Stephen Fry got round his latest self-imposed Twitter exile by writing a long and excellent blog, putting his side of the story on womendon'tlikesexgate. One of the accusations levelled against Fry is that he runs away every time something blows up about him. He explained that, in the event of a "media shit-storm" he doesn't read anything online, as people will invariably send him all the nasty articles written about him. I've also found this to be true. People compete to be the first to send you something horrible, either online or in the press. It's a way of stirring things up, and it's what causes Twitter fights such as the recent one between Kirsty Allsopp and His Highness, The Right Royal Lordiness Sugar. (Someone will send this to him, now.)
Fry claims not to read British newspapers and so, were it not for sources such as Twitter he would never read anything about himself. I can understand this approach. Jonathan Ross gave me similar advice years ago. He said that the best way to deal with stories about yourself was simply to never read them. I used to joke to my wife that, should I ever have an affair with some steamy blonde and a tabloid exposed the sordid details, we would probably be blissfully unaware, as we only get the Indy at home. But even if I stayed offline, well-meaning "friends' would ring up to "sympathise", and the cat would be out of the bag.
Apart from the ineffectiveness of the non-reading approach, the downside, it seems to me, is two-fold. First, you need to be armed with knowledge of what you are being attacked for if you want to launch any kind of defence. Second, however lovely it might be only to ever read positive stories about yourself, surely this is how people end up living in a sycophantic bubble and becoming a bit of a showbiz arse?
The Sun rang me up last week and asked me whether I'd help with a feature on a new gadget that was a bit like the iPad but had a phone as well. "Someone's finally made your big mobile..." they said. So I agreed to write a humorous little piece and, before I knew it, they were sending a reporter and a photographer down to my house with said contraption. I was out running when they arrived and so I returned to the house to find Sun journalists on my doorstep – normally a cause for some panic. I apologised for keeping them waiting and let them in.
I rushed upstairs to have a shower, but immediately started to worry about all the things that they could chance upon downstairs – overdraft statements, my French "art" films, compromising emails, a slightly effeminate dog.... I was showered and back downstairs in precisely two minutes. I rushed into the sitting room to find my daughter looking at me in a puzzled manner. "Dad, you can't have had a shower in that time?" I told her that it was time for her to learn the golden rule of showbusiness – never leave tabloid journalists alone in your house. The journos laughed, a little too heartily. They knew exactly what I was talking about.
The review went ahead without a hitch, and they were soon off back to London. Two hours later, I got a call from one of them – had he left his iPad at my house? I looked around and sure enough, there it was on my desk. I assured him I would bring it up to London in a couple of days. This left me with plenty of time to go through everything on it. I now have enough dirt of my own to start some fairly complex negotiations should The Sun ever decide to run that blonde floozy story.