Peter Jones’ triumph over the Daily Mail is a rare example of the industry successfully fighting back against negative and inaccurate coverage in national newspapers, but could more be done to counter myths before they gain traction among the public?
Chris Murphy, deputy chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Wastes Management, says: “Good for Peter Jones in doing this, but does a retraction on page 14 count much against what was on a front page?
“It might make the Daily Mail think again before they go down the same route, and it’s noticeable that in the last few weeks they have been a bit critical of Eric Pickles, when I had always thought they were in his pocket.”
He said CIWM has had talks with WRAP on how to rebut inaccurate coverage, but with limited results.
“There were some meetings with the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph, which are the worst offenders, but they just said they were really not very interested in the industry’s side of the story,” he says.
The fundamental problem is that people tend to believe newspaper front page unless there is some trusted alternative source of information.
Murphy notes: “The public do not believe government officials or scientists, but they do believe group like Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace because they see them as not having an axe to grind.”
Some industry activities like energy from waste are particularly difficult given the techniques used ion themselves attract public opposition, while in other cases local authorities have not helped the cause by giving rise to stories such as ‘spies in bins’, he says.
“The industry has been a bit like Millwall Football Club, saying ‘nobody likes us and we don’t care’,” Murphy says.
“It thinks it does dirty job well and will just get on and do it. But we have to tell the public what we do, why, and how much it costs because people do believe the front of the Daily Mail.
“Take a look at the retail industry and how it responds – whenever they have a negative story in the press they are straight on it because they have a marketing capability that the waste industry doesn’t.”