The phone rang at 11:00pm. It was my client the CEO of a major broadcasting company.
'Diana? Listen, I have been fired. The only people who know are you, the lawyers and the company. We are going to issue a statement at 7:00am tomorrow before the markets open. Can you deal with it?
Hardly had I put the phone down when it rang again.
'Hi Diana, it's Ray Snoddy here....gather X has been fired'
Ray was the leading media correspondent on the FT at the time. A brilliant journalist that never wrote anything unless it had been verified and corroborated. My heart sank. Had my client phoned me ten minutes later I could have claimed ignorance.
'What have you heard?' I asked Ray. 'Pretty much everything' he said and then proceeded to quote large chunks of the draft I had in front of me.
The media is often maligned for printing stuff and amplifying it. What should be remembered is that there are often a hoard of 'press whisperers' at work.
Some are just people who enjoy the feeling of importance when they disclose a 'secret'. Others will be part of a strategic campaign where the leak is deliberate. Someone may need to distract from something else that is going on or to gain the upper hand.
Being on the defensive is always bad and immediately weakens credibility. In this case, as I later found out, the US Parent Company wanted to be on the front foot and undermine the credibility of the CEO before he had time to respond. The character assassination was swift and merciless.
The press cannot exist unless they are fed and the 'whisperers' are a good source of fuel. When I hear people ranting about the press and news reports I wonder if they ever think how they got hold of the story in the first place?
The Press Whisperers will always be around but the good Journalist knows how to distinguish a real news story from a fake one and has been trained to do so. There is never smoke without fire so whatever the story is ...someone other than the media started it!
Although many journalists might personally disapprove of hackers, most of us would take information from them if offered and authenticated, since motive is always at work when information is leaked and, in theory, the hacker and the leaker are both providing similar content, albeit in different amounts. Despite being classified, disclosure of leaked information is often in the public interest and, in any case, if one publication refuses the leak, another will accept it. The information will surface.