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Access-row council reporter interviews himself

A local government reporter who was denied an interview with a council leader over an access row that left him temporarily banned has interviewed himself instead.

Paul Geater, of Ipswich daily the Evening Star, was told by a Suffolk County Council press officer earlier this month that all his questions would in future be met with a blanket ‘no comment’.

Within 24 hours, the council had carried out what the newspaper described as a ‘bizarre U-turn’ by lifting the ban and denying it had ever been put in place.

The row, dubbed ‘Geatergate’ by the paper, came about after Paul wrote an exclusive story about the council spending more than £12,000 on coaching sessions for its chief executive Andrea Hill, which was followed up by the national press.

Paul has since been seeking to obtain an apology from the council for the episode which he said had called his “professional integrity” into question.

Evening Star editor Nigel Pickover wrote to council leader Jeremy Pembroke offering him the opportunity to talk through the ban and look at Paul’s detailed notes on the conversation with senior press officer Andrew St Ledger in which the ban was first raised.

Mr Pembroke turned down the offer, so Nigel commissioned Paul to interview himself about the episide instead.

The full-page ‘interview,’ headlined ‘It’s Geater on Geater’ was carried on page four of last Friday’s edition.

In the interview, Paul once again calls on the council to accept that his original story about the blanket ‘no comment’ had been correct.

“If they had said sorry we could have moved on. But this has questioned my professional integrity and there are those who say I should seek legal redress,” he said.

“I don’t feel the relationship with the county can ever be the same while they haven’t the decency to apologise so we can move on.

“I still want a public acceptance from county that the Evening Star reports on my being given the ‘no comment’ statement were accurate – but I suspect I may have a long wait for that.


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  • March 30, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    This is seriously dumb – a full-page story on a journalist being turned down for an interview. Get over yourself. This stunt does more to question the paper’s integrity than anything that a press officer does to avoid helping you. You have succeeded in making yourselves look more ridiculous than the council that you were trying to criticise.

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  • March 30, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    While the original story about Geater’s ban was justified, I think this follow-up was a mistake as it adds nothing new and just makes the paper look even more self righteous than normal. Geater should have telephoned the council press officer back after being ‘banned’, and taped the conversation to get evidence of exactly what was said. That way the paper could have had a great follow up by revealing the existence of the tape and its contents to counteract the council’s later statement that he had never been ‘banned’ in the first place. It’s not rocket science – just sensible to gather as much evidence as you can. It just isn’t enough in this day and age to say that you wrote down the comments after you put the phone down

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  • March 31, 2011 at 10:59 am

    I’m afraid I agree with all of the above. The original story highlighted a ridiculous over-reaction by the press office. However, the Star is in danger of over-reacting itself now. This just looks a bit daft and is a misjudgement by the editor in my opinion.

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