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Aftonbladet could need some help from the Muppets

Isn’t it appalling how Olof Brundin at Aftonbladet refuses to apologize for calling Microsoft’s PR rep a “press muppet”? N24 asks Brundin:

N24: “Initially Aftonbladet was very skeptical that the interview didn’t happen and for example you called Microsoft’s Norwegian Press Officer a press muppet. Will you apologize?”

– What I said was that some press people in Oslo don’t decide what is written in Aftonbladet, then the words got a life of their own.

Umm, no, that’s not what you said. The label press muppet was used to discredit the PR rep.

Resumé quotes Brundin:

“What the press muppet at Microsoft in Norway said, he must answer for. We have been in contact with Bjørn and the interview happened the way he describes it.”

And in Dagens Nyheter:

“[Benkow] confirms that it all went down as he wrote in the article. If some press muppet in Oslo says anything else then it is his word against the other, and I can only relate to what the reporter have told me as long as Bill Gates himself doesn’t call and says otherwise.”

In addition, Resumé asks Brundin:

Resumé: Was it suitable to use the words press muppet?

– It was an unguarded word that got a life of its own. This story has gotten so serious consequences and millions of readers have been fooled. I won’t rewind the tape and comment on a quote that’s been taken out of context.

Yes, things do get a life of their own nowadays. It’s called an online PR crisis.

Overall Aftonbladet has handled the Benkow case without any clear strategy. It’s not easy for a paper to guard themselves against a journalist that fakes an interview, so the guilt would not really be on Aftonbladet’s side. I don’t hear anyone chastising Mann, who apologized immediately after comments from Microsoft. So by early on betting on the wrong horse, by being so hard-necked and disrespectful to the the people that got phony quotes published, the paper put itself in a really bad position PR wise. On top of that they now refuse to take back the hard words and the apology wasn’t exactly overwhelmingly enthusiastic. And now the tabloid handles the PR issue “tabloid style” which means that they portray themselves as the victim and investigate if they can sue the journalist. Since Benkow claimed he faked the stories because of a weak economic situation and bad health, Aftonbladet hardly scores any points of sympathy. Time to call a PR agency?

(Bonus comment: the Swedish paper that used the word mock (“håna”) most times during 2006 is — drumroll please –, Aftonbladet (257 times), followed by Expressen (129) and Dagens Nyheter (73).)

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