Delia may be cock-a-hoop to have entered the English vocabulary,
but Jo Moore is probably less than delighted that her name has passed
into common usage. To 'do a Jo Moore' has now become shorthand for any
attempt to time news releases.
The furore over the much disputed minutes of trade secretary Stephen
Byers' meeting with Railtrack chairman John Robinson is a case in point.
Byers offered to take the rap, but the media are determined to point the
finger at Moore.
But while Chancellor Gordon Brown is no doubt smarting at seeing his
pre-budget report upstaged, the attempt to time a news announcement is
not a crime. Moore's ghastly attempts to bury news in the aftermath of
11 September displayed a singular lack of compassion for which she was
deservedly pilloried. And as PRWeek pointed out at the time,
extraordinary times require extraordinary measures. But as the world
returns to some semblance of normality, to imagine that firms, never
mind governments, do not seek to minimise or maximise coverage by timing
an announcement, is simply naive.
Any PRO worth their salt will be aware of the media agenda and current
affairs that may impact on the reception of their story. And
journalists, whether they admit it or not, nurture valued PR contacts
and play along.
But Moore - having lost the trust of the press - is now fair game. And
from the Cabinet's point of view, for the time being at least, she is
useful to keep around as a scapegoat and a lightning rod for all the
ill-will of the media.