Tabloids are running scared of Leveson, claims Max Clifford

Dec 15, 2011
Nigel Horne

Will celebrity journalism ever be the same again, asks the reality stars’ go-to PR man?

PR GURU Max Clifford has not lost the knack of titillating journalists with his little bag of scoops. He has told The Times that Britain’s tabloid editors are so scared of the response of Lord Leveson, whose inquiry into press ethics remains ongoing, that they are declining to publish sensational stories Clifford has offered them.

“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,” said Clifford, who was named Britain’s “most influential PR professional” by The Guardian this summer.

“There are no illegal methods involved in obtaining either story but the editors are worried about anything that touches on the private lives of the rich and famous. They are thinking ‘How would Leveson respond to this?’ rather than ‘That’s a bloody good story, let’s get it in the paper’.”

It’s not just Leveson who is making the tabloid editors twitchy – it’s the readers as well, says Clifford.

“Readers have become more aware of how the press gets its stories and editors are frightened of alienating them. They [the editors] are worried that the big stories which previously gave them circulation gains might have the opposite effect in the current climate.”

So what might these two juicy stories be that Clifford is having such difficulty hawking around Fleet Street?

All Clifford will say is that one involves a TV personality (that hardly narrows it) alleged to be involved in serial infidelity (that narrows it not at all) and financial wrongdoing (okay, that narrows it slightly).

The other concerns the private life of a sports figure and, according to the Times, “Clifford’s client apparently has information which would correct false rumours that have circulated widely on the internet”. (What on earth can he mean?)

Poor old Max. The man behind the famous Sun headline ‘Freddie Starr Ate My Hampster’, who has represented more secretly gay footballers and kiss-and-tell reality TV babes than any man in PR, and was himself a victim of phone-hacking at the News of the World, says the Leveson inquiry “has already changed the face of tabloid journalism and in some ways is making newspapers behave more responsibly. Whether it’s for ever or not remains to be seen.”

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