A leading regional daily editor has told the Leveson Inquiry into press standards of a backlash against newspapers in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal.
The inquiry was told yesterday that the UK regional press has a “strong reputation for behaving ethically” and that it should not be tarnished by the antics of its national counterparts.
Also giving evidence at the inquiry today were Scotmsan editor John McLellan, Mike Gilson of the Belfast Telegraph, Peter Charlton of the Yorkshire Post, Spencer Feeney of the the South Wales Evening Post, Nigel Pickover of the Ipswich Evening Star, Jonathan Russell of The Herald, Glasgow, and Noel Doran, editor of the Irish News.
Said Maria: “I have lost count of the times I’ve been asked how to hack a phone or what the going rate for paying off a policeman is and it’s not funny any more.
“I am very concerned about the perception that we’er all using the same methods and we’re all doing something shady. I am very concerned about that.”
Peter said there was a feeling throughout the regional press of having been “let down” by their national counterparts.
“We have a lot of talented journalists in the regional press who work very hard lawfully, honestly and with transparency to achieve what we do on a daily basis. So I think there was a feeling of annoyance,” he told the inquiry.
Maria described having a PCC ruling against you as a “a badge of shame” and said all reporters are obliged to abide by the PCC code as part of their employment contracts.
All of the editors who gave evidence stated unequivocally that their papers did not take part in phone hacking or payment to police officers.
John McLellan said: “The press serving smaller communities, while not perfect, has a very good reputation for behaving responsibly and ethically and should not be tarnished by recent scandals involving newspapers with an entirely different agenda.”
However several of the editors said subterfuge was sometimes justifiable to obtain a story that was in the public interest.
Noel Doran said if one of his journalists found themselves in a tight corner he would be happy to use subterfuge to get him out, while John McLellan said he had he once sent two reporters undercover to a swingers club.
Said John: “I think it’s fair to say that subterfuge has played a part in most journalistic careers to one degree or another.”
Jonathan Russell added: “I would say the potential is there for it to be used and it has been used. If I thought there was anything likely to be illegal or in breach of the editors’ code of conduct it would be brought to my attention.”