A question: given that he is in court today, by what means has Max Clifford managed to stay out of the news?
He knows a lot!
Prejudice and sub judice. If something is reported before a trial that may influence a jury, it is considered prejudicial. Hence the two men arrested in Woolwich the other day are described as murder suspects, despite what might appear to be overwhelming evidence. It is up to the prosecution to prove an offence has been committed and the court to come to a judgement on guilt or innocence. In the US, Sub Judice is a lot laxer, hence wall to wall coverage before a case gets to court.
The editor and publisher of a new English title that writes a prejudicial sorry in the UK can be held in contempt of court and go to prison - hence all the rather sparse reports about men in their 60s, 70s and 80s being arrested as part of the investigation. Rule of thumb is that you can only report what the police say and what the court says, and you need to be careful of reporting Police quotes anyway - a brand new bobby who doesn't know the ropes combined with an inexperienced reporter can destroy a prosecution before it ever comes to court.
Background: 15 years as a journo, NCTJ albeit with Scottish Law training. and The legal system, laws and courts in Scotland are different from England. I went straight into business reporting, so my working knowledge of criminal law reporting is rusty. One of the coppers here will be a more accurate source.
No one to sell his story for him?
Rule of thumb is that you can only report what the police say and what the court says, and you need to be careful of reporting Police quotes anyway
But does this apply in all cases, be the person a figure with access to many key people's backstories or a regular Joe? Surely the bare facts, i.e. that so and so is due to appear in X place at Y time is reportable?
Also, if this is the case why can the fact that Clifford is appearing at court be reported buried away on the BBC website but not appear on television news? Am I simply wrong in thinking this is newsworthy or is it that he knows too much, as suggested above?
He knows a lot!
Max Clifford's whole business is set up around controlling what and how stories appear in the paper (or don't).
Not many journalists would dare write a piece bringing attention to Clifford for risk of being 'blacklisted' by him. It's a case of not biting the hand that feeds you.
OK, so if this is right, and Max Clifford has a deeply unhealthy hold on news organisations operating in Britain, does anyone know how this works in practice, i.e. who knobbles who and what pressures are applied against who?
For eff's sake.
There are limited facts available on the case - and that limits what can be reported. You can't report the same facts again and again - because there's nothing new to them. Keep repeating them, and that starts to look prejudicial. And Judges hate that, almost as much as editors hate going to jail for contempt of court.
At the moment the Max Clifford story is third on the BBC news site, behind a statement on the economy by George Osborne and the decision not to extend the arms embargo on Syria. The first affects all of us - it's about how much money we have to pay the government over the next couple of years, so it affects every tax payer in the UK. The second is a major international story. Both of these are open season - not sub judice, plenty of facts and information, and both are big stories.
In contrast to the Max Clifford story, the Woolwich case is active - arrests, bails, raids etc - so there's more to write about.
For all the conspiracy theorists above - if you compare the amount of ink spilt on Max Clifford to the coverage of the other arrestees linked to Operation Yewtree - Jim Davidson, Stuart Hall and Rolf Harris are the immediate ones to spring to mind - you'll see a similar pattern. They've been arrested or questioned, limited information is available, speculation is a really, really bad idea because they may be charged at any moment, and they can all afford good libel lawyers, and so it all stays quiet. Stuart Hall is the only one who has had his day in court.
Similarly, look at the Sally Bercow case - she speculated on a story, and gone done over as a result. She's a private individual, not a news gathering organisation that knows what it's doing.
It'll all come out in court. And I imagine enough journalists and editors out there have had the rough edge from Max in the past to want to put the boot in good and proper. But they'll do it in a way that a: doesn't prejudice a court case and b: A way that protects them from allegations of libel.
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