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During 23 years with the BBC, and 39 years in journalism (when he was trained to use clear and simple language, avoiding jargon), our Editor, Welshman Phil Parry, always had to deal with Media Officers (MO) or Press Officers (PO), but now rarely does, yet remains shocked that he received NO reply when he did so – after asking the giant department store John Lewis (JL) why it still used a picture of star actor Johnny Depp even though he was found to be a “wife beater”.
This extraordinary situation has today been thrown into stark relief, by the revelation that Mr Depp recorded a foul-mouthed track on an album, which it has been reported concerned his libel trial tribulations.
In the past Phil has described how he was assisted in breaking into the South Wales Echo office car when he was a cub reporter, recalled his early career as a journalist, the importance of experience in the job, and made clear that the ‘calls’ to emergency servicesas well as court cases are central to any media operation.
He has also explored how poorly paid most journalism is when trainee reporters had to live in squalid flats, the vital role of expenses, and about one of his most important stories on the now-scrapped 53 year-old BBC CW TV Current Affairs series, Week In Week Out (WIWO), which won an award even after it was axed, long after his career really took off.
Phil has explained too how crucial it is actually to speak to people, the virtue of speed as well as accuracy, why knowledge of ‘history’ is vital, how certain material was removed from TV Current Affairs programmes when secret cameras had to be used, and some of those he has interviewed.
He has disclosed as well why investigative journalism is needed now more than ever although others have different opinions, how the pandemic played havoc with media schedules, and the importance of the hugely lower average age of some political leaders compared with when he started reporting.
The role of a Media Officer (MO), or Press Officer (PO) is an important, but simple one.
It is to provide accurate, and timely information to members of the media like me (the clue’s in the name). REAL news (such as what is actually going on within an organisation) is hardly ever given, and for that journalists have to turn to anonymous ‘whistle-blowers’.
But questions from members of the media about factual matters (like someone’s title), should be answered truthfully, and promptly, while other details are offered, yet, frankly, can be ignored.
For instance, often the ‘announcement’ is correct, although it is largely worthless – a university might, for example, put out particulars of a student, or ex-student, who is embarking on an adventure abroad, or about the ‘ground-breaking research’ work that is being done. Another ‘story’ could be from a large corporation which is accused of polluting water courses, but will provide ‘facts’ about the enormous amount of environmental work being undertaken.
These are not, however, things that I need to know, so I hardly ever approach MOs or POs, and when I do it is purely to give me error-free information quickly, for public consumption.
I am, therefore, STUNNED that I have received NOTHING WHATSOEVER from the big department store John Lewis (JL), about their use of a picture to sell Eau de Cologne of the Hollywood actor Johnny Depp who was labelled a “wife beater” in a UK court for brutal attacks on his ex, despite the fact that I was told the matter would be ‘looked into’, and I was asked for my deadline (which I replied immediately was ASAP).
This incredible situation has now been put centre stage by the disclosure that Mr Depp has made a record, that (the UK media have reported), is a direct reference to his libel trial problems, after The Sun (TS) said he was someone who assaulted his wife (which has been supported by a British judge).
Mr Depp recorded a track on the album ’18’ with ageing rocker Jeff Beck, and on it he sings: “i think you’ve said enough for one motherfucking night”.
On release of the album, however, huge problems were encountered, as the pair were accused of ‘stealing’ lyrics from a poem by a jailed man
Representatives for them have now said they will review these allegations.
The song “Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade” appears to take several lines from Hobo Ben, a poem and song by Slim Wilson, the alias of a self-proclaimed cheat and pimp who served time for murder and armed robbery, Rolling Stone has reported.
A spokesperson has said: “We are reviewing the inquiry relating to the song Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade on the 18 album by Jeff Beck and Johnny Depp. If appropriate, additional copyright credits will be added to all forms of the album”.
The reviews have also not been good.
One critic said: “The perfunctory covers on this collaborative album serve to show just how bad Depp’s own songwriting is, as he rants about how awful it is to be him”.
Apart from facing the accusation of plagiarism, in the song “Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade” Mr Depp croons as well: “You’re sitting there like a dog with a seven-year itch”.
It has been reported that this refers to the acrimonious libel wranglings with his ex-wife, Amber Heard. The Sunday Times (ST) said: “Depp blasts away post-courtroom blues with hate song for Heard”.
In the original UK libel hearing, Mr Justice Nicol ruled that Mr Depp attacked Ms Heard on a dozen occasions during their relationship, and that an article about the assaults in TS was “substantially true”. It was found in court, that Mr Depp put his ex-wife in “fear for her life” on three occasions – including during a “three-day hostage situation” in Australia in March 2015, where £120,000 worth of damage was caused to their rented home.
However, he was awarded $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages by a court in Virginia, over a first-person Washington Post article four years ago from Ms Heard, in which she had claimed she was a survivor of domestic abuse. His former wife had authored an opinion piece in the newspaper, which Mr Depp claimed was clearly about him, even though he wasn’t named.
For her part, Ms Heard launched a $100 million counter-claim against Mr Depp, alleging that he orchestrated a smear campaign against her.
Despite the libel trial judgement in the UK court, the enormous department store John Lewis (JL) continued to use a large picture of Mr Depp to sell Dior’s Eau Sauvage in the perfume department of its Cardiff shop (perhaps in other shops too), and the ONLY response from the JL ‘Media Relations’ office has been: “Hello Phil, Thank you for your email and getting in touch. We will look into this for you – please could you let me know what your deadline is?” (MOs/POs ALWAYS ask this!).
But those same officials may be aware, how it was also ruled in the UK court case, that
- In early 2013, Mr Depp slapped and knocked Ms Heard to the ground after she made a joke about his “Wino Forever” tattoo.
- In March 2013, Mr Depp flew into a rage while high on drugs and hit Ms Heard so hard he made her lip bleed.
- In June 2013, Mr Depp attacked Ms Herd in a trailer at Hicksville – throwing glasses at her and ripping her dress.
- In May 2014, Mr Depp screamed at her on a private jet after taking drugs and boozing before kicking her in the back or bum.
- In 2014, Mr Depp grabed Ms Heard by the hair, slapped her and pushed her to the ground on a detox trip to the Bahamas.
- In January 2015, Mr Depp again attacked Ms Heard while on drugs – this time slapping her and pushing her to the ground. He then stood over her yelling.
- In March 2015, Mr Depp launched into a brutal three-day attack in Australia – leaving Ms Heard with a broken lip, swollen nose and cuts all over her body. He trashed the house in a violent rampage and pushed her to the ground, choking her and spitting in her face.
- In March 2015 in the couple’s LA home, Mr Depp grabbed Ms Heard in front of her sister and repeatedly hit her.
- In August 2015 on the couple’s honeymoon, Mr Depp pushed Ms Heard against a wall by grabbing her by the throat.
- In December 2015, Mr Depp chucked a glass decanter at Ms Heard at their LA home in a drug binge. He also slapped her and dragged her through the apartment by her hair – ripping a chunk out. He then hit her again in the back of the head and headbutted her in the face and screamed “I will fucking kill you”. Mr Depp then pushed her face into a mattress and repeatedly punched her in the back of the head.
- In April 2016 at Ms. Heard’s birthday party, Mr Depp assaulted her after receiving “grim news” about his finances.
- In May 2016, Mr Depp chucked a phone at Ms Heard – injuring her eye – before pulling her hair and striking her.
The judge in the UK libel case brought by Mr Depp, dismissed two allegations made by Ms Heard, but did NOT conclude she had been untruthful. These were that:
- In December 2014, Ms Heard claimed Mr Depp was “violent towards” her, and later branded himself a “fucking savage”. This is, perhaps, appropriate given that the male perfume Mr Depp advertises is ‘Sauvage’.
- In November 2015, she said Mr Depp “threw her around the room” and pushed her over a chair.
With this background, the silence by JL over the policy of using a large picture of Mr Depp, to promote the sale of male perfume, seems bizarre in the extreme.
Despite his victory in the American court, Mr Depp’s film career has not yet fully recovered, and in an interview with the ST last year he said he was the subject of a Hollywood boycott.
Perhaps I, too, have been boycotted by the JL ‘media relations’ office, even though I was told “We will look into this for you”.
The role of a MO/PO seems straightforward enough – to answer questions from the media. But responding by saying NOTHING at all, is a new one on me! (See story next week though…).
The memories of Phil’s, astonishing award-winning career in journalism (including some of the immediate responses from MOs) as he was gripped by the rare neurological disabling condition, Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now!
Regrettably publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.
Tomorrow – how inevitable news that the website of a Welsh nationalist media outlet is to close only a year and a half after its launch, underlines how The Eye predicted its expiry from the beginning.