condolences to ian hargreaves
52 Fairycroft Road Saffron Walden Essex CB10 1LZ
28 March, 2002
The Rev’d Dr Bill Beaver
Director of Communications
Thanks for your call and for the remarkably temperate language with which you reproached me for being so nasty about you. A couple of points: I think there is a necessary and instinctive hostility between press officers and journalists, no matter how much mutual respect and liking there may be and often is in individual cases. There will always be cases where the interests of the press and of the employers of press officers diverge. So I am naturally suspicious of anything and anyone in PR Week, even though I don’t believe that all journalism ought to be adversarial. Phrases like "Communication strategy" have always in my experience meant controlling and diminishing the access of journalists to important or interesting things. In the last analysis this is a simple power struggle, in which neither side is necessarily right. But I know which side I’m on.
To give a simple example of this, we know from Pete Broadbent’s memo, even if from nowhere else, that there are lots of people in the present CH structure who have doubts about the Turnbull/Bridge reforms, and who think that a civil service model of bureaucracy suits the Church better than a corporate one. If I were to ring the press department and ask to speak to these malcontents, I doubt I would get very far — and, if I did, I doubt you would get very far in the Councils of the great.
These strains are likely to become greater as the Church moves more deeply into a GodCo future. This is partly because there will be real, violent disagreements in a shrinking structure and partly because the expectation of uniformity will grow at the same time as existing disagreements become more acute.
Traditionally, the press officers in the Church of England have fallen into three classes. The totally useless, the actively dangerous, and the quiet but competent. The first category is not yet extinct. The second appears to be quiescent since the end of the active phase of the civil war over women; but it used to be large — the most energetic press people I have known in the Church of England spent most of their energies denouncing bishops other than the ones they worked for. Norman Hood, who worked for Graham Leonard, was a special case in that he was a full member of both the above classes. The quiet but competent category may not seem like high praise, but I really believe it is the best that anyone can manage in that job, that to attain it is extraordinarily difficult, and that anyone who gets there has done something remarkable. The trouble with this ranking system is of course that all three types of press officer will end up dealing with disastrous publicity.
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