PR supremo Max Clifford claims that the Leveson Inquiry into press standards has tabloid editors running scared on stories on the private lives of celebrities.
In an interview in The Times yesterday, Clifford said that tabloid editors were being very cautious as they feared a backlash from readers.
And Lord Justice Leveson commented yesterday, at his inquiry into press standards, that he had “no doubt” newspapers have reflected on the ethical issues facing the industry in recent months – quoting Clifford’s interview in The Times as evidence.
Clifford told The Times: “The atmosphere is like I have never known it in 40 years. The inquiry has already changed the face of tabloid journalism and in some ways is making newspapers behave more responsibly.”
He pointed out: “There are two major stories that have come to me in recent weeks which newspaper editors would be running over burning coals to get if the Leveson inquiry wasn’t going on.
“There is no illegal method involved in obtaining either story but the editors are worried about anything that touches on the private lives of the rich and famous.”
“Clifford said there was a clear public interest in publishing the two stories that he discussed with editors, but they were reluctant to do so.
He told The Times that one involves alleged serial infidelity and financial wrongdoing by a TV personality.
The other concerns the private life of a sports figure and Clifford’s client apparently has information that would correct false rumours on the internet.
Clifford added: “They [the editors] are thinking: ‘How would Leveson respond to this?‘, rather than: ‘That’s a bloody good story: let’s get it in the paper’.
“...readers have become more aware of how the press gets its stories and editors are frightened of alienating them.
“They are worried that the big stories which previously gave them circulation gains might have the opposite effect in the current climate.”