Two of the early offenders:
Upon arriving at the Lindo Wing of St. Mary's Hospital in London this afternoon, it was immediately apparent that Twitter-led rumors of Kate Middleton's labor starting up weren't true. Considering social media's tendency to spread false rumors quickly, it's kind of surprising this (only two days before what's widely believed to be the Duchess's most-likely due date) was the first false alarm, deliberate or not.
Two large press pens for photographers are set up across the street from the hospital building, as well as one further down the road which appears to be for networks' on-the-ground reporters. All three looked like this:
A smattering of photographers passed by to check on their stepladders — arranged in three tiered rows to maximise space in the pens; a few film crews shot interviews with confused passers-by. One question asked: "Do you think this baby will be more famous than David and Victoria Beckham's children?" That was shocking, because I mean, come on, Blue Ivy is the textbook celebrity baby reference at this point.
As the afternoon wore on, the film crews were reduced to interviewing each other — or at least interviewing other networks' talking heads — who spoke about being on-call all week, rushing back and forth between their offices/hotel rooms and the hospital, afraid to travel on the Underground (because there's no cell phone service, and who wants to miss the water's breaking news because you're stuck on the Central Line?). By this point, it seems, most of the major networks are prepared to wait for concrete news — from palace officials only.
Two decidedly not-royal couples emerged with their babies swaddled, and a few photographers snapped some "this is just a test" shots, which led in turn to some of the bemused tourists taking "wait is that a duchess?" photos of their own. (Worth noting, while not royal, the proud new parents are still likely quite posh — a suite on the maternity ward costs $10,000 for a single night's stay. That's one way to ensure a speedy birthing.)
The one police officer stationed outside the Wing let in a few doctors, nurses, and assorted family members/delivery people weighed down by balloons and flowers. A few other officers patrolled up and down the street. While the police presence seemed far less oppressive than, say, that outside the King Edward VII hospital where Kate spent a few days last December suffering from acute morning sickness, it's worth remembering that their presence will surely increase dramatically once Kate actually pops in to pop a future British monarch out.
In the café opposite, St. Mary's hospital staff drank Starbucks coffee and snapped iPhone photos of the press. None would talk on the record (nor would the café staff, for that matter) but in general terms said that the media circus had been both entertaining and well-controlled — at least so far. That said, with the press situated for nearly a week now already, their presence has apparently lost its novelty.
As I was leaving, a house painter who'd been at the hospital for a quick blood test stopped me to ask what all the fuss was about. He could, so he claimed, not care less about the royal baby, but was excited to come back and maybe buy one of the ladders for a cheap, re-sale price.
Incidentally, the afternoon's Twitter rumors were later traced back to (false) reports of helicopter activity at Kensington Palace — this will be how Kate travels to her maternity suite when her labor starts for real. In other exciting royal helicopter-themed news: the chopper set to whisk Prince William down to London for Kate's birth from his house in Wales has DISAPPEARED. Though that doesn't mean much either though — the locals think he might just be pranking them and hiding his heli behind a big pile of bushes or something. Such a tease, that Wills!