A row has erupted on the eve of the memorial service for the victims of the Shoreham air disaster after local newspaper journalists were banned from the event.
Brighton daily The Argus has revealed that its reporters have been excluded from Sunday’s event despite pleas from families of the victims for the newspaper to be present.
The air crash during this summer’s Shoreham Air Show claimed the lives of 11 people after a plane smashed onto the A27.
Organisers of Sunday’s service at Lancing College near the disaster scene have decided that coverage will be provided on a pooled basis by BBC Sussex and the Press Association.
Chairman of the organising committee, MP Tim Loughton, and West Sussex County Council, which is responsible for media coverage of the event, said the decision was agreed by the families of the 11 men who died and represented their wishes.
However The Argus reported that some relatives who had contacted the newspaper about the service had been “surprised and saddened” to be told the newspaper was not allowed to attend.
One told the paper: “The community will miss out and nothing will be printed for future generations to read, and this most important moment will be gone forever.
“The Argus has reported everything up to now, with great thought and sensitivity, but will not be there for this very last important service.
“We owe it to the eleven men that died that day that they should be remembered in a caring and sensitive manner and with the respect they deserve.
“The Argus is a local newspaper, for the local community. They would have been proud to have been allowed to report it in a sensitive manner for the community.”
An appeal to the council and Mr Loughton asking them to reverse the decision also fell on deaf ears.
Kirsty Buchanan, a former regional and national press journalist who is now the council’s head of communications, told the paper a decision was made to allow only the BBC and the Press Association to attend.
She said: “We need to balance the needs of the media against the wishes of the families and other invited guests at the event and felt a pool would be the fairest way to achieve that.”
She added: “I understand you will find this decision frustrating but hope you will understand the reasons behind it.”
“Surely they can find a space for a paper which does so much for the community and has been at the heart of this tragedy as it unfolded.”
In an editorial, it stated: “The service need not be turned into a media circus, with every national and local reporter clamouring to get into the event. With every news organisation being given fair and equal access to the material, it is the most sensible solution.”