OPINION: The media shows how it protects its own

Journalists seldom give the impression of having much time for PROs, even if they rely on them a great deal. It often seems it is a matter of journalistic honour to bite the PRO hand that feeds you. Perhaps we should put it down to their perceived need to protect their sources. Moreover, if they have a good PRO contact, they don’t want others to know of it.

Journalists seldom give the impression of having much time for

PROs, even if they rely on them a great deal. It often seems it is a

matter of journalistic honour to bite the PRO hand that feeds you.

Perhaps we should put it down to their perceived need to protect their

sources. Moreover, if they have a good PRO contact, they don’t want

others to know of it.



Professional honour, ethics and advantage thus lead them generally to

portray PROs as a different and lower order in the communications

business.



In spite of all this posturing, the PR industry will, I am sure, join me

in wishing the editor of the Times, Peter Stothard, every good wish in

his fight at 49 against cancer. We were not, of course, meant to know

about his illness. Instead, Rupert Murdoch’s News International

announced that he was taking a few months’ sabbatical ’to work on future

projects’.



This led to considerable speculation both inside and outside the Times

as to the real reason for his unexpected leave. We were led to believe

by other broadsheets that he was on his way out after nine years because

of the libel fracas - now sorted out - between Michael Ashcroft, the

Tories’ billionaire treasure, and the Times.



I have every sympathy with Mr Stothard in trying to keep his illness

secret, but it was bound to come out in the end. Chemotherapy sadly

leaves its mark and the chattering classes chatter. Nor did it take much

imagination to know what Fleet Street would make of a sabbatical

announcement in these days when dog eats dog more than ever before. I am

forced to conclude that it would have been better to state the simple

and painful facts at the outset and express the hope that Mr Stothard

would be left to have his treatment - and we hope cure - undisturbed.

But I acknowledge people’s sensitivities at these difficult times and

the temptation is always to defer to them.



What, however, surprised me was the reaction of the Sun. It penned an

indignant leader accusing the Guardian and Independent of indulging in

mere - and inaccurate - speculation about the real reason for Mr

Stothard’s few months away. Of course, we all know about the antipathy

between broadsheets and tabloids. We also know that the Sun has a very

proper sense of its own importance in relation to the snooty so-called

’qualities’. But can you imagine any paper having any tender loving

concern for a leading politician or a businessman in a similar position?

More likely a pious lecture on the lack of frankness leading inevitably

to surmise and the need for openness at all times.



This little episode has further encouraged the view that there is one

media law for editors and another for the hoi polloi. One is a protected

species; the rest fair game for any rough old media treatment even - or

perhaps especially - in their hours of personal trial. A clear case of

double standards.



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