Nicholas Jones - Blog and Archive Website

No wonder there were complaints from Downing Street about the four national newspapers which printed photographs of the Prime Minister wrapped in a Mickey Mouse towel as he struggled to change out of his swimming trunks on a beach in Cornwall. As he and his wife Samantha had already provided a pre-arranged photo-opportunity earlier in week, the couple had assumed they would be left alone for the rest of their holiday.

But what No.10’s media minders had not taken into account was the fact that the Prime Minister’s run of summer holidays – four in four months – had become a story line in itself and their holiday snaps had far greater news value than usual.

Whereas in previous years the Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and The Times might have respected Cameron’s privacy, the temptation was too great; the Prime Minister sunburnt belly and Samantha’s obvious amusement as her husband tried to pull up his shorts were a gift for the headline writers.

For once Cameron’s sixth sense about how to play along with the whims of the national press seemed to have deserted him. He had left himself open to the charge that he appeared more than comfortable flaunting the fact he and his family were having a magical run of summer breaks while many other families, hit by hard by harsh economic times, would think they were lucky to have had one holiday, let alone four.

From the moment he first bid for the Conservative Party leadership in 2005 Cameron has been willing to provide far greater access for photographers and television crews than most previous party leaders or Prime Ministers.  Indeed his willingness to allow himself and his family to feature in endless photo-opportunities – and his own ease in front of camera – has endured far longer than most seasoned publicists would have predicted.

Perhaps the one redeeming feature of Freddie Starr’s hurried exit from “I’m A Celebrity...Get Me out of Here” is that this time television viewers saw for their own eyes what the comedian had eaten.

In contrast to the Sun’s infamous front page in 1986 – “Freddie Starr ate my hamster” – this week’s headline, “Freddie Starr ate my camel” was based on fact rather than the fiction of much show biz news.

A gripping account of what it felt like to be editor when the Daily Telegraph broke the scandal of MPs’ expenses had even hardened reporters sitting on the edge of their chairs at the annual lunch of the Journalists’ Charity at Simpson’s in The Strand (2.3.2010).William Lewis, now editor in chief of Telegraph Media Group, said that initially he feared the story was a hoax and he was not completely convinced until the Justice Secretary Jack Straw finally confirmed that the purloined disc, which contained details of all the claims, was genuine.

In a speech to local authority leaders on the way reporters and councillors could co-operate with each other, Nicholas Jones recalled the day in the early 1960s when the father of the late film director Anthony Minghella agreed to help create a story line that captured the local headlines.  Eddie Minghella, then chairman of the Entertertainments Committee on Ryde Borough Council, was persuaded to suggest that his local authority should adopt as a summer advertising slogan Ticket to Ride, the latest hit by The Beatles.

Jones presented the awards at the annual lunch of the North East Charter on Elected Member Development at The Sage, Gateshead (25.3.2008).  He said councillors and staff had only themselves to blame if they failed to challenge press misreporting. He urged them to take advantage of new opportunities opened up by the internet which provided new ways to communicate through websites and the blogosphere. Jones said he had found a collective failure on the part of council members and staff to respond. 

   

In a devastating critique of the ills of British journalism, Nick Davies exposes the alarming degree to which reporters are being exploited by the public relations industry, spin doctors, assorted publicists and the like but rather disappointingly he skates over the full impact of the failings which he identifies so clearly in Flat Earth News.

Declining editorial standards have made it all the easier for successive governments to collude with proprietors in manipulating the news media, never more so than during the build-up to the war against Iraq and the blatant misreporting of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.

While Davies deserves to be congratulated for his diligence and courage in identifying the many falsehoods and distortions of the intelligence services -- and also the gullibility of the media in accepting them -- he makes only one passing reference to Rupert Murdoch’s role as cheerleader for George Bush and Tony Blair, preferring instead to focus an entire chapter on unseemly and incestuous infighting between Guardian journalists like himself and those on their pro-war sister paper, the Observer.