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).)

Tags: , , . Ping.

So we’re muppets now?

A muppet, that’s what a PR professional is to Aftonbladet’s Head of Insults, sorry, Head of Information, Olof Brundin. There is currently a kerfuffle about an interview with Bill Gates done by Norwegian journalist Bjørn Benkow on a plane between London and Munich. The following article was published in both Mann in Norway and in Aftonbladet in Sweden. Only problem is that the interview apparently is faked. After Microsoft’s Corporate Communications Manager Eirik Lae Solberg made sure the interview never happened he contacted Mann, who then apologized. But Aftonbladet, the paper that thinks “bloggers have completely different demands for truth than we do”, considers the article to be true because Benkow insists the interview is bona fide (no, really?).

– [Benkow] confirms that it all went down as he wrote in the article. If some press muppet (pressmupp) 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, Brundin said.

Yeah, that’s going to happen. “Well, hello mister Brundin, this is William H. Gates calling. I just sneaked out of a board meeting to have a chat with you.”

Anyway, Brundin continues to say that “if anything turns out to be wrong, we will apologize immedeately”. Except, it seems that Aftonbladet are the judges as to what is wrong and not. Later today Dagens Nyheter publishes a new article where the Swedish PR contact Johan Furestad says:

– We have called Bill Gates’ office and can conclude that [the interview] never happened. Turns out that Gates didn’t even fly a scheduled flight between these cities at that time.

Was that enough for Aftonbladet to apologize? Of course not. So, who’s the press muppet now?

UPDATE: It’s not easy being green, it’s not easy being at Aftonbladet. The muppet won, Aftonbladet apologized for the faked Gates interview.

Jyllands-Posten apologizes

Last September, the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten published 12 drawings of the Prophet Mohammed, which sparked anger among Muslims in Denmark and abroad. The degrading caricatures were later reprinted in a Norwegian magazine (in defense of free speech), causing a boycott of Danish and Norwegian products in the Arab world. The Danish-Swedish dairy producer Arla even paid for an ad in Saudi Arabian newspapers, in order to “stop the boycott from escalating”. As of yesterday, Arla products were off the shelves in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Lebanon, Kuwait and many other nations.

Late last night Jyllands-Posten issued an apology, not for publishing the drawings, but for the fact that the drawings offended Muslims! It’s a hazardous strategy, not to apologize for you own actions, but apologize for the reactions of the offended part. I guess the reason is that an apology for the actual publication would be seen as caving in to external pressure and in the long run a threat to the freedom of speech.

“They were not intended to be offensive, nor were they at variance with Danish law, but they have indisputably offended many Muslims for which we apologize.”

The same strategy was used in Norway:

In Norway, a foreign ministry spokesman denied media reports that the government had asked its diplomats to apologize to Muslim countries.

“We have not asked our diplomats to apologize for the publication of these cartoons, but to apologize for the agitation they have created,” she said, according to Norway’s NTB news agency.

It will be interesting to see if this apology will be enough to make this issue go away.

(By the way, maybe a pop-up for a net survey shouldn’t be what greets readers that click on the link to the apology.)