In conversation with Camilla Tominey

By Arjun Seth

Camilla Tominey is one of the nation’s leading royal commentators and writers, covering stories from Brexit negotiations and their subsequent fall-out to Harry and Meghan’s relationship that she unveiled to the world in 2016. Having discovered her passion for journalism at university, she began as a trainee at the Hemel Hempstead Gazette after graduation. She then began working at the Sunday Express on Saturdays to “earn a bit more money” and eventually propelled herself to Royal Editor after covering Prince Charles’ marriage to Camilla Parker-Bowles in 2005. After a fifteen-year stint covering royal and political stories, Tominey joined The Telegraph in 2018 where she currently writes as an Associate Editor, in her role that she describes as providing “an overview of analysis and interviews on both politics and royals.”

I begin by asking Tominey what she enjoys the most about her role as a royal commentator, to which she affirmatively answers the coverage of the major royal events because “you get a front row seat in history”. She recalls covering the royal weddings of Kate and William in 2011, and Harry and Meghan’s in 2018, highlighting the merits of her position. “Not only is it fascinating to be a part of it, but your coverage gets great projection. There are those major points in history that you can record and then it is also good from a journalistic perspective to get those exclusives and scoops that nobody else has got.”

When asked about her biggest challenge she discusses the importance of avoiding speculation and having reliable sources to produce a good story with merit: “Sometimes you hear things that sound interesting and exciting and worth reporting on but unless you can make sure that they are true, you can’t really take the story forward. The biggest challenge is always trying to get people to corroborate what you’ve heard and get evidence for this so you can report it.”

If you haven’t gained a history for making things up then when you do take a good story to them, they will know you have done your research and therefore it is mutually quite a respectable relationship. The truth always prevails.

This leads us on to the relationship between the press and the Palace, one which Tominey characterises as “give and take”. Whilst royal press secretaries are inevitably always eager to keep bad stories out of the headlines, being “straight-up” and honest with the press office can avoid it becoming fractious and can instead be “mutually beneficial” for both parties.

“If you haven’t gained a history for making things up then when you do take a good story to them, they will know you have done your research and therefore it is mutually quite a respectful relationship. The truth always prevails.”

We then move on to talk about current scandals; I joke to Tominey that she can really take her pick with so many dominating the headlines.

Naturally, our attention turns to ‘Megxit’, the story that she has written about the most extensively, rejecting the idea that it has tainted the Queen or the monarchy. “The popularity of the other royals appears to have gone up and the popularity of Harry and Meghan in this country appear to have gone down. That suggests the monarchy has been well-insulated against their claims.” Instead, she argues that sympathy on the matter largely lies with the Queen, especially given the death of the Duke of Edinburgh. “Goodwill is shown to the institution of monarchy because the Queen is at its helm.” Still, she questions whether this will be present in such abundance when Prince Charles takes over.

On the scandal engulfing Prince Andrew, Tominey argues that it is a story that has tarnished his reputation as an individual, rather than harming the monarchy as an institution. Instead, she says that the swift way in which the Palace responded by distancing itself and stripping him of military titles, illustrates decisiveness and “appears to have rescued the monarchy from the crisis created by some of its participants.”

When asked about her most memorable story, Tominey is categorical. “Harry and Meghan getting together. It was certainly very different that he was with an American, because ordinarily you would think he would be associated with an aristocrat or somebody who you might see on the back pages of Tatler! She was really interesting from the outset, as we found out when we googled her and read about her humanitarian side when addressing the UN – she is also extremely attractive and glamourous. To land that story before anybody else and have nominated for Scoop of the Year was amazing, but to fast-forward a couple of years and then see them married, was something else!”

We finish by discussing trolling and online abuse, a touching issue that affects many journalists including Tominey herself. On this, she clarifies that disagreement should be welcomed and expected. “ We cannot as journalists expect to put things out there and not be disagreed with. What bothers me is the lack of agreeability about the disagreement.

“Twitter has created this very toxic landscape for people to hurl personal abuse, defamatory comments and to effectively troll people that they do not agree with. The consequence of that is chilling for freedom of speech, particularly for younger journalists. It makes them scared to report things that might be true but what might not be popular.”

Following on from this, she implores us all to be forthcoming, confident in writing and report on the truth unwaveringly in the face of such critics. “What we don’t want to see is journalists editing themselves for Twitter – worried that I don’t want to write this as it will initiate a pile-on. Never have journalists been required to show more courage when reporting.”

Camilla’s advice that we prioritise truth over popularity, and agree about our disagreement, could not be more befitting.

You can find Camilla Tominey on Twitter @CamillaTominey or read her latest column on The Telegraph website.

Image credit: Camilla Tominey via The Telegraph

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