Shock, horror! The Sun have today printed the photographs of Prince Harry two days after they were circulating throughout the Internet and were being viewed by users of social media. The newspaper says it made the decision based on freedom of the press issues and claims printing the photograph was in the public interest.
I am not going to pass a view on whether this is an accurate description and whether it should have happened. What surprises me about the situation is that it has taken the bosses at News International two days to make the decision. Surely, if it was about press freedom they should have made the decision and printed yesterday which was the first available edition? Instead, they appear to have had to take 48 hours to make the decision to print.
Playing out in the background is the position taken by St James Palace that they had requested the photographs were not printed in the UK. Many years ago this would have been a simple request and if agreed would have signalled an end to the matter. Not the case in 2012.
The Internet and social networks have made the world a very small place where a decision made in one country does not have to hold in others. Requests for information not to be published are now effectively just hot air. If it isn’t other newspapers and media in other countries who are going to publish the details, it will be the many citizen journalists who will put the information out on social networks, blogs or the Internet. No matter where we are there will be smartphones with video and photographic technology and access to the Internet.
Organisations, businesses and companies need to understand the world in 2012 and how it has changed. CEOs are wasting their time if they demand information is withheld. If they feel they are able to suppress information being released then they are misguided. We are in an age of accountability and people have access to endless amounts of information about anything and everything at the touch of a button. Communication plans and discussions have to be based on the fact that the information, all information, will become public. It is no longer a case of whether it becomes public.
Some people will see the current position as unwelcome but whatever their views the reality is that there is no hiding place. The behaviour you display at work, home or when out and about can be captured and played back to you. If you are a celebrity or well-known figure this will make headlines that you will not be able to hide. For the rest of us it is a reminder that what we do, wherever and whenever we do it, defines who we are and will reflect on the image we present to the world around us.