1 November 2014

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Police publish story direct to local newspaper website

A local police force has hailed an “historic moment” after publishing a story direct to a local newspaper website.

Torbay Police published a story headlined ‘Who is this Man?’ alongside a picture of a crime suspect to the website of the Torquay Herald Express yesterday afternoon.

The move marks a significant step towards the vision of the paper’s parent company Local World to see more content generated directly by third party contributors, including public bodies.

In an internal working paper last year, LW chief executive David Montgomery said that in future the majority of newspaper content will be produced this way, with the journalist’s main role being to assemble it in “attractive formats.”


After posting the story, Torquay Police tweeted:  “An Historic moment for the team. We have just published our own story directly to @TQHeraldExpress website with a picture. Amazing.”

They later tweeted their thanks to Herald Express editor Jim Parker and digital editor Guy Henderson “for taking the time to teach us plods to use it & for trusting us.”

Jim told HTFP:  “I’m not sure how pioneering this is when it comes to other publishing centres doing the same thing, but it is a first for us.

“We have an extremely good working relationship with the police in our patch and this is a way of developing and cementing that relationship.

“It doesn’t mean to say we stop talking to them. Far from it. This opens up new ways of communicating and provides extra, useful content both for our website and weekly newspaper.

“It reinforces the message from Local World that organisations will self-publish – if shown how and given the opportunity – we can offer them a platform and an audience and the end result is our readers are informed.”

  • Since our story was published this morning, the National Union of Journalists has voiced concern about the idea of organisations posting stories directly on to local websites, saying it will devalue journalism.

It held a meeting of its ethics council today and afterwards issued the following statement:

“The NUJ is strongly opposed to the idea of the police, or any authority or commercial organisation being able to publish directly to the local newspaper.

“It is the job of journalism, through local media, to hold local authorities, including the police, to account to local people. It is not its role to act as a conduit for the views and opinions of those authorities.

“If local authorities or the police wish to communicate directly with local people they should set up their own channels of communication.”

64 Comments

  1. Onlooker

    Slippery slope…can’t see any reason to celebrate this at all. Would the police be happy to let the local Press encroach on their territory to such an extent ? What do you think ? This is all one-way and won’t end well.

    Report this comment

  2. Observer

    This is very worrying. The article states – not alleges – that the pictured man stole a bag. What happened to professionalism? Shame on you Local World.

    Report this comment

  3. Karl Jones, London

    I don’t really understand why this is a story? It is unlikely that this force will continue to publish stories and if they do, they need some help with their titles because that one was rubbish. What about SEO?
    I also don’t see this LW policy working. There are police forces across the country who have their own news feed now and don’t see the point in sending out press releases. They are even more unlikely to ask one of their press officers to upload the same story on several websites for different media

    Report this comment

  4. Journosub

    Dangerous, what? Direct inputting, thus avoiding subs, will surely put the publication concerned at risk. Particularly where crime is concerned. They might have shown them how to do it, as their editor is reported as saying; bet they didnt tell them what not to write, though.

    Report this comment

  5. cleland thom

    Who edits this website, the police or the editor?

    Let’s hope the police press office know their law. I’ve seen any number of police press releases that contain legal errors.

    Report this comment

  6. pieman63

    Oh dear, oh dear (passim)

    Report this comment

  7. Ollie

    No doubt will work great for appeals, but where is the line? Can we trust the police to remain impartial in its ‘reporting’. What’s wrong with a press release that can be scrutinised by a real journalist and put into context of other factors or sides of a story. As others have said, to say he did steal the bag, even if it’s on CCTV, lacks professionalism and legal knowledge in this area. Have those publishing been taught everything the need to know about libel, defamation and how to report within the law on active cases. That’s what reporters are trained for and why the get accredited. Slippery slope into the paper becoming the propaganda arm of the police force

    Report this comment

  8. bill pritchard

    Is it really any worse than a reporter lazily cutting and pasting a bad press release and putting it straight in the paper?

    Report this comment

  9. Digger

    Poor crop on the pic + awful header = rubbish

    Report this comment

  10. Naomi, Hampshire

    By giving more power to those who are unfamiliar with the laws of publishing is a slippery slope. Local World are opening themselves up to be exploited by the general public. If someone posts something defamatory on any of their websites, and it goes undetected, Local World will be the ones footing the bill when someone seeks to sue.

    Report this comment

  11. BobH

    You can just see Monty’s thought processes now.
    “Look, we can have fewer of those silly middle men doing their medium grade craft. Those nice upstanding and honest police and local council types can just produce the content for us.”

    At best, this will lead to more journalist job cuts.

    Report this comment

  12. Johnners1712

    All I can say is: “Oh dear!” (Anything else would not get published)

    Report this comment

  13. Sub up North

    Having just read this, I can say it is truly appalling. It reads like some police officer is saying it out loud in a monotone voice and also has an error (you local police) that no decent sub would allow. How long before blue-coloured cars in the Torquay vicinity start appearing? And what happens when there’s a story critical of the police? Will it be spiked to keep the special relationship sweet?
    This isn’t journalism, it’s drivel which will drive readers away.

    Report this comment

  14. lensman

    Not to mention some of the loonier political parties doing their own thing on Local World’s site. I bet Adolf would have loved this.

    Report this comment

  15. Confused

    Bill Pritchard – you are bang on there.
    No doubt having the police posting straight on the website will now free reporters to do what they are supposed to do these days – which is exactly, what?

    And – it is ironic that they have used probably one of the best CCTV shots ever, crystal clear and, even with some facial pixelation it is easy to identify the innocent bystanders and member of staff.
    Shouldn’t it have been cropped to just show the alleged offender?

    Report this comment

  16. Kendo Nagasaki

    A marvellous idea at a time when the police have never been trusted less by the public. At least before a reporter or sub could stick in a few allegedlys.

    Report this comment

  17. gone fishin'

    Beggars belief.

    Report this comment

  18. ex-hack

    Agree with all the above, but as a former sub, my first thought was:

    Why is there a cap ‘m’ on ‘Man’ in the headline?

    Report this comment

  19. wtf

    Allow public authorities to put their version of events directly on to the local paper website and you endanger the public’s trust in the newspaper brand and reputation.
    Although for Local World it’s a great result because who needs reporters, editors or web guys when the ‘news’ is uploaded automatically by press offices.
    See you in the dole queue Jim and Guy. Remember this day when you gave up on journalism.

    Report this comment

  20. Dick Minim

    Sorry to fret about the tedious nuts and bolts of subbing but why is Man upper case here? Is the sought-after fellow emblematic of Mankind in our fallen state and thus deserving of the Big Un? Or is this house style way out West? I think We should be told.

    Report this comment

  21. XJP

    The end is nigh.

    Report this comment

  22. JadedJourno

    If allowing coppers free rein to publish stories unedited on your website constitutes the “vision of the paper’s parent company Local World” then it is a dismal future they envisage. That makes a local newspaper no more than a notice board.

    Report this comment

  23. Mr Nice

    The police are notoriously poorly informed when it comes to media law and I can only see this ending in tears.

    That’s no slight on the police, they have a lot of laws to learn and media law isn’t typically something the average officer needs to concern themselves with.

    Anyway, I am interested to see how the defence of “but your honour, the rozzers uploaded this article” works when the inevitable happens and an editor finds themselves in court.

    Report this comment

  24. Observer50

    I’d be terrified if I was the editor of this paper. He/she is legally responsible for everything published – even if it has been plonked on the front page without them knowing or having anything to do with it!

    Report this comment

  25. Dunkin Donutin

    I understand the South Devon Paedophile Informaton Exchange are awaiting their log-in details for the site…

    Report this comment

  26. northernhack, lancashire

    I work for a company that wants to let community correspondents write directly into our pages. How scary is that?

    Report this comment

  27. AN Editor

    Well done Herald Express. You have finally managed to provide the police with what they have always wanted – the ability to manage the news. You just put another nail in the coffin of regional journalism.
    For my part I will continue to fight tooth and nail to prevent any such aberration from infecting my newspapers.

    Report this comment

  28. Ex-Journo, London

    Hmmm. It took until the fourth word of the headline for the first grammatical blunder by the boys in blue. Not to mention the boring and SEO-unfriendly nature of the headline.

    To my mind this brings the newspaper’s website a step closer to those awful hyper-local community sites which are chipping away at the industry. There is absolutely no reason to celebrate here and this is certainly not ‘An Historic moment’ (sic).

    Report this comment

  29. TheLNH

    Dangerous in every conceivable sense.

    Report this comment

  30. Pj

    Haha liable lawyers Christmas bonus has just arrived, the Police press office gets only 50% of press releases absolutely correct, such basic things as road names are wrong!

    Report this comment

  31. TheLNH

    Press releases put out by our local force are routinely filled with incorrect information and flagrant breaches of the Contempt of Court Act.

    Report this comment

  32. Northernhack

    So the police can now publish a pic and story straight onto a media company’s website.
    Does that mean that as well as making a ‘citizen’s arrest’ the public can now interview the suspect, further investigate the alleged crime and decide whether to prosecute.
    In other words if the police can take a journalist’s job, can we take over from the police? Seems only fair to me.

    Report this comment

  33. the Red Postman

    When they did away with the subs at the regional group where I worked until 2010, I predicted it was a £1million libel suit waiting to happen. That day has just moved a whole lot closer. This is a disastrous move, for more reasons than HTFP would give me room to state here.

    Report this comment

  34. ill-informed

    AN Editor says, “For my part I will continue to fight tooth and nail to prevent any such aberration from infecting my newspapers.”

    Website, Mr(s) Editor, website. How are sales of your newspapers? On the up? Bright future ahead?

    Report this comment

  35. Observer

    A local authority contact has told me he is delighted as they too can post material direct with little chance of it being edited. A propagandist’s charter.

    Report this comment

  36. Voice of Reason

    Frankly I’m horrified. A legal minefield and a dangerous precedent!

    Report this comment

  37. Bluestringer

    The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

    Oh, no it’s not.

    It’s just a police appeal on the internet about a bag-snatcher (alleged).

    If that guy is a “£1m libel suit waiting to happen” I’ll eat my hat.

    Report this comment

  38. RT

    If Jim Parker wants to brag about this historic moment, couldn’t he have at least changed the two clunking typos in the police story in the knowledge people would be looking at it? Or is it LW policy that submitted copy can’t be touched in any circumstances?

    Report this comment

  39. Kendo Nagasaki

    *waves at the trolls*

    Report this comment

  40. Supersub Judice

    If you think this is bad, wait until you see the manifestation of Monty’s ‘green fields’ project which all his daily editors are currently scratching their heads over delivering back to him by a summer deadline ahead of them having to implement this autumn. This ghastly Herald Express example is a mere plank in the Ship Of Doom he and his HQ acolytes are currently constructing ahead of setting sail later this year…

    Report this comment

  41. Dick Minim

    Why is the caption’s ‘Who is this man?’ man not upper case like the headline’s ‘Who is this Man?’ man? Man alive, it’s all very confusing, like most police press releases, with their ‘overly proximate vehicular concatenations’ (shunts) and ‘stationary elongations of internally combustive personal transport units’ (traffic jams). Mind how you go.

    Report this comment

  42. pedants are us

    Imagine it: Will we be able to deal with the excitement of stories such as: The vandals have approached the car carrying a bladed object and scratched the paintwork and made off in undetected a northerly direction

    Common stuff from reporters which gets subbed but god help us all now

    Oh, and PJ, it’s libel lawyers, not liable lawyers

    Report this comment

  43. Andy

    A truly awful development, and one which shows that the police make up their minds about who did something long before they’ve got the evidence.

    I don’t agree with Red Postman that doing away with subs brings the day of a £1m libel further forward. As long as you have great news editors asking the right questions and reporters who know the law, the £1m libel is just as far away as it was when subs were added on at the end. At least reporters can’t blame subs for getting the headline wrong these days.

    I remember when the company I used to work for reduced the number of subs it has. On the bus, one of the most senior subs – he might have been an FOC at the time – boasted he was letting literals through to prove how more mistakes creep in. Kind of self fulfilling, really.

    Report this comment

  44. Jeremy Deacon

    This is so wrong. People buy skills, whether it be well made shoes or good puddings or, dare I say it, professionally told stories.

    Report this comment

  45. Black Shuck

    The editors should probably just stick “Spotted” in front of Torquay Herald Express and have done with it. I really don’t see how they can be proud of this at all.

    Report this comment

  46. Graeme

    The End.

    Report this comment

  47. Lol

    As long as we get to pepper spray protestors and beat up the innoncent in exchange.

    Report this comment

  48. billy bunter

    Unbelievable. why don’t we get cops to write copy? Because they’re barely qualified to hold a pen. This is very worrying. ‘This hardened criminal “fell down the stairs”.

    Report this comment

  49. dave

    Speaking of crime. My local newspaper doesn’t cover any court stories now the mags court has closed and it’s moved to Leicester. It’s as though crime doesn’t happen in the town anymore.
    Court stories are big sellers in small towns. I do not buy the paper anymore – as do many other former loyal readers. The industry doesn’t help itself.

    Report this comment

  50. Nick Hudson, Hinckley

    Central subbing without the sub. Newspaper editing without the editor. Lazy journalism without the journalists.

    Report this comment

  51. Alistair

    Looks like the story’s been taken off the site. Not such a breakthrough after all.

    Report this comment

  52. Oh Man!

    I’ve just clicked on the link to the story only to be met with: “The page you have requested does not exist or is no longer available.” That was a success then!

    Report this comment

  53. Kendo Nagasaki

    “As long as you have great news editors asking the right questions and reporters who know the law the £1m libel is just as far away as it was when subs were added on at the end.”

    But you know perfectly well newsrooms are full of kids on Tesco wages cutting and pasting press releases with news editors too busy to even break wind.

    Report this comment

  54. wtf

    lol at Kendo….too true, too true…Experience costs and costs are cut. Eventually this will be the norm because no-one will know any better

    Report this comment

  55. JournoJimmy

    Interesting to note that the story and headline have since been rewritten, presumably this time by someone who knows what they’re doing.

    Reminds me of the time when my local police force sent out a CCTV photo appeal headlined: “HAVE YOU SEEN THIS RAPIST?”.

    They wanted to speak to the man but, at the time of sending, he had not been interviewed, charged, convicted or sentenced in connection with the allegations.

    More worryingly still, I had to argue with their press office for at least five minutes before they accepted it was contempt of court and quite possibly defamatory.

    Report this comment

  56. Barney, Lincoln

    Oh, come on, the lot of you! Some of you are outraged by a capital M, outraged! Have you heard yourselves? Yes, it’s wrong, but would the average reader stop and read no further?

    We also have some people banging on about the poor SEO. I’m guessing you did a ‘writing for the web’ course some time in the last five years, but getting all your keywords in the headline and intro, although useful, is not vital. This type of story will get much more local traction from through social media shares than a couple of keywords ever will. The police were actually very clever in posting some Tweets in order to try and kickstart the buzz.

    Also, well done Guy and Jim, but this isn’t new. I worked on This is Lincolnshire until March 2013 and I had both police and county council regularly posting stories to the website themselves for more than a year. Their profiles LincsPolice and LincsCC can still be found on the site but their content has disappeared since the domain name changed to Lincolnshire Echo.

    However, to all of those concerned about the quality, the person writing on behalf of the police was a former crime reporter for the Echo. Great guy and a solid, reliable reporter who knew his law. As the newspapers groups have all axed jobs over the last few years, many excellent journalists have ended up on the PR side of the fence and are working for local organisations and authorities, therefore can usually be trusted to write a legally-sound story.

    Yes, you still can’t do a lot about the ‘spin’ but, as many have pointed out, there are more and more press releases going into local newspapers virtually unchecked these days anyway. At least with a police or council byline online, readers can see where a story has come from. Let’s give the discerning public some credit!

    BUT… and that’s a deliberately big but! Why do the police and council no longer post the Echo website? First, the system we used was unreliable and often crashed or posted a story several times and this put people off. I presume it’s much better now. Second, now I’m on the other side of the fence at the county council, I can see how easy it is for such organisations to create that local buzz themselves and engage readers with the content on their own websites.

    Police and gov domains have an edge in search, especially around subjects such as roads, crime, recycling, schools etc, but while they can’t compete with the plethora of local and national news outlets, that’s no longer such a big problem.

    While many authority websites, including ours, are a bit old-fashioned, newspapers are still generally picking up and rehashing most press releases which we publish on our own site anyway, plus those which they choose not to use we can push out to an ever-growing audience on social media and link to them from other relevant content.

    At the county council, we have more that 10,000 social connections – not massive, but growing – and a monthly audience of 250,000 unique users. When I left Local World a year ago, this was about the same average figure then for This is Lincolnshire (it has obviously grown massively since. Well done guys). We also send several newsletters to a large number of subscribers and, despite my own slight frustrations at the speed of progress, we will be developing more mobile-friendly, responsive websites, plus making greater use of push alerts, geotargeted and personalised content.

    We can use our own stats to determine what people are interested in, plan ahead and will develop our own platforms, as outlined above, to ensure that anyone can get only the information of interest to them in the way they want to receive it. Until local newspaper websites can show their value in helping to target those different audiences in different ways, I have no doubt that authorities will continue to do more and more of this work themselves.

    Despite the incredible growth of the online audience at Local World, I have not seen any metrics which suggest that publishing something directly on one of its websites will provide authorities with any greater reach to a specific audience. For example, we have many health and social care partnerships for which we have specific social media profiles, newsletters and websites in additional to our main channels. The partners which may include district authorities, organisations, charities, volunteers etc will also usually have their own websites, social media profiles and so on. We try to share as much relevant information as possible with each other to ensure the widest reach across the county to a specific group of people. As far as I’m aware, no local news websites can match this level of audience targeting.

    I’d be happy to hear from anyone who can provide me with some stats or other details which might change my mind.

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  57. wtf

    Barney, Lincoln – calm down dear…it’s only a website

    Report this comment

  58. Barney, Lincoln

    wtf… Just offering an experience insight into the pros and cons of this approach from both sides, seeing as there have been so many comments about it. I thought it was quite a calm comment and offers some sort of balance to the issues raised. I’m just saying that if this sort of thing is Monty’s vision, local authorities need to have much better reasons to post on the sites rather than just because of the overall number of unique visitors. If someone can help me with that, I’ll happily start posting. If not, I’ll let the reporters do it instead as they do now.

    Report this comment

  59. About Time

    Barney, you’ve been told once, calm down!

    Report this comment

  60. Barney, Lincoln

    Ha ha! Love the awful attempts at trolling on here!

    Report this comment

  61. Mr Nice

    “At the county council, we have more that 10,000 social connections – not massive, but growing – and a monthly audience of 250,000 unique users. When I left Local World a year ago, this was about the same average figure then for This is Lincolnshire (it has obviously grown massively since.”

    It grew since you left? Coincidence?

    Report this comment

  62. Horatio

    Barney, one more ejaculation and you’ll be going over my knee…

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  63. Barney, Lincoln

    Mr Nice, please keep up. Local World announced a 70 per cent increase in growth overall, which was down to all newspaper staff publishing to the sites rather that just one full-time digital publisher and a couple of part-timers, plus some great work on the back end by Monty’s new team. For example, removing the mobile sites which split the SEO across the m.sites and http://www.sites for starters.

    If you’re understanding of digital is limited and all you’ve got is poor attempts at anonymous trolling on here, I suggest your lifespan in Monty’s new era will be seriously limited. Big Mac and fries please!

    Report this comment

  64. Barney, Lincoln

    And, yes, I did notice the inexplicable literal in the last par… but I bet you still read the whole comment!

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