Print fights back against internet

Rarely can events in a single week have provided more eloquent testimony to the wisdom of Mark Twain's advice against picking a fight with the man who buys ink by the barrel.

Ian Monk
Ian Monk

First the Daily Mail virtually single-handedly brought the reputation of the BBC to its knees, at the same time inflicting immense collateral damage on the reputation of two iconic presenters. The Murdoch press, following its own agenda of damaging Sky's competition, leapt on the bandwagon with panache but victory belonged to the Daily Mail.

Then The Daily Telegraph turned its inky fire on the MoD chiefs for sending troops into Afghanistan in 'death trap' armoured vehicles. Again the repercussions were far reaching. SAS commanders quit and ministers made statements they would not otherwise utter.

In both instances electronic media were left following the print agenda. In the case of the BBC this involved blanket and self-lacerating news coverage of the fallout from events that threaten the future funding of the organisation. Its PR operation was already pushed to breaking point by the Mail's mobilisation of middle Britain. Unsurprisingly, BBC PR professionals failed to deal with gleeful claims that its news coverage was driven by journalists slighted by Jonathan Ross' assessment that he was worth 1,000 of them.

Again following the print agenda, the BBC followed The Daily Telegraph's lead in elevating to headline status the deadly inadequacy of the Army's armoured cars.

Image makers should take stock and remind themselves of the power of print as an arbiter of reputation. Amid the multitude of blogs, podcasts and online petitions, print remains the heavy armoury that can fatally pierce the protective cladding of image.

Modern electronic media have stripped print of its traditional power to be first with the news. To remain competitive, newspapers strive to create their own news agendas. In doing so they take few prisoners. The BBC and the MoD were sitting targets last week. Fleet Street will already be looking for the next ones.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun.

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