THIS WEEK’S BIG QUESTION: Should public figures bow to synthetic media outrage?

Lottery regulator Peter Davis was forced to fall on his sword last week

Lottery regulator Peter Davis was forced to fall on his sword last


Charles Kennedy, Liberal Democrats

’The media often has an agenda of its own, which it pursues without

reference to public priorities. Too often, particularly when news is

slow, media outlets tend to chase their own tails in pursuit of a story

that may actually be of little value in itself. Nevertheless, the media

can also act as a barometer of public pressure, and so all public

figures are well advised to take note of what the papers say.’ Some

media outrage is synthetic, but not all. The most sensible compromise

seems to be always to take greatest notice of the findings of balanced

and independent coverage where you can find it.’

Robert Worcester, MORI

’I don’t consider Peter Davis to be a public figure. He is a civil

servant. Media outrage should be reserved for office seekers, such as

politicians and other self-appointed critics such as editors. Davis,

like permanent secretaries and members of the Royal Family, are not able

to defend themselves in our system of government. It is outrageous that

they should be held accountable by unaccountable media comment.’

Francis Hallawell, Quentin Bell Organisation

’In teletubby land, public figures are accountable. In the real world,

they shouldn’t be. Journalists have real power to destroy people, but

without the checks and balances built into our justice system to protect

the individual against the mob. They simply haven’t the time or space

for the detail needed to justify a decent public hanging. Journalists

write stories, they’re not tribunes of the people. Public figures

operate in the public arena, so they should mind the gap between what

they do in private and say in public.’

Jeff Randall, Sunday Business

’I don’t believe that public figures should be accountable to the media

per se, but in many instances the media is merely reflecting wider

public opinion - and in that case, I think it is good for democracy that

public figures have to explain their actions to the press.’

Max Clifford, Max Clifford Associates

’Peter Davis should be accountable. There are so many public figures who

have been revealed in a totally different light because of so-called

’synthetic media outrage’. In a healthy democracy, those in positions of

power and responsibility should be seen for what they really are. It is

often ’synthetic media outrage’ that leads the real person - warts and

all - to the British public.’

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