in 2018.

This month, she started a new weekly political interview show at 9.30am on Sundays for GB News which she proudly says beat Sky News for ratings in three of its six quarters on the second edition.

“What I’m trying to do with that politics show, over 90 minutes, is give people some room to discuss things at length rather than a kind of Paxman, combative, I’m gonna interrupt you after your first sentence, and I’m gonna bring you on my show and effectively make you feel like you are not a nice person because that’s my job as a presenter. The viewer wants a bit more time to listen to the arguments being made and also to have a difference of opinion that’s agreeable.”

Few journalists cover both the royal and political beats. Tominey says the former is tougher because access is so much more of a challenge.

Asked what tips she has for aspiring reporters, she said: “I think there’s this false perception that you get great things if you use subterfuge and cloak and dagger. Actually, being pretty straight with people serves you quite well.

“I think looking after contacts when you don’t need them so that you can rely on them when you do is a good tip. And I think not being afraid, you’ve gotta have quite a lot of courage in journalism these days. Social media is so out to abuse you for simply trying to get to the truth and to cancel you.

“You’ve got to have a very thick skin and you’ve got to be really determined.”

She adds: “Nothing happens overnight. I get lots of students of journalism or people wanting to get into the industry asking me for advice and I often say, just keep at it because you’ll have a hundred kids who say they want to be a journalist and only one or two will ever do anything about it.

“For any journalist of any level of experience, nothing beats scoops. Anyone can just write up stuff that you see on the Press Association or go to an event and write it up the next day. But if you can get stuff that other people can’t, then that gives you a bit more longevity in this very cutthroat business, I’d say.”

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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