The other day a colleague related an aphorism he had picked up in conversation with someone who had been in Tony Blair’s inner circle during his time in government:
“The best way to bury bad news is to publish it on the front page of the Guardian, because then the Daily Mail won’t touch it.”
It sounds like something from an Armando Iannucci script, but I’m sure it’s true. It’s also perceptive, as the phone-hacking story demonstrated: for over a year the story was doggedly pursued by the Guardian while the rest of the UK Fourth Estate determinedly looked the other way.
And then I remembered one of Marshall McLuhan’s aphorisms:
“Only puny secrets need protection. Big discoveries are protected by public incredulity.”
Which of course brought to mind the case of John Edwards’s extramarital affair, news of which was first brought to the world by the National Inquirer, a journal of, er, highly-blemished reputation which admits to paying for information and other breaches of Best Practice as taught by US journalism schools. Because the story was broken by the Inquirer, mainstream media wouldn’t touch it at first.
So maybe the best contemporary advice for Cameron & Co when they want to bury bad news is to by-pass the Guardian and go straight to the Daily Star.