Royal Disaster: Networks Obsess Over Wedding, Barely Mention U.S. Border Deaths

The April 29 wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton has the media world abuzz as the couple prepares to walk down the aisle this week. Although the affair is more than 3,000 miles away and focuses on the royalty of a foreign nation, the U.S. media is giving the wedding overwhelming coverage.

In fact, according to Nielson, and highlighted by the Daily Caller's Laura Donovan, the U.S. media coverage of the wedding is “considerably higher” as a percent of all news reporting “than in the U.K. and Australia.”That is despite the fact that a New York Times/CBS poll found that just 28 percent of Americans say they have followed the wedding “somewhat closely.”

Worse, the media wedding blitz comes at the expense of more important stories impacting the United States, like the bloody drug war just across the border with Mexico.

The Culture and Media Institute found that the broadcast networks aired glowing stories of wedding dresses, carriages and castles at a rate of roughly two per day since the beginning of the year. Meanwhile, America’s neighbor to the south has continued to spiral into lawless violence, claiming hundreds of American lives and threatening the stability of the U.S.-Mexico border.

That didn’t matter. While U.S. citizens were murdered by Mexican drug cartels, the American media dedicated nearly five times more stories to the “global media event,” that is the royal wedding.

Between Jan. 1, 2011 and April 22, 2011, ABC, CBS and NBC ran a total of 228 stories about what CBS’s Erica Hill called the “fairy tale occasion.” The obsession over the U.K. royalty tying the knot averaged more than two stories per day from the American networks thus far in 2011.

In that same period, the networks presented only 47 stories dealing with Mexico’s drug-fueled violence, its U.S. victims and its spillover into U.S. border states. Many of those stories were brief reports of violence, like the April 4murder of two Americans at a Tijuana-area border crossing.

ABC was the most royal-obsessed, with 123 stories about the royal wedding in those four and a half months. CBS aired 62 stories. In terms of sheer numbers, NBC was the most restrained wedding enthusiast, airing 43 stories.

But the Peacock network took the wedding cake for most ridiculous wedding tie-in story. NBC “Sunday Today” show anchors Lester Holt and Jenna Wolfe spent two minutes, 14 seconds quizzing a Massachusetts woman who shares the same name with British princess-to-be Kate Middleton.

“You walked through grocery stores, you see, you know, your name in magazines, you hear your name all over, you know, TV reports,” Wolfe observed. “Do you like it? Is it annoying? Where do you stand with all of this?” After Middleton replied that she found it “pretty funny,” Wolfe and Holt then continued to quiz her about phone calls, newspaper articles and Facebook messages she has received in relation to the name coincidence.

On April 19, CBS “Early Show” anchor Erica Hill called the event a “fairy tale occasion” introducing a segment about the security process involving snipers, helicopter surveillance and plenty of police to protect the event. “The royal wedding is just 10 days away now and this morning we’re getting a reminder that this fairy tale occasion is also a major security operation,” she said.

But the day before, Hill did a segment on the same program dedicated exclusively to the speculation surrounding who designed bride-to-be Kate Middleton’s wedding dress. “Looks like a beautiful day there, and a perfect day, perhaps, to find out who has designed Kate’s dress,” Hill said to CBS News royal contributor Victoria Arbiter, stationed outside Buckingham Palace. The women exchanged conjectures on the dress’ designer for nearly three minutes.

During the April 20 “Good Morning America” broadcast, ABC royal correspondent Duncan Larcombe fawned over William and Kate’s ability to steal a few moments of quiet time during this hectic time. “It's quite nice that they're sort of doing these little sort of, little, sort of romantic things in the midst of what is a kind of global media event,” he stated, underscoring the weight the media have given this wedding.

Even as they kept the frenzy going, some occasionally made a show of stepping back to recognize the ridiculousness of it all. “Oh, you know, it's been at least a good 10 minutes since we talked about the royal wedding, so let's get to our ‘Royal Diary’,” ABC host Robin Roberts joked on the April 20 “Good Morning America.”

But the hard story of the incredible violence on our nation’s southern border is no joke. Mexican authorities have discovered numerous mass graves across northern Mexico, and more than 30,000 people have died in the violence since 2006. According to the U.S. State Department, 111 U.S. citizens were murdered south of the border in 2010, prompting the department to issue travel warnings for Americans planning visits to various areas of Mexico during Spring Break. 

 But the royal couple would have to honeymoon in Acapulco to get the networks to give reasonable air-time to Mexico.

Methodology

The Culture and Media Institute surveyed transcripts of ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news shows between January 1, 2011, and April 22, 2011, searching for “royal” and “wedding,” and found the networks ran 228 stories about the royal wedding.

CMI searched the terms “Mexico, Mexican” and “border,” and found that in the same time frame, the networks ran a total of 47 stories about the drug-inspired violence to the south.

Matthew Philbin
Matthew Philbin
Matt Philbin is Managing Editor of MRC Culture