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Malcolm not in the middle

September 7, 2018

 

Having not worked in a newsroom for more than a decade, I will leave it to others to point out some of the glaring errors in the new BBC1 drama Press. However, a few things jumped to mind:

 

  1. It is rather analogue in a digital world. The editors seem overly obsessed about the physical edition when the main product for most media is now online;

  2. How come senior editors managed to get away from the office in time to go out in the evening. When I was a news editor, 8pm was the earliest I ever left, 9pm was more realistic. No good for a family or social life;

  3. What was a junior reporter doing in editorial conference? I never saw that happen in 20 years on newspapers;

  4. The design of the papers was terrible – The Post looked like a dated regional, The Herald like a student rag. The headlines were verbose and lacked wit;

  5. Where were the PR people?

 

Hold on? PR? Is Jason Nisse – a reformed journalist – trying to insert his new profession into a drama about his former trade? Well, like it or not, PR folk are part and parcel of the media process and I will point out two areas where they would have had a major impact in the first episode of Press.

 

Firstly, in the case of the suicide of a gay footballer. If this footballer was prominent enough for The Post (which comes over as an anaemic version of The Sun) to consider making it’s the splash (that’s main front page story to the uninitiated) then he would not only have an agent who would have brought in a top spin doctor, but also the (presumably Premier League) club would have had their own PR team whose first action would have been to protect the family. This is enlightened self-interest by the club as they want to protect their reputation and shielding the family from the media is a top priority.  

 

No way would a young reporter have been able to do a “death knock” as the family would have had one – maybe two – sets of minders. Also, both the agent and the club would have been calling in favours with The Post. Anyone who has worked on a tabloid knows there is a bottom drawer of really great stories which have been killed to secure future access to celebrities, sportspeople and politicians.

 

Which brings me to the second issue. In the storyline about the embarrassing past of the Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, Carla Mason. It is inconceivable that she would be heading into the editorial offices of not one – but two – national newspapers without at least one communications minder, even if that minder was dressed up as a “special advisor”. Indeed, if there was a chance that a Cabinet Minister was facing a potential resigning issue, the Prime Minister’s head of communications would be at the minimum on the phone reading the riot act.

 

We all recall Malcolm Tucker from The Thick of It. He would have had a field day – on one hand calling in his own favours while also pointing out breaches of the IPSO editorial code (though of course The Herald, if it is based on The Guardian, would have its own code as it isn’t a member of the press self-regulatory body).

 

A bit of Malcolm in the middle would have added some zest to a fairly flat drama, which has little of the excitement, and none of the gallows humour, of real media newsrooms.

 

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