WILKES-BARRE — Although the United States left the British Empire in 1776, Americans remain obsessed with England’s royal family.
That played out this week when Kate Middleton gave birth to a baby boy while major U.S. news outlets waited outside of St. Mary’s Hospital’s Lindo Wing in London.
Dr. Mark Stine, Communications Studies chairman at Wilkes University, said Americans are overly curious about Prince William and his wife because they are Britain’s next chapter in social news, and Americans appreciate a good storyline.
“We want to see this story develop, and we want to see the royal couple live happily ever after,” Stine said, especially since the late Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ relationship ended tragically.
Stine said another reason is people living under the British crown view it as an important cultural event, and U.S. citizens recognize that.
Stine also believes Americans have a strong interest because the U.S. does not have a royal family, and the media see coverage in Britain an opportunity to increase ratings.
Locally, people are intrigued by the royal baby news. Michele Drago, 23, of Larksville, has a royal baby name pool with her friends.
She thinks the media are heavily covering the royal baby birth because the line is blurred between celebrity and royal.
“As Americans, we see them more as celebrities than royalty,” Drago said.
For example, entertainment shows such as “Inside Edition” lead off with the royal baby news Monday night. In addition, Kate Middleton and reality TV celebrity Kim Kardashian were pregnant at the same time, and the two were compared throughout their pregnancies in gossip magazines.
Stine also said intense media coverage of the royal family is nothing new. For example, BBC did a seven-hour live stream of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. In 1982, Princess Diana asked to be induced into labor because she could not handle the pressure of the media any longer.
“The media exploiting this is something that goes back to early television in Great Britain,” he said.
Stine also said the media coverage of the birth of Prince William 30 years ago was similar to today’s coverage, but what makes it different is the immediacy of communication.
“The whole idea that we can instantly get a tweet adds to the frenzy,” he said.
Social media reacts
During the first three weeks of July, members of Twitter seemed obsessed with the pending due date of Kate Middleton and even created a hashtag, the #greatkatewait.
When news broke Monday that Kate was in labor, royal baby mentions reached a peak of 25,300 tweets per minute and the #royalbaby hashtag was used more than 900,000 times, according to Twitter.
Although that seems like a large number, it failed to beat the tweet per minute counts of the election of Pope Francis with 132,000 tweets and the reelection of President Barack Obama with 237,00 tweets every 60 seconds in November.