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Editor voices fears over police-press relationship

The relationship between the local press and the police could crumble in the wake of the phone hacking affair, a regional daily editor has claimed.

Ian Murray, editor of the Southern Daily Echo, fears that an already strained relationship between regional newspapers and the police could disappear altogether amid concerns about links between News of the World journalists and the Metropolitan Police.

Ian told the Society of Editors’ conference:  “I am very concerned that the fallout from this is going to be very damaging for us.  I have no doubt that our relationship with Hampshire Police will disappear further behind the wall of their very large media department.”

Speaking afterwards to HTFP , Ian said that in recent months the police had started putting news items on social network sites before letting the paper know about them.

And he voiced fears that in the future all crimes would be filtered through press officers because police officers would have to make a note of everything that they say to reporters.

Said Ian:  “My concern is the difficulty that we face all the time. We  should have reasonable access to officers, senior officers and CID, people at the sharp end, rather than having to go through the media officer.

“Recently in Southampton we had a run in because we raised the fact that Hampshire police media officers had interviewed a burglary victim and presented us with a pack including a video.

“At the same time the newsdesk pointed out that we had been told about a sexual assualt a week after it happened. The police said they had been too busy to tell us.

“We have already fought off one attempt to filter everything through press officers.

“I believe we will fall foul of that, what comes out of the Leveson enquiry will not be on us but on the police to make sure everything is transparent.

“They will have to create a paper trail. The temptation will be to push more and more on the media officers. It will have a chilling effect between between newspapers, media and the police.

“It will be the same with politicians, every time I bump into one they will have to make a note.

“On a national level they will probably have ways of navigating around this but local papers won’t have ways of negotiating through it.

He added: “I am genuninely concerned that the fallout will be damaging.

“It will all become a pointless excercise, I fear that’s what we’re going to see if we’re not careful.”


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  • November 15, 2011 at 11:25 am

    The days when reporters could speak directly to police officers on a regular basis without interference from press offices are long gone I’m afraid Ian.
    Many police press offices these days are also full of PR “professionals” whose job is solely to promote a positive image of their force. Dealing with journalists’ enquiries is way down the list.

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  • November 16, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    The police are going to end up spending more money on generating its own postive publicity than tackling crime.
    It’s a two-way street and both press and police can help each other out, however, the press officers are taking a different tack in that they will only go to the press when they really need them and not recipricate anything in return.
    What reassurances does that offer the general public then? Where’s the public policing of the smaller crimes? Are only the police and a few press officers going to know about the ‘small’ cases? Will press officers have to extra vigilant in their lunchbreak in case they see a stolen bicycle?
    It seems they would rather waste thousands of pounds trying to roll out their own positive publicity instead of make use of the facilities that are already there on a plate!

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  • November 21, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    Mr Murray is spot when it comes to Hampshire Constabulary. They used to be a wonderful force to deal with, very open and happy to talk. All that changed when Paul Kernaghan took over as chief. The relationship soured, in came dozens of expensive and next-to-useless press officers to sing from the same hymn sheet. The press officers spout jargon, don’t know the area well, know nothing about policing and are best avoided if you can possibly find a real police officer prepared to talk.
    People don’t trust national newspapers but they do trust their local weekly newspaper – especially in country districts where this trust is built upon many years of conscientious work by existing reporters and editors and the generations that have gone before us.
    Police would do well to reflect that in many rural communities, in Hampshire and further afield, many people still have more trust in their local paper than they do in the police who are now seen as absent and aloof.
    It is sad as the individual officers are still as good as they have always been.
    Police need to get to know their local community and their local paper is still an important part of the community in much of the UK.
    Please Hampshire re-engage not simply use us as a tool.

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