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'Softly-softly' approach pays off as weekly newspaper wins scoop on binge-drink death

Sensitivity paid off for an independent newspaper in the New Forest when it was chosen above the nationals for an exclusive interview by a father whose son died after a night of binge drinking.

The case had been feverishly run by the print and broadcast media after an inquest found 18-year-old student Gavin Britton, from Barton-on-Sea, died of alcohol poisoning during a “freshers” night out in 2006 with Exeter University’s student golf society.

The Daily Mail and the BBC were among the pack chasing family and friends for an interview. But it was the black and white broadsheet weekly sister papers, the Lymington Times and New Milton Advertiser, to which father Ian Britton turned.

“We understood how shattering it must have been for the family, made even worse by pictures of him on nights out lifted from the usual networking websites,” said deputy news editor Ben Craig.

“It’s our policy to try to intrude as little as possible on grieving families so we restricted ourselves to a few telephone inquiries and a sensitively phrased e-mail.”

The offer was taken up with a call to Ben at home.

He said: “I was expecting Mr Britton to quite understandably ignore us. So I was caught on the hop and had to take notes with a broken pen on the back of a big envelope.”

The interview was written out that evening and made the lead story when the paper was put to bed early the next morning. It carried Mr Bitton’s tribute to Gavin and a warning to other youngsters to avoid the same tragedy.

“Although our attitude is unusual among our more ruthless competitors,” said Ben.

“It gave Mr Britton the confidence to trust us to handle the issue sensitively and without hurtful exaggeration.”


Tim Baber (04/03/2008 23:49:47)
I admire the New Milton Advertiser so much i have styled my own paper on their masthead, see msbnews (Mudeford sandbank news) for a beach newspaper now sadly only archived as it was as paper but with a latest news section where I try to keep alive some semblance of journalism.