A weekly editor was confronted with a tricky dilemma after receiving a leaked letter from a headteacher to parents at a local school.
For the letter, sent to Essex Chronicle boss Alan Geere, revealed that a male teacher at Chelmsford’s King Edward VI Grammar School was to return for the autumn term in September as a woman.
Alan decided to run the story, but omitted the teacher’s name on legal advice after being warned it may breach privacy laws.
Now Alan, himself a former pupil of the school, has written about his dilemma over how to handle the story in a blog post.
He wrote: “I remember someone much more vaunted than me writing about the “lonely hour” of the editor, when you have to decide what to do.
“I sought out m’learned friend – not really a privacy issue if you don’t name him – and a couple of editor chums, who said they would run with it, both with tasteful provisos.
“My biggest concern was not the legal, or even ethical, position but what would the 100,000 or so readers of the Essex Chronicle make of it.
“As most local paper editors know, readers don’t like it when you run stories that portray community institutions in what might be considered an unfavourable light. But, having found references to the letter on Twitter, spoken to pupils and got a response from the head, I ran this story, which I think shows the school in a very positive light and shows us to be a responsible local newspaper.”
Now Alan is seeking other editors’ views on the issue, posing the question “Would you run this story” on his Twitter feed.
Peter Sands, former regional daily editor and now Northcliffe Media’s editorial consultant responded: “Yes. Sensitively handled by school and by paper.”