Kate Hawkesby: Meghan Markle and Jacinda Ardern have something in common… both trying to control the narrative


I feel like we’re witnessing a new normal these days when it comes to the media landscape and how people in positions of power are held to account.

The new normal is to choose when to be held to account, and by who. Exhibit A – Meghan Markle. Instead of privately dealing with private family tensions and matters behind private palace walls, she chose to publicly set off a trans-Atlantic nuclear bomb.

She chose her outlet to be Oprah. That allowed Oprah, and the network who paid millions for it, to peddle us the propaganda that this was all off-the-cuff, unscripted, unrehearsed, from-the-heart stuff.

When CBS paid Harpo Productions US$7 million for the interview, there would’ve been clear parameters around how this played out, right down to what we were drip-fed prior to broadcast, and when.

Harry and Meghan have adopted a “no-speak” policy to media outlets they don’t like, their other modus operandi is to sue outlets which don’t write flattering things about them. In going down this alternate road, they’ll have banked on a favourable reception. After all, they get to speak with no right of reply, they get to call all the shots. But here’s the thing, I don’t actually begrudge Markle for doing it, because she doesn’t owe us anything, we didn’t vote her in.

Which leads me to Exhibit B – Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Also not a fan of bad press, or hard questions, she too has opted for a softer road. She’s happy to be embraced in the familiar arms of the government-funded radio station – but only on a day and topic of her choosing which, by the way, is not how journalism works, but hey, here we are.

And she is, of course, happy to continue TV appearances because… well, it’s TV. Politicians with more experience know how ratings work, they know TV breakfast audiences are considerably smaller than ZB’s Breakfast show, hence older, some might say wiser, politicians, knew to prioritise radio.

But newer and younger politicians like the optics of TV, there’s a manufactured kudos about it, a bit of hair and makeup fluffing done for the day. It’s also less brutal. So the PM has chosen when she will appear, and where – but here’s where I’d defend Meghan Markle over the PM.

Yes, they’ve both moved to do things their way, on their terms, and for their own gains. It shows a determination to own their own narratives and to not put themselves under any pressure. So far so very 2021… it will be rapturously received by the acolytes.

But in the case of our Prime Minister, it’s just not democratic. Forget the messenger, and whether you like them or not, politicians owe voters answers. They have to be heard across a wide spectrum of outlets, not just those who’ll favour their political view.

Jacinda Ardern has chosen to delete that option, which begs the question, should it be an option democratically elected representatives get to delete, in the first place?

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