PR Insight

Why the News of the World’s demise heralds a new era for newspapers and the PROs who feed them

Date: 10 August 2011 21:13

The death of News of the World will dramatically change the media landscape for PROs claims James Alan Anslow, a journalism lecturer at City University London. Anslow worked as a journalist at News International for 30 years and for several years in the 1990s he was chief production editor of News of the World. He believes the death of the paper is the single most important event in newsprint since the News International titles made their tumultuous move to Wapping in 1986.

Highlighting the importance of the News of the World as a popular paper, Anslow points out that if you’d recently asked consumers in any high street in Britain what titles resonated for them, the News of the World would most likely have been mentioned alongside The Sun and The Times. He adds: “After all, The Jam used it as a song title and Queen named an album after it.”

The death of this paper shows PROs that it’s not enough to make money, you have to be ethical too: “No brand in media, or any other industry, is guaranteed survival. And commercial success is not enough. The moral imperative is now high on every consumer agenda, whether it is fair trade, carbon emissions ... or ethical journalism.

“The hacking scandal lines up with MPs’ fiddles and bankers’ catastrophic failures as the death knell of any automatic public respect for Britain’s institutions. Henceforth, voters and consumers will demand transparency in all things. And PR campaigns should take heed.”

Anslow concludes “Trust is broken.” and adds that it cannot be invoked by “ingenious public relations“. Instead, he says, the clear message from journalists, politicians, commerce and PR must be: These are our products. They are open, honest, moral and testable. “Less than that will not do. The public just won’t buy it any more”.

Debate

What does the death of the News of the World mean for PR?

Kirsty Merritt, consumer practice account director at PR firm Porter Novelli, says it cuts coverage opportunities and highlights the need for integrity:

"In a literal sense, the demise of the News of the World means fewer opportunities to get coverage in what most PRs considered to be the leading newspaper for consumer brands – especially in terms of reach and circulation. It was a fantastic outlet for PROs to place creative, cheeky stories where many of its journalists would work with you to develop a story in order to resonate with its readers. However, the 'toxic' label is a reminder for all PROs of the fragility of any brand, and how credibility and integrity must not be sacrificed by chasing a story."

Drew Benvie, UK managing director of PR agency Hotwire Group, says it will enrich PR‘s talent pool:

“The PR industry has long enjoyed the transfer of talent to and from the media industry. In the wake of the closure of News of the World, there are without doubt more people in the talent pool and I think we will see a number of good people jump the fence and join PR agencies and in-house teams.”

Tom Leatherbarrow, head of business to business at agency Willoughby PR, claims other newspapers could now be doomed and editorial policies are likely to be overhauled:

“With the demise of the News of the World, the question now is whether institutional shareholders will begin to exert pressure on Rupert Murdoch to dispose of his loss-making newspaper assets. For PROs, we are looking at a situation where media ownership in the coming years could change significantly and along with it editorial policies and the whole shape of newspapers in the UK.”

Simon Turton, managing director of agency Opera PR, believes the media is now poorer:

“The demise of the paper is a loss because, despite the issues of phone tapping, it was a crusading newspaper and did break many stories.”

Written by Daney Parker

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