At the 360 Social media conference last week, David Dinsmore, Editor of the Sun, found himself once again obliged to defend Page 3, a position he seems to find himself in every time he goes out these days. He must be getting very tired of it.
A representative from a retail outlet which advertises in the Sun had asked for his thoughts on dealing with the lobbying against Page 3, which is a worrying (for Dinsmore) indication of the fact that advertisers are beginning to take note.
Following the recent announcements of support for No More Page 3 from well-known popular public figures such as Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand, plus the politically influential Mumsnet and the organisation UK Youth and Ambition who represent 11,000 youth clubs, Dinsmore must increasingly feel that there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide on this issue.
When your back is up against a wall, those with no argument will attack the opposition, and Dinsmore didn't disappoint. He accused the campaign of 'losing the plot', a cheap mental health slur in itself, but also bit rich coming from the man whose idea of helping the strickened residents of a flooded village in Somerset recently was to send them a page 3 model in a tight t-shirt. The reaction of anger and disgust from residents said it all really.
Interestingly, what Dinsmore cited as evidence of the plot-losing state of campaigners was their work done to highlight the very serious issue of the Sun's salacious reporting on a horrific sex-trafficking case, in which the titillating cover and page four headlines were placed either side of the daily Page 3 feature of a young woman provocatively baring her breasts.
Dinsmore denied that this juxtaposition was in any way designed to be sexually titillating to readers, calling such an accusation 'preposterous.' Given that he has previously failed to deny that the purpose of Page 3 is 'to titillate,' this seems disingenuous at best. The Sun's reporting of this case was also criticised by a number of organisations working to support abused women, and yet Dinsmore claimed that it had the support of anti-trafficking organisations, none of which he chose to name.
His arguments in defence of Page 3 have not changed either. We heard, once again, that it is not 'the root of all evil,' (nobody has ever claimed that it is), that 'it's a bit of fun,' (for whom?) and that it 'promotes positive body image.' This last justification is particularly galling in its deceptiveness. When the Girl Guides, the Girls' Brigade, university students, teachers and youth workers are saying that in fact Page 3 does the opposite, when is Dinsmore going to start listening?
In response to the advertiser's question about lobbyists, the Sun editor claimed that he had met with them, and that they have admitted that they are not Sun readers and 'would never read the paper.' It would be interesting to know who these 'lobbyists' were; are there others apart from No More Page 3 campaigners who are lobbying advertisers about their association with the Sun newspaper? Dinsmore's implication, intentional or not, was that he has met and heard the views of campaign members, which is not the case.
It is a publicly-known fact that the campaign was started by Lucy-Anne Holmes when she was shocked to see in her copy of the Sun that the image of Jessica Ennis, who had just won a gold medal for the country, was still eclipsed by the much larger image of a young woman wearing just her pants. Campaign members are overwhelmingly from Sun-reading families and therefore grew up with the newspaper in their homes, a fact of which Dinsmore should be aware if he has read any of the large number of emails sent to him from the campaign.
The truth is that Dinsmore has always declined to meet with the campaigners, despite repeated requests, and the last we heard from his representative was this:
'That said, we will decide when we meet a protest group, NMP3 or otherwise.'
We can only assume that when the editor of the largest-circulation daily national newspaper resorts to slurs against a small, unfunded campaign of volunteers, he must be getting very nervous. The incredible growth of the power and reach of the No More Page 3 campaign since that day that Lucy-Anne Holmes opened up her copy of the Sun has obviously threatened an institution who are accustomed to having all the power to themselves.
Dinsmore also announced the recent appointment of a Social Media Editor for the reason that the newspaper 'didn't want to fall behind the times.' Let's hope that this Editor gently breaks it to Dinsmore that as long as the Sun continues with its daily feature of Seventies soft porn, 'falling behind the times' is hardly the problem, the Sun is already there. The issue for Dinsmore is whether he can catch up with the times and finally bring his newspaper into the twenty-first century. The No More Page 3 campaigners are looking forward to meeting him there.