Monthly Archives: October 2008

Breaking News: Russell Brand resigns from Radio 2

Well, at least he’s technically not been sacked this time!

XFM have just announced that Brand has resigned from his Radio 2 show over a prank phone call he made to former Fawlty Towers star, Andrew Sachs.

The BBC suspended him earlier today, along with his ‘partner in crime’ Jonathan Ross.

In a statement, the BBC apologised for the “gross lapse of taste by the performers and the production team.”

Ross has since made a formal apology through his solicitors, Schillings.More to follow.

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What is Max Clifford’s interview with Heat all about?

Kerry Katona has sacked her publicist, Max Clifford, after he gave a frank interview about her to Heat Magazine.

In it, he accuses her husband, Mark Croft, of being ‘controlling’ and claims that he is worried about her drinking habits.

Now it is not usual for PR people to make themselves the story – although Clifford is the exception to this rule.

He is truly a ‘celebrity publicist’ as well as somebody who publicises celebrities.

But what exactly was he up to in this case?

1. Fatherly concern?

Much has been made of Clifford and Katona’s close relationship.

Katona apparently named her son after him and Clifford, in his turn, described her as his ‘adopted daughter’.

Perhaps, then, he really is concerned for her and felt it was worth sacrificing a client to save a friend.

If she really isn’t returning his calls, then maybe the interview is an attempt to make her seek help.

I grant you that ‘caring,sharing Max’ is not the image most associated with Clifford (mainly because he chooses not to present himself like this).

But I have spoken to a friend of his in the past who told me that he is actually very different from his public persona.

Surely everybody has their good side?

2.Damage limitation?

As I mentioned in a previous post, Max Clifford is an exceptionally skilful publicist and it would have been very odd for him to have dropped the ball in such a calamitous way over Katona’s This Morning interview.

This could, then, be a way of keeping his professional reputation in tact.

He can claim that he has been squeezed out by those in her life with more influence and so was prevented from giving her the advice she obviously needed.

Or, to paraphrase, ‘Not me guv’.

His ‘concerns’ would make this seem less callous.

3. Strategic withdrawal?

No celebrity publicist wants to be seen to dump their client when the going gets tough.

By giving such a frank interview, he would know that he was going to enrage Katona.

It was also then inevitable that she would sack him.

He looks like the injured party and everyone’s a winner.

Except for Katona, obviously.

What do you think?

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Is Dawn Porter the real Bridget Jones?

For those of you who have not yet discovered Dawn Porter, you are missing out.

Especially if you are a bloke, my boyfriend helpfully (and suicidally) informs me.

To explain: Dawn is a method journalist. Or, as I like to think of her, a method girlnalist.

Her approach is to take a topic, usually of particular interest to young women, and live it wholeheartedly.

Size Zero

The first time I ever saw her was in a documentary called ‘Super Slim Me’ in which she was challenged to go from a Size 12 (UK size) to a Size 4 (the much-hyped Size Zero in the US).

And boy did she do it, taking the viewer every step of the way from depression to a slimming addiction.

Open-minded

What I like most about Dawn is her wholehearted willingness to engage with anyone and her total lack of guile.

Take her documentary on polygamy this week, for example.

It was surprisingly warm and showed a human side of polygamy seldom seen. There was no attempt at underhand exposure just a genuine interest in what it’s like to live as a ‘plural wife’.

The standout section for me was her interview with the ‘first wife’ in the house, who had lived with her husband for 17 years before he married a second woman.

It was both frank, moving and was a whole new look at polygamy from inside.

Unthreatening

She is also completely unthreatening, with her quirky fashion sense and wide-eyed childlike demeanour.

No wonder the polygamists let her in.

In fact, she is the embodiment of the ‘Bridget Jones’ school of journalism. (She even opened her latest series with “I have been single for 4 years”)

You can easily imagine her sliding down firemen’s poles or starting interviews with “So Eleanor, did you fancy Kafir the first time you saw him?”.

Youth

I also think Dawn Porter could be an answer to engaging young people in news issues.

She looks and sounds like every girl, she voices what everyone wants to know and is totally approachable.

Have a look at her blog where she dispenses fashion advice at the same time as promoting her new shows.

In fact Dawn Porter has pulled off a rare feat: men slightly fancy her and women genuinely like her.

With Dawn leading the charge, the future of youth journalism looks deservedly rosy.

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Katona Catastrophe won’t kill Christmas for Iceland

Frozen food chain Iceland has announced it will still run a series of Christmas ads featuring Kerry Katona, despite her disastrous appearance on This Morning.

Not that the firm aren’t worried about the effect it could have on their image.

As Katona’s publicist, Max Clifford, explained to The Telegraph :

“Iceland are worried because she is supposed to be this happy capable young mum and the interview today doesn’t give that perception.”

Hmm, capable young mum?

All of the ads I’ve seen in the past seem to centre on the phenomenal lack of effort she needs, or wants, to put into feeding her on-screen family.

Frozen roast dinner in a box, anyone?

It’s great news for Kerry, whom I can’t help but feel a bit sorry for this week. 

Still, I would imagine that the prospect of yet more ‘why bother with all that freshly-cooked food nonsense?’ messaging won’t fill Jamie Oliver (sainthood pending) with festive cheer.

Who knows? It might even drive him to impale himself on a Turkey Twizzler…

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Kerry Katona on This Morning

Former Atomic Kitten singer, Kerry Katona, has hit the headlines with a less-than-compos-mentis appearance on ‘This Morning’.

Have a look at the video above and see what you think.

This Morning executives have since claimed that they were unaware of her condition – whether prescription drug or alcohol-induced – before putting her on air.

Whether you believe them or not, and whatever the reason behind her erratic behaviour, there are some fundamental questions which should be asked of both sides:

1. If she was on medication that made her slur her words first thing in the morning, why, oh why did she agree to be on a morning show?

Surely she must be aware that this happens? Or if not her, then why not her husband who, according to Phillip Schofield, accompanied her to the studio?

2. Where were her PR people when she needed them?  

It’s all very well Max Clifford being ‘concerned for her’ after the event but he is her publicist. He is paid to ensure this doesn’t happen in the first place.

Didn’t he send a minion with her?

Or even detail someone to watch it on TV?

One very swift call to the gallery along the lines of ‘cut it now or I’ll ensure not so much as a tailored butt-cheek of any of my extensive client list will be touching your sofa until next Christmas’ should have done it, surely?

I know Clifford needs This Morning as much as they need him, but I cannot believe that he doesn’t have a bit of leverage he could use, even if just out of compassion for his client.

3. Was it deliberate?

It is also worth bearing in mind that Clifford is an extremely skilful PR practitioner.

I have sat in a debate where he opened by asserting that much of what you read in the papers is lies and that he knows this because most of them are his.

For him, or his firm, to drop the ball in this way is very surprising.

Which leads naturally to the question: was this all deliberate? Is Katona being positioned as the British Britney in a bid to launch a comeback?

I sincerely hope not. It would be a move that is cynical beyond belief

4. Shouldn’t it be fairly easy to establish whether she was drunk or not?

The simple fact is that people who have been drinking smell of booze.

And to be slurring that much she would have had to have drunk a lot.

If Phillip Schofield (a childhood hero, so this pains me greatly) did indeed kiss her on the cheek before they started the segment, the smell should have knocked him over backwards.

And if so, she should never have been put on air.

I am sure more details will emerge.

If it does come out that anybody at This Morning knew what state she was in before the interview, then heads should definitely roll.

However, once she was installed on the sofa, Schofield had little choice but to question her about her condition.

To simply ignore it would have been negligent in the extreme.

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Sloane Ranger Danger for Channel 4

Oh dear.

Who have Channel 4 News got in for this evening’s final segment?

Peter York, author of “Cooler, Faster, More Expensive: The Return of the Sloane Ranger.”

A man so sloaney he is actually flirting with the camera beneath his immaculate (and spectacularly anti-gravitational) coiffure.

I’m afraid that this is Channel 4 at its worst.

To explain: ostensibly, this is a light final segment suggesting that class could be the real reason behind the whole ‘Osborne-Rothschild-Mandelson-I can’t even begin to spell it’ yacht furore.

(Now there are 2 words you don’t get to use together every day.)

However, it’s not coming across as light and fun.

In fact, it is verging on sneering inverse snobbery.

It’s all in the presentation

Now, let’s get this straight: I like light items. I am also generally quite a fan of Channel 4 News; it is informative, engagingly-presented and extremely fair.

I also think that Channel 4’s underlying point probably is right; Nat Rothschild presumably is a bit pissed off that his Corfu gatherings have provided ammunition for the latest inter-party bickering.

But the presentation of it had the bitter taste of a class-swipe

Firstly, there is the lazy cliched picture of George Osborne and Nathaniel Rothschild in top hats.

Then the reference to exclusive Oxford dining society, The Bullingdon Club, and a comparison between their respective public schools.

And to top (hat) it all: the revelation that George Osborne’s nickname was ‘Oik’.

It was a great unique angle but Channel 4 needs to beware appearing to wage a classist war themselves.

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Boris Johnson: the Media Mayor or a Pyramid of Piffle?

Mayor Boris

Boris Johnson

I  should start, as all good things related to local government must, with a declaration of interest:

I like Boris Johnson.

Whatever you may think of his shambolic persona or his political views, you have to admit that the man can turn a phrase.

Take his opening gambit to Mayor’s Questions this week, for example:

He dismissed media coverage of the economic crisis as hysteria that would have us believe that “the sky is dark with falling bankers”.

It certainly raised a laugh and had an impact.

Until I read his latest blog post – a copy of his Telegraph column from this week – and found the same pithy phrase nestling in it.

Which, as Carrie Bradshaw might say, “got me to wondering” how far does Boris the Journalist affect Boris the Mayor? And what about the other way round?

Boris the Mayor

As a journalist, Boris understands the power of words.

Watching him from the public gallery at Mayor’s Questions this week, it was easy to see how his linguistic dexterity gives him the upper hand.

He uses clever witticisms as a powerful tool to bat away inconvenient questions with the appearance of nothing more strenuous than a spot of gentle ‘whiff-whaff’.

This allows him to dominate proceedings with outward confidence.

It also gives him license to dress up his facts and policy points in an engaging way; The ‘spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down’, if you like.

The Power of the Soundbite

Crucially, he understands the importance of a soundbite.

Boris Johnson is eminently quotable and, if you are good for a quote, you will get media coverage.

Pretty handy if you happen to be trying to push the interests of a whole city…

This was also something that Boris’s predecessor, Ken Livingstone, understood and did well.

Brand Boris

However, the fundamental difference between Livingstone and Johnson is one of image.

Livingstone wore his heart on his sleeve when it came to his role as Mayor and this earnestness often translated into an abrasive style when dealing with the press.

Likening a reporter to a ‘concentration camp guard‘ probably didn’t help much either.

Johnson, on the other hand, truly understands the power of ‘image’. In fact, he is possibly one of the most image-savvy politicians in Britain.

Now I realise this may sound like an odd thing to say of a man with a haircut like a haystack and the worst-fitting suits in Westminster but bear with me.

What do we associate with politicians today? Either slick, be-suited and smiling or worthy but dull.

What Boris Johnson has done is to carve out an external image of the anti-politician.

If David Cameron is the slick ‘salesman’ of the Conservative party, Boris is velcro made from tweed.

But it is precisely this carefully-built cover of the ‘affable buffoon’ that allows him to engage his audience and argue his agenda without appearing to preach.

It is politics by stealth.

Boris the Journalist

While Johnson’s journalistic experiences have clearly helped him in his role of Mayor, the outlook doesn’t look so rosy if you turn the tables.

One of the primary functions of a journalist is to hold authority to account.

Boris IS authority now. Real authority: he has the fates of 7 million Londoners in his hands.

His journalism can’t help but be neutered as a result.

I cannot imagine him now writing something so controversial that it would force him to apologise to the entire City of Liverpool. Or the whole country of Papua New Guinea.

Surely his Telegraph column is now no more than a national soapbox from which he can promote London? Or else discuss ‘safe’ subjects on anodyne topics?

Much as I enjoy his writing, is it now time for for Johnson the journalist to put down his pen?

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