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Prince Charles Addresses Editors

March 11, 2002

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LONDON (AP) _ Prince Charles, so often a target of the press, got his chance to return fire Monday at what he called a sometimes ``deeply unfair and harmful″ news industry.

But he had praise, too, for the higher goals of journalism when he spoke to scores of editors, publishers and other media executives gathered at St. Bride’s Church on Fleet Street to celebrate the 300th anniversary of London’s first daily newspaper, the Daily Courant.

Prince Charles did not dwell on his own considerable problems with tabloids and telephoto lenses, but defended public servants against ``the corrosive drip of constant criticism″ in the press.

Teachers, doctors, nurses, police and civil servants are often unfairly criticized, he said.

``For while the public services may seem to be Leviathans on the landscape of our state, impregnable to attack, their roots are human ones,″ he said.

For many months, Britain’s public services have come under heavy criticism. The National Health Service is struggling, the rail network is faltering, street crime is rising and criticism of the civil service has followed highly publicized infighting in the Transport Department.

Over the centuries, Charles said, the press had been ``awkward, cantankerous, cynical, bloody-minded, at times intrusive, at times inaccurate and at times deeply unfair and harmful to individuals and to institutions.″

But most of the time, he said, newspapers sought to keep the public informed, to scrutinize those in power, to uncover wrongdoing and ``to prick the pomposity of the overbearing.″

With only the faintest allusion to newspaper attacks on himself, on Queen Elizabeth II and the rest of the royal family, Charles said, ``from time to time we are probably both a bit hard on each other, exaggerating the downsides and ignoring the good points in each.″

Charles also took the opportunity to thank editors for ``the manner in which all newspapers have sought to give my two sons _ William and Harry _ as much privacy as is possible in their position: a position which, of course, is not one they have chosen for themselves.″

The newspaper they celebrated, the Daily Courant, began March 11, 1702, as a single sheet, printed on one side only. It increased in size and scope and ran about 30 years.

The prince visited an exhibition at the nearby St. Bride Institute, which includes early issues of several newspapers and facsimiles of famous front pages.

He laughed at a 1988 edition of The Sport with the headline: ``Hubby Eaten Alive: Wife served him leeches for dinner.″

There was no comment to be heard when he got to a framed front page of last week’s News of the World headline about his brother, Prince Edward, and Edward’s wife Sophie.

``At Last,″ said the headline over a report saying the couple had decided to quit their ``failing careers″ and concentrate on celebrations marking the queen’s 50 years on the throne.

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