The editor of the main weekly newspaper in Rotherham has denied “missing” the child abuse scandal in the town exposed by a national newspaper last month.
As reported on HTFP yesterday, an article in the New Statesman claimed that mounting pressures on today’s regional press will lead to reporters failing to spot major stories like the Rotherham scandal which was uncovered by Times reporter Andrew Norfolk.
Kevin Meagher, associate editor of Labour Uncut, said it was “no surprise” the child sexual exploitation issue in Rotherham was revealed by a national investigative journalist and not a regional daily or weekly reporter.
Said Andrew: “First of all, we didn’t miss the ‘Rotherham child sexual exploitation’ story. It wasn’t something we didn’t spot on a council agenda or that was discussed in a meeting that we couldn’t attend due to lack of staff.
“I do not know, but would surmise, that Andrew Norfolk was provided with the information that led to his initial story by someone with inside knowledge who wanted to create a national splash – and it worked.
“A look through our archive will reveal that we have regularly covered the issue of child sexual exploitation and indeed devoted a front page to the imprisonment of five people charged with grooming.
“We carried stories on a regular basis on the Alexis Jay Report before it was released, since when, on a weekly basis, we have devoted seven pages, then 13 and probably another nine this week.”
In his piece, Kevin said the “hollowing-out” of local newspaper staffs meant they were no longer in a position to carry out the “labour intensive” work of holding public agencies to account.
His comments came as a report commissioned by the NCTJ highlighted the impact of the “increasing intensification of work” on traditional story-getting, with less time being available for investigative journalism.
However Andrew commented: “We regularly hold decision-makers to account and over the past 18 months have called for resignations from the health service and council, as well as being among those clamouring for the PCC to go and standing up for an individual in a battle with the local football club.
“The Rotherham Advertiser averages 124 pages a week and, unlike many papers, is not packed with fillers that are in there simply to get a page away. In fact, most weeks we can’t find space for all the stories we would like to include.
“On another note, I do agree with Kevin that a vibrant independent – and at the Rotherham Advertiser, unlike most papers, we are independent – local media is needed to bring these issues to light.
“I am unsure as what Kevin’s interest is here, but I can assure him that at the Rotherham Advertiser we will always do what we believe to be in the interests of our readers.”