LEADER: The worst, and best, of the UK tabloids

One of the reasons that the UK now leads the world in PR services is because of its unique national media.

It is far from jingoistic to argue that we enjoy – and often suffer – the most aggressive press in the world, along with some of the best radio and TV journalism. This creates demand for intelligent and savvy communication from UK organisations.

Over the past week we have seen the best and worst of that most British of media inventions: the tabloid newspaper.

On the darker side, the Daily Mirror’s latest headline on the Madeleine McCann story, last Friday, was a prime example. ‘She’s Dead’ it screamed in huge type, without speech marks. But the story contained no evidence other than the opinion of the Portuguese Attorney General, given to a local magazine.

Even Clarence Mitchell, the McCanns’ spokesman – who gives an exclusive interview to PRWeek in this issue – was shocked, threatening to cut off all contact with the paper. In his interview the ex-hack describes some behaviour by the British press as ‘shameful’.

One tends to agree. Many newspapers continue to use the ‘Maddy’ story to shift copies, despite an obvious absence of revelation. Worse, the stories stray into salacious speculation about paedophile rings.

On the upside, we also see the value of competitive media, with revelations about Labour Party funding.

The Mail on Sunday broke the story about the obfuscation over donations. Other newspapers continued to uncover new information as PRWeek went to press.

Few people are powerful enough to be beyond the media’s reach in this country, as Tory MP Jonathan Aitken, spin doctor Peter Mandelson and former BP chief executive Lord Browne found to their peril.

This is a lesson the UK’s best PR professionals try to teach their clients, but many, apparently, remain in denial.
danny.rogers@haymarket.com

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