Writing in the paper, Eleanor says the truth is often irrelevant when it comes to protecting a celebrity image. She cites a recent interview she did with a woman celebrity, who had a new movie to promote, for the Sunday Times magazine. “I found it strange when I asked her if she was still with the father of her two youngest children,” says Eleanor, “and she said, ‘Um… yes… um…’ It seemed a strange way to talk about a relationship and I was also surprised when she said her idea of a perfect holiday was to be with her girlfriends and not her family. I concluded all was not well.”
However, when the feature was published Eleanor relates how a fan on Twitter said the interview must be fake (it was recorded on tape) and the publicist slammed it as ‘abysmal’ and ‘inaccurate’ as well as sending her several long emails accusing Eleanor of ‘casting nasty aspersions in her relationships.’
It seems Eleanor was right however as a few weeks later it was announced the celebrity was indeed ending her relationship with her partner.
But, according to her, the ‘control circus’ is typical with celebrities and their publicists. “A few agents and publicists hold the keys to legions of stars – upset one and say goodbye to any more interviews,” she explains.
And it’s not just celebrities. She goes on to say how even interviewing powerful figures can be fraught with issues. “Often when you interview a powerful figure, more access of a glamorous assignment or juicy scoop is offered in return for favourable coverage.”
She then cites one famous multi-millionaire she recently interviewed. “I was rather rude about him,” she confesses, adding that his publicists have not been in touch since.
You might think all this is harmless but the danger is it makes it very hard for journalists to write the truth and easier for celebrities to promote themselves in a way that might not be entirely honest.
According to Eleanor, in financial journalism the situation is even worse. She claims: “One business editor says: ‘There is a bunch of people out there, could be in an external PR firm, or in-house or even the chief executives themselves, who think lying is fine. They will deny something is true, say black is white or night is day with no compunction at all. For them the truth is irrelevant.”
Eleanor adds that the lying game is dangerous for all of us. “For politicians it destroys the public’s trust. In banking a trust deficit is undermining the entire economic system…these days when you do prise a story out of the control freaks, it is often denied, even when it’s true.”
And she warns the danger is if journalists are even more tightly controlled by new legislation then it is the public who will suffer because they will increasingly not be told the truth.
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