Copyright: John Frost Newspapers
The newspaper: The Sun
The date: February 14, 1992
The news event: Prince Charles and Diana
What you see
A typical Sun-style front page. An apparently normal picture of Princess Diana and Prince Charles on a visit to India. But the headlines seem to suggest a different story.
It seemed like a fairy tale come true when Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer married in July 1981. Pictures of the young couple appeared in newspapers across the world; hundreds of millions watched the event on television. She was glamorous, shy and was destined to be the future Queen of England. The couple appeared to be madly in love. But by the time The Sun ran this front page, there were many rumours, and stories in newspapers, that their marriage was not working out well.
The front page
The Sun, like most national newspapers, has mixed feelings about the Royal family. The newspaper will use controversial pictures and stories of the Royals, as it knows these will help sell newspapers. Tabloids use stories of royal scandals to help fight their competitors. Some will say that they are only providing the public with what they want – if the readers don't like it they can buy different newspapers. But with a circulation of around 3.2 million, and a readership of many millions more, they believe they have found the right money-making formula.
Why did The Sun run this front page? For a start, it was Valentine's Day and the idea was to use a picture taken by the famous Royal photographer Arthur Edwards together with a sensational story suggesting that the romance had gone out of their marriage. The story claims that Prince Charles tried to give his wife 'an old-fashioned smacker on the lips yesterday but missed by a mile . . . But the Princess coolly turned her head away - and he ended up nuzzling her right ear.'
At that time, it was very difficult, if not impossible, to ask a member of the Royal family if a royal marriage was in trouble. It was even more unlikely that you'd get an answer. So the newspaper put two and two together and came up with a story that it thought the public would love to read, although there were very few facts in it. Charles and Diana are instantly transformed into ridiculous caricatures - Punch and Judy, Basil and Sybil Fawlty.
Most tabloid editors justify this type of story by saying it is in the public interest - meaning that the public have a right to know. In this case, they would also argue that 'the kiss that was a miss' took place in public and that anyone had the right to take the picture and use it. Of course, the rumours were true - Charles and Diana were divorced in 1996, Diana was tragically killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997, and Prince Charles married his 'mistress' Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005. But since the death of Diana, many people have questioned whether newspapers really do have the right to play such an intrusive and judgemental part in the lives of the Royal family. Should newspapers be able to speculate, to create rumours, to stretch truths and to feed the public with facts about people's private lives? If so, where do the boundaries lie?
A typical tabloid design. The Sun, the largest selling daily newspaper in Britain, is well-designed and well-produced. If you look closely at this front page you will find that the headlines 'fit' very well across the columns, as do the captions and all other elements of the page. Note how they have put a small secondary story to fill the gap between the masthead and the rest of the page. The 'splash' or main story begins with a typical tabloid layout trick of having a big WOB - that is a 'white on black headline'. In this case they have also used a picture taken from their wedding when they had a proper kiss. See also how they put a little heart with the words 'Call that a smacker Charles' to fill space on the 'deck' or line of the heading.