Media law expert Tom Welsh is to stand down as editor of bi-monthly legal journal Media Lawyer.
The former regional newspaper editor set up the publication ten years ago and since then has been reporting on libel settlements affecting the media and challenges made by the media against court restrictions, as well as changes to the law.
Tom, (76), told HoldtheFrontPage: “I’m not looking at it as a retirement. When I sold Media Lawyer the arrangement was that I would edit it for three years and I am very happy with that.
“Mike is currently the deputy editor and it is in very good hands.
“I’m going to have a nice holiday for four months and then I have a number of irons in the fire.”
Before specialising in media law, Tom (pictured) had a varied career in newspapers, PR and teaching, starting out as a trainee reporter on the Westmorland Gazette.
After teaching journalism at Harlow Technical College he took up his first editorship at the North London Press Series, and went on to edit the Hornsey Journal before becoming a senior press officer at the Inner London Education Authority.
In 1979 he became editor of the North West Evening Mail in Barrow, and in the same year began editing McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists with Walter Greenwood. So far they have edited 11 editions.
Tom said: “I studied law at university and have always been fairly interested in it.
“When I began editing McNae’s I needed to follow legal matters and when I was at Barrow I used to ask for PA stories on legal topics, particularly libel settlements, to be passed through to me.
“When I left I felt the loss of that and thought there were others who would like that news.”
Over the past ten years Tom has seen many changes to media law – and some things that unfortunately have not changed.
He said: “There were a great many more libel settlements in the first issue of Media Lawyer – about 12. There are rarely more than half a dozen now.
“One of the reasons is that there never used to be the defence of public interest.
“But there are just as many daft reporting restrictions imposed by the courts as there were ten years ago.”
He said a more effective way of challenging restrictions needed to be found, and that the whole process was costly for newspapers.
Two recent examples of this are a bid by the Eastern Daily Press to name a convicted paedophile, and a joint bid by the Northern Echo, the Evening Gazette in Middlesbrough and the Isle of Wight County Press to name two men jailed for child sex offences.
Tom said: “There are too many cases like these. Something ought to be done.”