Generally our PR remit doesn’t usually involve A list celebs although we have worked with a few B, C and D listers over the years - all in the quest for good old fashioned column inches! However, the recent Clare Balding debacle, where the sports presenter wanted to approve a journalist’s copy before it went to print, is something most PRs and journalists can relate to.
Clare insisted on proof-reading, before significantly editing, an interview with journalist Ginny Dougary for Saga – the glossy magazine aimed at the over 50s.
Dougary then wrote a scathing commentary about it for The Guardian, explaining how sections of the article were removed and replaced with self-promoting copy about Balding’s latest book.
Ooooh, that’s a sure-fire way to hack off even the most laid back, erm, hack, and it resulted in the journo insisting her byline was removed from the article!!!
Dougary asked ‘Who is this insecure diva who does not know better about what should be an essential divide between journalism and public relations?’ We can see her point. When you give a journalist a written press release, they can use it how they want, as long as they don’t amend any quotes, although they can crop them, or not use them at all.
However, with an interview, there’s an unwritten agreement between the PR, the client and the journalist that anything that’s said can be printed. In return, the client benefits from a nice plug for their work, product, service etc.
This is because interviews have to be real – who wants to read an ‘interview’ only to find out that it was penned by person themselves or their PR representatives. Plus, as a reader, that’s often the appeal of an exclusive interview!
It’s probably fair to say that all PR pros will have been asked by clients whether they’ll have the opportunity to read and approve interviews before they are published, we certainly have, but it’s our job to explain why that it isn’t possible. In some instances, journalists do request that we copy-check interviews, particularly if it’s about a technical or complex subject and that’s fine, but we know better than to re-write them, and will simply point out any factual inaccuracies.
There have now been lots of follow-up articles appearing about the ‘saga’ and one of the most interesting ones came from Dan Wootton at The Sun who revealed the celebs who do and don’t make copy control demands, which throws up some interesting results. Generally speaking, it would appear the more famous they are, the more likely they are to open up to the media.
Below is a snapshot of celebs who do and don’t ask for copy approval when speaking to The Sun.
These don’t ask for copy approval:-
Madonna, Paul McCartney, Pink, Dolly Parton, Ed Sheeran, Celine Dion, Simon Cowell, Shania Twain, Joan Collins, Harry Styles, James Corden and Gary Barlow.
These do ask for copy approval:-
Peter Andre, Lauren Goodger, Paul Hollywood, Gareth Bale, Patsy Kensit, Kym Marsh, Ronan Keating, Sharon Osbourne, Sarah Harding, Will.i.am, Kristina Rihanoff and Michelle Mone.
What Dan doesn’t say though is whether The Sun allows them to make their changes!
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