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Kate ain’t people

The Kate picture saga continues to generate comment – James Evelegh finds parallels in a movie classic.

By James Evelegh

Kate ain’t people

In the 1952 film, Singin’ in the Rain, silent movie star Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), cursed with a voice made for silent movies, insists to the studio boss that Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), who’s been brought in to dub her voice in the studio’s first talkie, should be forced to dub all her future films “and nothing else”.

Seeing what that would do to Selden’s fledgling career, the studio boss is appalled.

“You’d be taking her career away from her. People just don’t do things like that,” he tells Lamont, to which she shrilly replies, “People! I ain’t people”.

And that’s kind of the point when it comes to judging the edits the Princess of Wales admitted to making to the photograph Kensington Palace put out last week.

Yes, everyone touches up their family pics, but Kate isn’t everyone.

She’s a senior Royal and things she says and pictures she shares, or at least those that are shared on her behalf by the Palace, need to be completely trustworthy and beyond reproach.

Earlier this week, Phil Chetwynd, global news director at Agence France-Presse, said the agency no longer views Kensington Palace as a ‘trusted source’: “One thing that’s really important is you cannot be distorting reality for the public. There’s a question of trust. And the big issue here is one of trust, and the lack of trust and the falling trust of the general public in institutions generally and in the media. And so, it’s extremely important that a photo does represent broadly the reality that it’s seen in.”

The Royal family will have to earn that trust back and it might take some time. Every picture Kensington Palace releases in future will be met with scepticism – people won’t know whether to believe what they see.

There are lessons for publishers too in this furore. In his column in the upcoming March / April issue of InPublishing magazine, Dickon Ross writes: “On the face of it, it might be hypocritical for publishers to condemn such photo manipulation. It’s something that magazines have always done a little or a lot, depending on their sector.”

Yet, trust has to be the watchword going forward. Every word and image we put out must be credible. It’s what will set us apart.

You can catch James Evelegh’s regular column in the InPubWeekly newsletter, which you can register to receive here.