The Headliner podcast - 13/01/17

16th January 2017

Check out this week’s The Headliner, Eulogy’s analysis of the current news agenda and its implications for brands and organisations.

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Obama’s tears, German fumes, ‘Thundersnow’, Trump’s Buzz-kill, NHS May-day
President Barack Obama bid farewell to his fans and followers in a moving speech last night and thanked them for their passionate support, which, as German paper Handelsblatt said, catapulted a little-known senator from Illinois into the world’s most powerful leader. “You made me a better president; you made me a better man,” he told supporters. The two-term president doesn’t leave behind a blinding record of success but a sense of melancholy. His call to change the world and make it better wasn’t followed because the world refuses to better itself.

Getting worse is a familiar theme to the NHS. Whoever said physician, heal thyself had clearly never had to figure out Britain’s health service’s budget. This week the Red Cross described the organisation as a humanitarian crisis. Doctors warned the Prime Minister that it’s at breaking point, with patients waiting hours on trolleys and ambulance queues outside A&E units. Going on the offense, Labour leader Jeremy Corby, focused all six of his Prime Minister questions on chaos in Accident and Emergency. In an obvious dig at Theresa May’s vision for Britain, he sniped: “we’ve got the ‘shared society’ all right – more people sharing hospital corridors on trolleys”. Yet the Prime Minister dug in her heels at the weekly duel, claiming the Red Cross’s warning of a “humanitarian crisis” was “irresponsible and overblown”.

From the train wreck of Britain’s National Health Service to a health issue affecting air planes – airborne obesity, as calls for an airline fat tax have raised their head again this week. Last hitting headlines back in 2012, with pricey air fare ‘extras’ soaring people are once again debating whether airlines should charge travellers, and not just baggage, by weight.

Back on the ground, the FBI is tightening its investigative grip on Volkswagen. The Feds have questioned several employees as expert witnesses to learn which top executives knew of the emissions-cheating software, and when. Like a duck in a storm, the car giant is handling the emergency by appearing calm on the surface, and paddling for dear life underneath. One of our crisis experts, James, joins us to point out that there’s actually  some good news and growth for the owner of Audi, Bentley and Volkswagen in the eye of this storm.

If only this week’s Donald Trump news was as small and insignificant as an FBI-tainted storm. Like Volkswagen’s emissions scandal, however, lies are at the centre of this new scandal. This is about the explosive allegations that have circulated through government, intelligence services including the CIA and media about the President-elect’s relationship with Russia.

The furore is about unsubstantiated claims that have circulated in intelligence reports between the CIA, the president and the president-elect. They include allegations that the Kremlin has been assisting Trump for a least five years, and that the Russian security service, the FSB, “compromised Trump through his activities in Moscow sufficiently to be able to blackmail him”. Days away from his inauguration, Trump calls the story a “fake news witch hunt.”

Amusing and terrifying as the new imbroglio is, at The Headliner we’re more interested in the dangerous precedent set by reporting of the scandal. By publicising the existence of an unconfirmed intelligence report – purportedly from a private British firm – CNN placed the fuse. Every other publisher refused to light it, however, except for Buzzfeed, which made the report public. Buzzfeed’s editor-in-chief, Ben Smith said in an internal memo to staff: “Publishing this document was not an easy or simple call, and people of good will may disagree with our choice. But publishing this dossier reflects how we see the job of reporters in 2017.”

So, Buzzfeed expects its journalists to report as follows, in the words of Brad Heath of USA Today: “Here’s a thing that might or might not be true, without supporting evidence; decide for yourself if it’s legit.” If this is the new normal for reporting, public figures, brands and their PRs and lawyers will be on high alert in the year ahead.

For the full report listen in as our panel of Chloe, James and Scot pick apart the biggest stories of the week. If you want to hear more of our expert views, come visit us at