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and finally...


Leaking is good news and a public service


Stop blaming leakers and praise honesty, says Chris Proctor It’s unspeakable. An outrage. An


I


’m horrified at the poor treatment of people who quietly go about their business of leaking confidential information


about their employers. Leaking is a perfectly normal human activity, like smoking, drinking or gambling. Personally, I look forward to the day when there will be no stigma attached to the PR professional who announces proudly: “‘I’m just off for a leak.” My heart bled for Sonia Khan when


she was frogmarched from No 10, accused of passing Brexit chit-chat to the Remain team. An employment expert declared later that the young media adviser may have been unfairly dismissed. Of course she was! She was unquestionably ‘advising’, which is what she’s paid to do. Good on her. And I was outraged to hear that there is a government inquiry into that chap in Washington who passed on a few emails from the UK ambassador dismissing the Trump administration as ‘inept’ and ‘uniquely dysfunctional’. What these born-again anti-leaking extremists fail to recognise is that people working in PR and comms are journalists. And if you’re a journalist, you are desperate to tell a story. It’s not just how you earn your money. It’s part of your make-up. If you don’t feel a need to tell tales or spread muck, you’re in the wrong job. Imagine. You’re sitting in your PR office and a brilliant story strolls in – poor results, bad behaviour, potential sackings, underhand skulduggery. You know, all the interesting stuff. Then Authority arrives and tells you to keep it under wraps.


affront. It’s like a parent telling a child there is chocolate cake on the table – but they can’t eat it. Or someone in a pub leaning over confidently to whisper, “I could tell you a few stories about Boris…” then doesn’t. It’s behaviour that contravenes the Geneva Convention. If you want to keep a secret, don’t tell


a journalist. How difficult is that? The difficulty stems from the differences between journalists and humans. Hearing a good story, a journalist will assess it, distribute it and claim it as their own work. That is normal. A human, on the other hand, will ask the totally unconnected question: “Where did the information come from?” Organisations do it all the time.


Whenever news of their failings appear in the press, they rush around pointing fingers. It’s easier than sorting out the problem that’s been reported. Incidentally if you happen to be an


inveterate leaker, the best solution is to be the head of communications. You’ll be appointed to carry out the inquiry into the leak. Barring any George Washington inclinations on your part, you’re in the clear. In fact, the job is terribly easy. You identity someone who is out of favour, wait a few weeks, then draw up a report saying that while you have no evidence, an obvious candidate is that person. Everyone is satisfied, except the individual named, who is on the way out anyway. Fingers crossed, the Washington


email inquiry has been entrusted to the perpetrator, and that he or she is an avid reader of this column. I mean, honestly. The ambassador was shown to believe the Trump administration was ‘inept’.


“ ”


We Brits should rejoice, confident


that Our Man In Washington is both perceptive and informed. It is a first-class example of a ‘good news’ story. Had Sir Kim Darroch described the US administration as ‘well honed’ and ‘excellently led’, we’d have to worry about the quality of our diplomats. I favour establishing an official post of


‘leaker’, alongside official channels. The diplomats can report on ‘meaningful discussions with the respected first citizen of our closest ally’; while the official leaker gives us the inside gen. In this case, a red-faced, sulky gent inclined towards temper tantrums and name- calling (he dismissed our man Sir Kim Darroch as a ‘wacky pompous fool’), who uninvites critics to his parties and won’t speak to them any more. It also provides convincing support – were it needed – for Sir Kim’s leaked suggestion that Trump might be ‘diplomatically clumsy’. The leaker’s account is solid,


We Brits should rejoice, confident that Our Man In Washington is both perceptive and informed


newsworthy stuff, especially when a UK government seems intent on making the US its major trading partner and adopting the role of official poodle. Isn’t it useful to know our top diplomat over there thinks the administration is ‘dysfunctional; unpredictable; and faction riven’? Instead, we’re ferreting around


looking for a mole. So some individual low down the food-chain gets the shove or gets banged up in Belmarsh with Julian Assange and, meanwhile, everyone acknowledges that what Sir Kim Darroch said is entirely factual. I’d award Sir Kim a gold star and a CBE; and I’d pat my mate the leaker on the back and thank him for his public service.


theJournalist | 29


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