We wait to see what the forthcoming judicial inquiry makes of relationships between the police and the press in general and between Scotland Yard and Rupert Murdoch’s News International in particular.
During many years’ reporting on Scotland Yard’s successes and failures, I was well aware that crime correspondents from the Sun and the News of the World have excellent contacts in the Met. They have to. Crime stories are the staple diet of tabloid newspapers and these journalists work in a fiercely competitive market.
But what about the relationship at the top of these organisations, between the senior police ranks and the top executives? Even experienced crime correspondents who know what makes the world go round, will have been surprised at how often they have had lunch or dinner together.
So have they both ignored some of the golden rules of media relations? For example:
- Don’t get too close. Work with journalists professionally but never expect them to be your friends.
- Don’t favour some journalists over others. The unfavoured will take every opportunity to get revenge. This doesn’t mean, by the way, that you have to tell all journalists everything, at the same time. Some will have taken a particular interest in your organisation and your project. Don’t rob them of their exclusives.
- And the oldest rule of all. News is unpredictable and uncontrollable. Neither Scotland Yard nor Rupert Murdoch, tough operators though they are, are managing to ride the tiger at the moment.
Neil Bennett has worked as a BBC correspondent in crime, home affairs, sport and health.