Here’s a question: if the media run an inaccurate story about you do you:
a. Angrily demand a grovelling apology and threaten to report the editor to his or her bosses?
b. Sue them?
c. Ask them gently but firmly to put the record straight?
d. Point out the error and remind them semi-humorously that they now owe you a favour?
The answer depends partly on the seriousness of the error and partly on your relationship with the offending media organisation. Oh, and partly on whether you are a megalomaniac bully hell-bent on dominating the headlines.
I don’t think we knew at the time just how terrifying Tony Blair’s spokesman at No 10, Alastair Campbell, appeared to BBC journalists and executives, or how ready they were to cave in to his demands.
At the height of his powers he did a phenomenal job defending and promoting Blair and his blustering aggression was used to great effect, although eventually it went too far and undoubtedly provoked a reaction that worked against him.
He survived as top predator in the shark infested waters of Downing Street for years but inevitably it all ended in blood and tears during the Hutton Enquiry.
A mellower Campbell looked back on this period in an interview with The Times this week and conceded that maybe David Cameron is handling the media better than he did.
He said new Labour spent too much time trying to dominate every news cycle. “My sense is that they take a more detached view of it,” he said. “And I think if they’ve learnt that from the way we did, then I think they’ve learnt the right lesson.”
I would be interested to know the current No 10 press office answer to my opening question. This lot, I suspect, would go for a combination of c and d and only choose the nuclear option of a as a last resort.
You catch more flies with honey. I think Cameron’s more laid-back approach to the media will serve the Coalition far better than Campbell’s old-style spin and threat.
GARETH WEEKES, DEEP SOUTH MEDIA