STEVEN SPIELBERG’S NEW FILM “THE POST” TELLS THE TALE OF A CORRUPT PRESIDENT AND A COURAGEOUS NEWSPAPER. NOTHING HAS CHANGED. ONLY NEWSPAPERS WILL KEEP YOU SAFE

SS 50Newspaper Executive and Media Investor Steve Sampson on why social media channels with pretensions to be your source of news are a dangerous joke

 

They say the definition of democracy is a free Press. There’s an understatement. You tell me – who else is going to keep you safe from Nixon or Trump. Not Facebook, who were going to give everyone “the best personalised newspaper in the world”. That’s in tatters.

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Steven Spielberg’s new film “The Post” stars Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep

Steven Spielberg’s new film “The Post” (out this Friday) is a story about the most corrupt, evil and immoral President in history lying over Vietnam, subsequently brought down by a dogged brave newspaper that simply wouldn’t give up on Watergate. Fast forward nearly 50 years and ask what has changed.

Actually. There’s one big change. Most people – mainly young people – have been conned with a tsunami of tricked up, faked up news from social networks like Facebook and Buzzfeed. One a channel for over-sharers which served 126 million people bogus Russian “news” across the US Elections. The other famous for livestreaming exploding melons while raising millions of dollars by promising investors a magical new-century media giant.

Both now in spectacular retreat with Zuckerberg set to dial down media groups in a crushing about face. They’re not sorting it, they’re in full retreat from it. They wouldn’t know a story if it bit them on their algorithm.

We still haven’t truly got to the bottom of how these social channels skewed the US and the UK Elections. Mrs May’s flatfoots were outflanked by Labour who learned much quicker how to manipulate the news feed. All parties spending huge amounts to influence their apparent voters. But short story is that a lot of voters were conned.

You might hate the Daily Mail – but only he Mail and its sister paper Mail on Sunday have got the balls among a terrified post-Leveson Press to still take on all-comers, those who would beat down the truth. Who else is going to fight our corner? YouTube? Pinterest?

I think there will be a backlash from a public newly aware that they are being misled at best, lied to. An audience which is better educated, way more informed, hugely opinionated can choose with their thumb. The social networks will retreat or risk closure by a Caligula President. No Election will ever be hi-jacked again.

Robert Redford, who starred in All The President’s Men, famously listened to a group of journalists discussing Watergate on a plane journey. They all knew the truth, none of the journalists believed it would ever come out. The Post’s Editor Ben Bradlee made certain it did.

If The Post wins Best Picture it will remind us all to never take on trust anything anyone in power says. Especially those who kiss babies. And don’t expect a movie in 50 years’ time telling how Zuckerberg or Peretti saved the world.

No. They may be smaller in circulation, less fashionable. But only newspapers will defend you. And that really is the truth.

Steve Sampson is former Assistant, Northern and Scottish Editor of The Sun newspaper, a Director of Trinity Mirror publications including the Daily Record and Sunday Mail as well as Business Insider. He was a launch presenter of Radio5 Live, founder of First Press Publishing and contributes to the BBC. He is an investor/owner across a series of digital initiatives and a media adviser.

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KELVIN MACKENZIE’S ‘EVERTON GORILLA’ COLUMN HAS DROPPED HIS BOSS RUPERT MURDOCH IN THE BROWN STUFF – MORE FOR HIS MEGA-BUCKS SKY BID THAN THE SUN

SS 50Steve Sampson, journalist and media expert, on the real fallout for Rupert Murdoch from his former Editor’s rant

 

There can hardly be a column more offensive and downright stupid than Kelvin MacKenzie’s rant in The Sun about Everton star Ross Barkley. A piece ill-judged enough to get him suspended and probably fired. They should include the idiot who schemed in a gorilla with the heading “Here’s Why They Go Ape At Ross” and whoever was editing the paper.

The Sun has now achieved an unprecedented double, banned from Liverpool and Everton. But that’s the least of it.

The newspaper division is increasingly irrelevant and unprofitable. The Sun actually made a loss in the financial year. So far nobody has made the unhelpful link to Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox £11.7B bid to buy the whole of SKY. But it won’t be long.

That will be the real worry in the Murdoch inner-sanctum this Easter weekend. James, already ripped in two by the phone hacking scandal, now sees his TV dream being consumed by the uncontrollable, marginally commercial newspapers. As if he needed it.

Kelvin only has his twice-weekly column and the £300K cheque because Rupert deems it. Most of the editorial floor hate it. A publisher approaching 90 employing a columnist aged 70 in a new world dominated by millennials under 30. Out of touch maybe?

The whole Murdoch family is constantly battling the “fit and proper” test. Those implacably against the bid going through have thrown the “Foxification” of SKY News. Right-wing racist bullies, the kind who would compare a footballer to a gorilla.

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley has a 300,000-strong petition on her desk demanding the FOX/SKY bid be vetoed by Ofcom. FOX is mired in a huge sex scandal with new sex-for-advancement allegations and stories of multi-million dollar hush money pay-offs.

Opponents argue that control over SKY will give them too much media power. The Kelvin column only pours petrol on that bonfire.

And that would be a shame. Murdoch has built SKY brick by brick. It almost cost him his empire in the early ’90s. It’s a brilliant business that has created the richest football league in the world. His media detractors (who fill their pages and screens with football he funds) never mention that.

And let’s not waste even this sentence on the hand-wringing gutless politicians who queued up for his favours. Ed Miliband take note.

He has created choice. No-one has ever forced you to consume his media, there have been no government hand-outs. He has always bet his own buck.

But he should have his people spend more time with VICE Media CEO Shane Smith. The Sun thinks running videos of a naked woman having snakes thrown into her bed is taking the brand into the future. I beg to differ.

Mocked: how Ross Barkley's injury was faked online

Mocked: how Ross Barkley’s injury was faked online

Of course, if you really want to see offensive material just logon to Twitter and Facebook. Yesterday Ross Barkley’s 399,000 Twitter fans gave him massive support. But it hadn’t been like that earlier in the week when he was thumped in a nightclub and had a less than flattering reference to his hairstyle, comparing it with pubic hair. Mocked up pictures showing his “injuries”.

Did Ross close down his account, complain to Twitter? Now, if The Sun had published them…

Steve Sampson is former Assistant, Northern and Scottish Editor of The Sun newspaper, a Director of Trinity Mirror publications including the Daily Record and Sunday Mail as well as Business Insider. He was a launch presenter of Radio5 Live, founder of First Press Publishing and contributes to the BBC. He is an investor/owner across a series of digital initiatives and a media adviser.

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WHY ATTENTION MINUTES SHOULD BE THE NEW “TRUTH” ON FACEBOOK VIDEOS – AND END THE LIES ON MULTI-MILLION VIEWS

Steve Sampson, journalist and media expert probes the reality behind Facebook and their multi-billion video views.

There are lies, damn lies – then Facebook video viewing statistics. The social network – making the world more open and connected – has been anything but open on its own market reporting.

sprouts

SPROUT OF ORDER: Even a veg video, we’re told, gets millions of views

For two years they admit they have hyped the video viewing numbers. Maybe by as high as 80 per cent according to one advertiser. You know the thing – those off-the-scale BuzzFeed food porn videos. A skyscraper of ice cream smothered in chocolate with a hamburger and fries stuffed in the middle. And supposedly 100M views. Even Brussel Sprout recipes get millions if views – supposedly.

Now it smells like something’s burning. And it should be Mark Zuckerberg’s conscience. According to the BBC: “The error affected a Facebook metric called ‘average duration of video viewed’, which was supposed to tell publishers for how long, on average, people had watched a video.

“However, the metric did not include viewers who had watched for less than three seconds in the count. Discounting the shorter views – including people who had ignored a video in their news feed – inflated the average viewing times for each video.”

zuck

OFF THE MARK: Zuckerberg’s Facebook should switch to Attention Minutes

In any other “media” business, heads would have rolled and millions been paid back to agencies and brands. The Wall Street Journal quoted ad-buying firm Publicis as saying that Facebook’s misreporting was “unacceptable”. I’ll say. These are the people who want to put YouTube to the sword. I mean, if you can’t trust Zuck, who on earth can you trust?

On average only 33 per cent of Facebook videos get watched right through. Most of them mute? Who the hell knows?. Facebook said 10 days ago that 50 per cent are watched with sound on. C4 assumes every one of their videos is mute and caption them like it is Ceefax.

Fact is Facebook is too powerful a medium to go up against. A third of the world and revenues of over $20B. And they think Murdoch is dangerous?

The only measure that should rate is “Attention Minutes”. If you got 5M views, how long was it viewed for, was it viewed right the way through. You tell a brand they can pay you £100K for a million minutes and you’ve got a whole new business. A believable business.

Then you can run your promos “old school” with offers and discounts. Do you ever see “buy now” tabs on BuzzFeed videos? Of course not, no-one stays to the end. Not even when you’re livestreaming your staff exploding a melon.

Unilad and LadBible are now apparently the world’s two biggest creators of video audiences, serving billions of views monthly. Social is where the brand audiences now live. But does that translate into real money, real ratecards against traditional media? TV is dead – but at least its measuring sticks are believable.

Steve Sampson is former Assistant, Northern and Scottish Editor of The Sun newspaper, a Director of Trinity Mirror publications including the Daily Record and Sunday Mail as well as Business Insider. He was a launch presenter of Radio5 Live, founder of First Press Publishing and contributes to the BBC. He is an investor/owner across a series of digital initiatives and a media adviser.

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BAKE OFF IS JUST THE HEADLINE. FACT IS THE BBC CANNOT SURVIVE AT THE SHARP END IN A MODERN MEDIA WORLD

Steve Sampson, journalist and media expert, on why the under fire corporation no longer has the firepower to compete.

ssj-bo

Bake Off before the Beeb lost out

The BBC were right to tell Love Productions to take their Bake Off programme and get stuffed. There comes a point where no matter how valuable the property, there’s a zero return. £75M over three years was it.

But it masks a bigger issue. The BBC simply can’t compete in a cut-throat money driven world. Especially when their main stakeholder is the dull, lumbering government. They can’t run the country, why would we believe they can run a TV business.

Netflix will spend $6B on original programming this year. The BBC licence fee is only £3.5B. Everything from TV to radio to online. EastEnders to Gaelic.

SKY paid £4.2B for the English Premiership over three years. Or over £11M per match – Hull versus Swansea. The BBC were only prepared to pay £15M for the whole Bake Off series – their biggest programme, which outperformed The Olympics in sheer viewing numbers.

ssj-derby

Manchester derby has a worldwide audience

The Manchester United/City derby on SKY only hit 2M viewers at its peak. Liverpool v Leicester did 1M. Tiny, piddling numbers in UK terms – but a staggering 900M worldwide where the real market is. Live football of any note will never appear on the BBC again unless somehow they are allowed to become SKY or Netflix. Facebook livestreamed Wayne Rooney’s testimonial.

Meanwhile the BBC’s most expensive radio output are, pound for pound, the Scottish Gaelic and Welsh language ones. £25M a year on Radio Cymru and Radio nan Gàidheal. Or the price of Bake Off.

The heirlooms have been lost one by one. Football, cricket, racing, golf, F1, Top Gear. Wimbledon next? Instead of investing, BBC bosses are being told to save £800M in the next four years while their opposition are madly investing. The government want them to post the salaries of everyone earning over £150,000 a year. Small thinking by small people in big jobs. The BBC has no chance.

And so to C4, snatchers of Bake Off for £25M a series over three years. Hang on a minute. Aren’t they owned by… errrm… the government? How come they can splash the gold when the BBC are shrink-wrapped? For a tent, now that it seems the presenting team aren’t for going.

Prime Minister May is said to be considering her C4 options. They all have from Thatcher, Major, Blair through to Brown. Options, as in flogging it. It’s the BBC they should be floating, allowing the very many top talents to run it as a modern media business. If Facebook doesn’t get there before them.

Steve Sampson is former Assistant, Northern and Scottish Editor of The Sun newspaper, a Director of Trinity Mirror publications including the Daily Record and Sunday Mail as well as Business Insider. He was a launch presenter of Radio5 Live, founder of First Press Publishing and contributes to the BBC. He is an investor/owner across a series of digital initiatives and a media adviser.

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STEVE SAMPSON ON WHY FACEBOOK WILL BECOME THE WORLD’S BIGGEST SPORT BROADCASTER

The numbers were pretty underwhelming. Facebook livestreamed Wayne Rooney’s Testimonial to its 1.7B worldwide fans – and got little over 250K live viewers by my reckoning between Manchester United and Wayne Rooney’s own page.

Mourinho-Rooney

Off and running: Rooney live on Facebook

Not great when you are talking about one of the world’s biggest football clubs. Pretty poor when you compare it with BuzzFeed blowing up a melon and getting 800K live and over 11M in catch-up.

But it worked. Bar a short loss of sound before kick-off it worked brilliantly. Great quality, all on my iPhone. The endless stream of comments was more riveting than the game. But what’s not to like?

Quite a lot if you’re SKY or BT. Both these great businesses are locked in a deadly embrace, slugging it out, spending billions. They’re flies in a jar.

SKY don’t own their market or their viewers. They’re selling a product they are buying for an ever increasing fortune. There’s no loyalty, no family. Lose football, lose your business. BT still don’t get it.

Sky

In danger: Sky don’t own their audience

SKY’s market cap is an impressive £15B. Good job. Facebook’s is $350B and climbing. One of the world’s top five companies rivalling Apple and Microsoft. They are a giant, a frightening great giant with a 1.7B audience sitting there on tap. It’s their algorithm. Not even Rupert in his monstrous pomp has ever had such reach – and control over the audience.

More and more the word “media” attaches to Facebook. They’re the dominant “media” in the US elections. And they know it. Whatever happened to the quirky social media platform for compulsive over-sharers?

Murd

Guts: Rupert Murdoch

The Rooney numbers were small. But testimonials aren’t the real thing. Murdoch bucked a market and nearly sank his business launching SKY but had the sheer guts and determination to win. I remember The Sun’s cash flow saved their backsides. But next to Facebook they are pygmies. They all are.

Facebook will bid for and win the overseas rights for the Premier League then bid and win the whole thing. They will create the first £1B match – 200M people worldwide paying a fiver. They might even pick up SKY just to get the cameras. Or BT if only to fix the broadband speeds. If you generate $20B revenue a year you could swallow them for cash. Or anything or anyone.

Oh. And don’t look to the clubs for support. Last time I went onto a football club website a hand shot out the screen and grabbed my wallet. With friends like that.

Wayne’s nil-all snore-draw against his old club Everton may have been dull viewing. Facebook were merely planning where and when to drop the bomb.

 

Steve Sampson is former Assistant, Northern and Scottish Editor of The Sun newspaper, a Director of Trinity Mirror publications including the Daily Record and Sunday Mail as well as Business Insider. He was a launch presenter of Radio5 Live, founder of First Press Publishing and contributes to the BBC. He is an investor/owner across a series of digital initiatives and a media adviser.

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STEVE SAMPSON ON “GOD IS A MAN. WHICH IS WHY WOMEN AT WORK NEED SPECIAL TREATMENT”.

Tell me a male executive amongst you who doesn’t hate (and fear) all that gender equality diversity crap. Fear because you might be sent home like Saatchi Chairman Kevin Roberts for speaking his mind. Or have the HR Gestapo breathing down your neck if you’re less than “right on” with the wimmin. Or possibly you’re planning to put a woman, any woman, on your Board to show you’ve totally embraced diversity.

SSJ1

Saatchi Chairman Kevin Roberts

Roberts made the very fair point that some women at work – in my opinion especially married women at work with kids – are looking for happiness and lifestyle above the relentless climb to the top. They’re quite happy to work for a male boss. In fact, they don’t think their male bosses have grasped it. What on earth is wrong in saying that. He should be applauded not sin-binned. He wasn’t saying they should be locked up. Just that they have other priorities.

When I was a Regional Director at Trinity Mirror, Sly Bailey took over as the boss: all heels, boobs and blonde baloney. Next thing we popped three women on the Board. Perfectly nice ladies, didn’t matter a jot that they had been elevated. In fact one of them should have been fired not promoted but that’s another story. The fearsome great bint from HR (who I nicknamed Lily Savage) stomped around the place, heaving chest and jutting chin, like something had been proved to us dinosaur males. It had – we were a bunch of wooses pandering to feminist rubbish. Not one of them is there now, including Lily.

Women are a special case. We should never forget it, we should pay it much more heed. God – clearly a man – made it that way. In all that rush to promote those three women directors we still didn’t give them a special parking place right at the door in the underground car park. Oh no – we made them walk across waste land to get to their cars in the dark.

It’s an undeniable fact – women’s lives changes when they have children, by and large men’s don’t. Your children cry for mum, not dad. When they’re ill they don’t want dad. And whether you like it or not, dad goes to his work while your employee mum stays at home. And any exception you may quote does not prove the rule.

So truly bright, driven and intelligent women make a life choice. They don’t have one child, they have three. They want that dreadful thing called “work life balance”. And why not? They have already been saddled with the rotten end of biology. Good employers should recognise that and accommodate them with short weeks, understanding they have child care to organise and pay for. We should be moving heaven and earth not to let that talent out of the door.

In one of my workplaces we had a gym and a games room but when the idea of a crèche was mooted it was shot down in flames. By male bosses. So that’s the true crime. We’re all too ready to let great talent disappear because it is pregnant and female. Or fail to understand their new motivation.

That’s why I am all in favour of employing lesbians. No-one is ever going to knock them up, they stand their round in the pub, swear and smoke like troopers and don’t put the blokes off their work. (Ok… that’s my irony button. A joke. Honest. Don’t tell HR. I mean it).

Steve Sampson is former Assistant, Northern and Scottish Editor of The Sun newspaper, a Director of Trinity Mirror publications including the Daily Record and Sunday Mail as well as Business Insider. He was a launch presenter of Radio5 Live, founder of First Press Publishing and contributes to the BBC. He is an investor/owner across a series of digital initiatives and a media adviser.

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STEVE SAMPSON ON THE ALASTAIR CAMPBELL KELVIN MACKENZIE “F” WORD EMAIL. AT LEAST HE DIDN’T CALL HIM A C*NT. NOT YET ANYWAY.

So Kelvin MacKenzie, former Sun Editor and now the paper’s star columnist, writes a volte face in his column wishing he hadn’t voted for Brexit. Alastair Campbell, famous for being Tony Blair’s communications chief, sends Kelvin an e-mail telling him it was all his and Murdoch’s fault and to f*ck off while he’s about it. And then confirmed every word of it to the Press when Kelvin published it. Class.

SSJ1I love it. I love them both, which guarantees me abuse from all sides. Kelvin was my Editor (even his phone ring tone was frightening), Alastair followed me onto the Daily Mirror journalists’ training scheme and went on to become… well… Alastair Campbell.

Doesn’t much matter if you hated how he ran Number 10 (and most Labour MPs and lobbyists did), he was the best-ever in the job.

Let’s face it. Both have, in their pomp, been the arch manipulators of the agenda. One was just as good as the other. Kelvin’s Kinnock P1 was brilliantly mocking. It killed him. We were Maggie through-and-through. There were no merciful hangings for her opponents.

Alastair, who had been on Today, Murdoch’s failed rival to the Daily Mail, convinced Kelvin’s successor and Murdoch to back Tony Blair. He may see the Aussie/American mogul as the anti-Christ now, but it suited him well enough at the time. Very well. The Sun and Murdoch were very accommodating to Blair, Labour and Campbell.

Piers Morgan, in his excellent book The Insider, recalled phoning Number 10 on a story as a courtesy only to see it nicked and passed over to The Sun as an exclusive. A Labour paper, a Labour government, favouring the Tory Sun with a story.

SSJ2In many ways Alastair’s overwhelming grip on the Press and his party probably led to Jeremy Corbyn’s rise. The old snarling lefties determined to get their hands on it after being kept caged for years, to wipe out any trace of the Blair/Campbell years. Forgetting why they were unelectable.

People say that newspapers have lost their clout. Don’t believe a word of it. I have no doubt that the Mail’s Editor Paul Dacre and Rupert Murdoch had a hand in the withdrawal of Michael Gove’s support for fellow Brexiteer Boris Johnson as Tory leader. His wife told him so.

Politicians are a shallow bunch in the main. One Minister told me they all had one sole ambition – keep getting elected. They will turn any number of cartwheels to gain the approval of the newspapers. Especially the Tories. Just ask Mrs Gove.

Mrs May, our next Prime Minister, will shudder with the horror of it all – before breaking bread with Murdoch and Dacre. If she wants to ride the good times and survive the bad she’ll need to bend the knee. They all do eventually.

In a shambolic week, the Alastair and Kelvin sideshow has been a laugh. They are both real bruisers, proud of their Scottish roots. Will they ever kiss and make up? Parph. Glasgow kiss more like.

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STEVE SAMPSON ON THE US ELECTION. IT WAS BUZZFEED WOT WON IT

Media commentator and leading newspaper executive Steve Sampson on the growing concerns over how social media is influencing the race to the White House.

Sun-tastic: Kinnock killers

Sun-tastic: Kinnock killers

The definition of democracy is a free press. When Neil Kinnock lost the 1992 UK General Election The Sun Newspaper famously splashed: “It’s The Sun Wot Won It”.

Kinnock blamed the paper for his defeat. I was an Assistant Editor. We had given him a sound kicking every step of the campaign. Everyone knew where we stood – generally speaking on his throat. But we never denied him space, never denied him the right to campaign or post Labour Party adverts. And the socialist Daily Mirror acted as a balance.

So why does BuzzFeed refusing to carry any advertising from the Trump Presidential Campaign make me feel uneasy. A decision taken by the founder and CEO Jonah Peretti. Who likened Trump to cigarette smoking – a health risk. Banned from BuzzFeed.

If it wasn’t so serious it would one of those wacky listicals they love so much. “10 Killer Diseases Less Harmful Than Trump”.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans get their news on social media. Fully two-thirds of Facebook users get their news from the site. That’s 44% of the population. More than the cumulative reach of YouTube, Twitter, Yahoo, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Reddit and Tumblr – the next seven biggest social media news sources.

Last month it was revealed that Facebook had promoted BuzzFeed as one of the 10 most trustworthy news sites, replacing Yahoo News.

Facebook last month had to deny allegations that its trending topics team deliberately suppressed conservative views. But then promised to tighten up the feature.

News of an internal Facebook poll headlined: “What responsibility does Facebook have to help prevent President Trump in 2917” does little to convince anyone that the geeks aren’t becoming over medicated. And boxing considerably out of their ring.

Peretti: Played his Trump card

Peretti: Played his Trump card

I have great admiration for Peretti. He might just be one of the great media thinkers of this generation. But not when his company says that “BuzzFeed could not countenance” having employees make ads, or working at the company and having our site promoting things that limit our freedom and make it harder for them to live their lives.”

Christ almighty, the poor dears. Give me a tree to hug. Could you imagine the Wapping inkies giving that as a reason for stopping the paper in the bad old days?

No. The real concern is that these guys have accumulated huge power and now it’s some kind of game. BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith is quoted on Trump: “The decision was from the business side and would not affect coverage of the Trump campaign”.

But it already has. The “business side” is now the headline. It has had as big an impact as any BuzzFeed election story. Bigger.

They used to paint Murdoch as the devil incarnate. Nowadays it’s only the old soakers on The Guardian who peddle that line. His power is positively puny against the reach of these social media giants. The mysterious algorithms are a more insidious and way more powerful force than any tabloid front page.

Of course, if the online audience think for one moment they’re being used and abused they will dial out in their millions. Just ask the Fine Bros who tried to trademark the word React, suing anyone who got in their way. It cost them their audience. Facebook and BuzzFeed – no matter how big they think they are – would be advised to remember that.

It’s the nation who ultimately must decide. Not Jonah Peretti or Mark Zuckerberg. Now that’s democracy.

Steve Sampson is former Assistant, Northern and Scottish Editor of The Sun newspaper, a Director of Trinity Mirror publications including the Daily Record and Sunday Mail as well as Business Insider. He was a launch presenter of Radio5 Live, founder of First Press Publishing and contributes to the BBC. He is an investor/owner across a series of digital initiatives and a media adviser.

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STEVE SAMPSON ON WHY THE COPS NEED THE ROBBERS (sorry.. journalists) AND HOW TO COMMIT THE PERFECT MURDER

Newspaper Executive Steve Sampson on how the thin blue line of trust between police and journalists is being swamped by rules and regulations.

 

A senior Murder Squad detective once told me how to commit the perfect murder. Or damn close to it. Over several drinks, end of a headline-grabbing trial where a cheating husband was accused of doing away with his wife in gruesome circumstances. The jury nailed him. And his lover.

The College of Policing has just issued a new set of media guidelines which they think will “formalise” the relationship between the Police and The Press. A wide variety of circumstances where the Press Office is the only source of information including all serious crimes, anything relating to national media and identification of suspects.

The Press rightly think it’s another nail in the coffin of information free-flow, making a hard job even more impossible. Have you ever seen a set of “regulations” which made things clearer?

Journalists complain that country-wide there’s a creeping secrecy, police forces less open than they once were. Believe it. Why would a cop speak to the Press? They risk the sack if there’s a comeback. High profile screw-ups like the Cliff Richard and the BBC debacle make the wrong sort of headlines and destroy that balance of information and revelation. And after Leveson and all the police bung headlines any half decent cop would run a mile when he sees a reporter coming.

Do the press offices mean well? I’m not sure they do. Most are populated by remaindered journalists who couldn’t make it in the real world of media. Risk takers? Hardly. Where’s the reward for taking a risk.

Trust is everything. When I was Scottish Editor of The Sun one jumped-up little Procurator Fiscal wanted to interview me under caution. We had splashed on a female murder victim found buried in a shallow grave deep into a remote Highland wood. Strangled with her dog’s lead. How did we get our information, he demanded? Was it from the murderer? The insinuation being we were too thick or naïve to know. Which would have meant that a police officer had done it. And by the way, we’re not revealing our sources. Case closed.

Press Gazette quoted College of Policing chief of staff Oliver Cattermole as saying: “We are trying to get a balance around some clarity on what looks like good ethical professional behaviour, consistency, clear expectations on both sides but still encourage that openness and transparency and accountability.”

It’s never going to happen. The Press Office is fine for 20 dead in a motorway pile-up, crowd trouble at a football match. But the day-to-day cop/journalist relationship is based solely on creating an understanding, both sides knowing what to give, where to draw a line.

I especially fear for local newspapers, already emasculated by their own managements let alone the police. Keep fighting the good fight.

The perfect murder? Aah. That would be breaking a confidence. And anyway – why should I give you a clue? I don’t know you, how can I trust you? I have ethics you know. I hope that’s not a 20 quid note in your Press pass.

 

Steve Sampson is former Assistant, Northern and Scottish Editor of The Sun newspaper, a Director of Trinity Mirror publications including the Daily Record and Sunday Mail as well as Business Insider. He was a launch presenter of Radio5 Live, founder of First Press Publishing and contributes to the BBC. He is an investor/owner across a series of digital initiatives and a media advisor.

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WHEN IS A SEX STORY NOT A SEX STORY. WHEN IT THREATENS THE PRESS MORE THAN THE SEXY BEASTS.


Newspaper Executive Steve Sampson on the latest scandal to engulf a government Minister. This time it’s the Culture Minister in charge of… The Press.

JWSo a senior government Minister has been banging a prostitute (sorry Guardian/BBC… sex worker) who specialises in domination and sado-masochism. He thought she was a nice young girl who found his charms irresistible. The Press knew different.

What would any responsible Editor do under such circumstances? Simple – weigh up the threat to his own survival. And in this case, the very survival of his industry. This is not any old Minister. This is John Whittingdale, the man who sits in judgement of the Press.

Editors have a finely honed survival instinct. One by one they dug into the story, and carefully filed it in the draw marked “He Seriously Owes Us One”. And anyone who says anything different is barking. I did precisely that as a Regional Editor of The Sun with a gay judge, and any number of straying footballers happy to sell our bingo cards as a trade-off. Nothing wrong with any of that.

Poor Mr Whittingdale. Now he knows why she found him so fascinating. The River Terrace at The House to watch the fireworks, nights at The Opera, foreign trips with MTV, posh nosh at the top restaurants, laughing at all his jokes. Then back for tea and medals at The Brothel and God knows what else with God knows who else. And she supposedly had links to the underworld.

This tale would be on any front page of any paper any day of any week in the tallest black type one notch down from Death of Diana. The spot reserved exclusively for Shagging Minsters. Publish Sunday for Monday, keep the fire stoked all week. Resignation by Thursday. What a belter of a story. Way better than some Hugh Grant hag.

Of course the Press has let him off the hook. This a story precisely in the public interest and certainly a story in which the public are interested. He sits in judgement, is a member of the Cabinet. He is utterly compromised – and that has nothing to do with whether or not he is a man of consummate honour. He looks ridiculous.

Whittingdale is an honourable man I’m sure and unimpeachable. What the hell is he doing on a dating site? How naïve. A social losers’ dating site. Christ, the sheer low class shame of it all. He should be sacked for stupidity if nothing else. But of course he won’t be. The bizarre thing is this probably makes him bomb proof.

And all of this played against the background of the Super Star and the 3-some Super Injunction. Which, unless you are truly analogue man, you already know about in consummate detail from Twitter and Facebook. And any other digital platform you like. Possibly even Match.com.

It’s the nuances that are so fascinating. No court would have stood against the Press on this matter, yet they stand against naming the super-injuncting, sexathon, swapping cheating threesome defending their right to privacy.

The Guardian (who would love to nail Whittingdale for being on the side of papers they hate) are tied in knots having to applaud the popular papers for their “restraint”. No wonder they’re going bust.

And never have Hacked Off been so hacked off. They want privacy for everyone except poor old Whittingdale.

Kiss and tell is old hat. The Whittingdale story is different. I have always been uncomfortable with using press freedom to justify delving into Hugh Grant’s tedious and seedy life. It would be an enormous threat to our way of life if we were to lose that freedom because of it.

Steve Sampson is former Assistant, Northern and Scottish Editor of The Sun newspaper, a Director of Trinity Mirror publications including the Daily Record and Sunday Mail as well as Business Insider. He was a launch presenter of Radio5 Live, founder of First Press Publishing and contributes to the BBC. He is an investor/owner across a series of digital initiatives and a media advisor.

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