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.”