Retaliating against the media

1 November 2007 – In a series of television interviews yesterday, Heather Mills rounded on sections of the media for 18 months of abusive coverage, saying ‘everything they write is complete rubbish’, and complaining she has ‘had worse press than a paedophile or murderer’.

In a predictable response, those same tabloid newspapers have gone on the offensive today, accusing her of being a ‘fantasist’ and ‘liar’, of ‘ranting and raving’ and being ‘exasperating, dishonest and vindictive beyond belief’, of going ‘mental’. All illustrated with particularly unflattering screenshots.

It reinforces the view that anyone who retaliates against the media is fair game.

But the newspapers would do well to be careful about taunting her for expressing what others have felt. In over a decade of dealing with complaints about inaccurate and intrusive stories, MediaWise has given advice to many people who feel fear, trauma, anxiety and powerlessness when faced with hostile and unfair media coverage. More than a few have been drawn to suicide after being hounded by the media pack.

The ‘live by the sword’ argument, that has been mentioned in several quarters today, is a simplistic way of avoiding responsibility. Even if a celebrity does court publicity, the media does not have to go along with it, but do because they know it sells papers – which is why every tabloid has put the Mills story on the front page today. Isn’t it hypocritical for the press to accuse someone of publicity seeking, while being happy to live off that publicity too?

As Bryony Gordon says in today’s Daily Telegraph: ‘People often argue they deserve it for using the press to their own gain, but I say that, if that’s the case, then deny them the oxygen of publicity, instead of carrying out this rather nasty, 21st-century equivalent of bear-baiting’.

Mike Jempson
Director, MediaWise

(Bulletin No 145)

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