Beltway residents can’t escape Royal Wedding coverage

Mike Riggs Contributor
Font Size:

If you live inside the Beltway, and want a break from coverage of the Royal Wedding, too bad. D.C.’s local press are committed to giving you a crash course on Great Britain, whether you care about the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, or not. Surveys from Neilsen and Pew suggest you probably don’t, but that hasn’t stopped the Washington Post Style section and TV stations WJLA (the ABC affiliate owned by POLITICO publisher Robert Allbritton) and NBC4 from sending local reporters to London to double up on the coverage already being provided by all three company’s foreign and national desks, as well as 8,000 other journalists from across the U.S. and around the globe.

“We decided to send [reporter Cynne Simpson] to London because of the overwhelming interest in the event,” wrote WJLA’s Abby Fenton in an email to The Daily Caller. “ABC7/WJLA-TV wanted to give our audience a unique and engaging view of the days leading up to this monumental event.”

According to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, that interest is debatable. A poll released by Pew found that only 8 percent of respondents have been following the coverage over the last few weeks, 66 percent of respondents say the wedding is over-covered, and a whopping 85 percent of respondents don’t plan on watching the nuptials.

Simpson reports on the British fascination with tea, a heretofore unexplored phenomenon.

Nevertheless, WJLA is airing Simpson’s reports during the station’s 2 p.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 11 p.m. newscasts, on its sister station News Channel 8, and on a dedicated page on the WJLA website. In case watching Simpson isn’t enough, in between those broadcasts, WJLA viewers will also get to watch Diane Sawyer’s from London.

The cost of sending Simpson to London, Fenton said, is roughly the same as sending her to the Oscars, which the station also did this year.

NBC4 wasn’t “prepared to talk costs” when I emailed them about sending reporter Wendy Rieger and photographer Sean Casey to London. “There has been strong interest in this story from our viewers which contributed heavily to our decision,” Senior producer Matt Glassman wrote, adding, “You’re right that NBC News has correspondents on the ground there, and Wendy is contributing to that coverage.”

London is hot and the people are weird, reports Reiger.

Glassman also wrote that the NBC4 team “is doing live reports and filing stories for other NBC stations around the country as well this week.”

If local TV networks can be said to be doubling up on coverage of the royal wedding, the Washington Post is tripling up: In addition to its AP coverage and London Bureau Chief Anthony Faiola, the Style section has had crack features writer Monica Hesse on the ground in London for two weeks.

Style editor Ned Martel said Hesse’s job is to supplement the paper’s newsy coverage of the wedding with pieces about the “culture of Britain, Americans on the scene, fascination with the wedding, the lack of fascination with the wedding, and things we see as interesting.” Her first piece, published April 21, explained why Queen Elizabeth II has two birthdays. Consecutive pieces explained “Britain’s obsession with haute headwear,” wedding fatigue among Brits (with a nod to wedding fatigue here in the states), the McVities biscuit, and the flood of Americans who have poured into the country to celebrate.

Martel knows “that a lot of people think the royals get more attention that they deserve,” but he also “note[s] the interest.”

When I told him that a search of the Washington Post site for Royal Wedding coverage on Wednesday returned nearly 30 AP results and, towards the bottom, one of Hesse’s stories, Martel said, “I can’t really talk about the strategy behind that, because I’m not in charge of it, but I’m certainly aware of it.”

If Beltway residents are looking for a break from Royal Wedding coverage, which will climax tonight and tomorrow, they should probably just go for a long walk.