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Local press treated with “disdain” during Cameron campaign visit

A regional daily has accused the Tory Party of treating local journalists with “disdain” after its political reporter was barred from following David Cameron on a factory tour.

Friday’s Huddersfield Daily Examiner, pictured below, told how its local government reporter, Joanne Douglas, was not allowed to join Mr Cameron’s tour of a factory in the marginal Colne Valley constituency.

While Examiner photographer Andrew Catchpool was given permission to follow Thursday’s tour, he was later prevented from photographing Mr Cameron by a Tory Party press officer as the Prime Minister left the factory.

Joanne was then given one minute to interview Mr Cameron after being held in a small room with other regional journalists and broadcasters for more than an hour.

Huddersfield Cameron

In a comment piece for Friday’s Examiner, she wrote: “For a while I thought my report would be limited to a list of what biscuits I ate in a side room, hidden away from the action, with other local media.

“The Examiner did, however, manage to get our photographer, Andy Catchpool, on the tour.

“But even Andy found himself on the wrong end of a Tory spin doctor when he tried to take a photo of Mr Cameron leaving the factory. There was an exchange of words and no photo.

“Behind the scenes at the Examiner we’ve faced challenges in dealing with other political parties. We accept time is short and demand is high, but the local press can reach more local voters than the national press can.

“It’s a shame they can’t see that and give us more than one minute to ask questions.”

As previously reported on HTFP, the Conservative Party has already been criticised in the regional press ahead of the forthcoming General Election for its ‘Big Brother-style’ media accreditation policy.

Under the scheme, those applying for accreditation for the party’s more high-profile election campaign events have to submit details including their home address, passport and driving licence numbers, and a photograph.

The Examiner declined to fill out the application but, according to Andrew Hirst, the newspaper’s head of content, those held in the room with Joanne during Thursday’s visit who had adhered to the policy were given exactly the same treatment as her.

Andrew described the visit as a “farce” and said reporters were “treated with little more than disdain”.

He told HTFP: “Surely for visits like this political parties should be giving local media the priority.

“After all, aren’t these visits about catching local votes, and the Colne Valley constituency Mr Cameron was in is one of the most marginal in the country?

“So beware. If David Cameron is coming to a town near you be sure what access you’re going to get before you spend hours being pushed around for a one minute interview that’s not going to get you anything more than a party line.

“Oh, and they wouldn’t even let Joanne film the interview with Mr Cameron on her phone. Why? Who knows.”

The Conservative Party has yet to respond to HTFP’s request for a comment on the issue.

21 comments

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  • April 13, 2015 at 7:33 am
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    Do readers really want to know all this “they didn’t respect your local paper” stuff? Surely it’s a diary par at most? The readers would have been better served if the paper’s staff had gone out and dug for the stories behind the visit, the stories the spinsters kept them in a closed room so they wouldn’t be able to find. Press Officers for political parties at election time are self-serving control freaks. What’s new? The best way to counter them is not to moan in print about the way you were treated and herded about but to go out and get the stories they didn’t want you to get – the gaffes, the awkward moments, the criticisms.

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  • April 13, 2015 at 8:47 am
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    Good on the Examiner for highlighting the farce of local visits by leading politicians. I recall that for nearly 20 years Colne Valley was represented by a very decent Liberal Democrat MP, Richard Wainwright, and this story might be the impetus to kick out the sitting Tory MP. However why did gutless local journalists tolerate being “locked away” and “pushed around” by spin doctors and only complain afterwards, They should have risen up en masse and demanded that Cameron give proper interviews.

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  • April 13, 2015 at 8:55 am
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    She should be honoured, the general disdain for which the local press are held is testament to the fact they can’t be controlled.

    The so called ‘lobby’ system is basically a selection of preferred journalists who get spoon fed press releases before their rivals in exchange for decent coverage – I’m sure Goebbels probably had a similar setup.

    As an aside, I once had 3 minutes with Gordon Brown, and thought that’d be an excellent title for a book.

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  • April 13, 2015 at 9:05 am
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    I disagree with the previous comments. I fully support the Examiner’s decision to stand up for itself and expose this Tory control freak lunacy. It’s only made the party press tactics look stupid, which is exactly what the party deserves if it’s going to insist on behaving like this.

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  • April 13, 2015 at 9:36 am
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    “3 minutes with Gordon Brown”…excellent title for a book…but who would want to read about Gordon Brown…Tony Blair, perhaps?

    gbrown2

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  • April 13, 2015 at 10:27 am
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    Visits to factories, schools, hospitals; threadbare phrases – ‘hard-working families’, ‘chaos’, ‘I’ve made it perfectly clear…’,
    The stalest campaign methods in what is supposed to be such an important general election. Can nobody come up with a different, relevant and genuinely engaging approach, rather than ploughing the same old stagnant furrow the whole time? Obviously not.
    As for the Examiner: it shouldn’t have bothered going in the first place; and its treatment certainly didn’t merit a front page.

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  • April 13, 2015 at 10:30 am
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    Idle Rich I think you’ve rather missed the point. It’s newsworthy because the newspaper is (or at least was) a central part of the local (voting) community. So to treat it with this level of disdain is relevant to readers because it demonstrates a lack of desire to reach them in any meaningful way – a rather neat illustration of the cynical treadmill that is modern politics.
    Moreover it is thoroughly naive and portrays a total lack of understanding about both the resources and level of contacts a modern local newspaper has to suggest that its reporters should have ‘gone out and got the stories they didn’t want you to get’.
    All due respect to the Huddersfield Examiner but I don’t think it’s entirely realistic that its reporters would be sourcing juicy titbits about the Prime Minister less than a month from an election.
    In most newspapers this would have been a dull picture spread along the lines of ‘Prime Minister takes part in yet another hollow photo opportunity, here he is’.
    So credit to the Huddersfield Examiner for not only highlighting the nauseating level of disdain shown to the regional press and by proxy the voters in its patch. And credit for finding something that’s a little more interesting than just another Cameron photo opp.

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  • April 13, 2015 at 10:35 am
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    There is a simply answer to this problem …. the local media should tell the PPC’s that they will get NO coverage at all unless they are treated the same as the national press when the big wigs come a calling. But they won’t because the editors will not have the guts to do so.

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  • April 13, 2015 at 11:26 am
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    Oh how things (and people) change….
    I recall how, in 1977, I was among local/regional journos attending a Press gathering held by Margaret Thatcher during the Ashfield by-election,
    Mrs T, already leader of the Opposition but not yet Prime Minister, insisted on treating us all to a drink. In true, pseudo-Royal style, she ordered a flunky to pay for them;
    Still, the thought was there — and the Tories overturned a massive Labour majority to win the seat. Purely coincidence, of course!

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  • April 13, 2015 at 11:26 am
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    It would be interesting to find out which killer question(s) Joanne asked in her minute with the PM?
    I understand the Examiner’s anger and frustration but we are in the middle of a General Election campaign. It’s not a run-of-the-mill Prime Ministerial local goodwill mission you get in the course of a Parliament.
    Local issues are almost irrelevant in the bigger picture. Talking of pictures, did you get one of Cameron reading the Examiner? They always make me laugh. As if…

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  • April 13, 2015 at 11:32 am
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    Huddersfield is also a nailed on Labour seat isn’t it? Cameron probably thinks engaging with those voters is a waste of his time, sad but true.

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  • April 13, 2015 at 11:34 am
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    The Examiner got the only story angle in a routine oiler visit. But all the local media should have protested on the spot, backing the Examiner reporter. Create enough angry noise within earshot of the VIPs and the dim spinners crumple. No local paper should put up with being pushed around by spinner flunkeys, many of whom haven’t been journalists and wet their pants at the first sign of people refusing to be treated like crap.

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  • April 13, 2015 at 11:37 am
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    Let’s face it. The current crop of national politicians are out of their comfort zone when it comes to dealing with the electorate. They are terrified of being caught by awkward questions and reporters, who have a grasp of local issues that are of importance to the local electorate are exactly the people to ask those questions. Keeping them out of the way and then only giving them a minute to ask questions is not disdain. I think it’s fear. In fact, as a voter, I really hope they are running scared.

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  • April 13, 2015 at 12:18 pm
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    Fair play going out to cover story with reporter AND photographer. Thats the real story. Impressive these days.

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  • April 13, 2015 at 12:32 pm
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    Appalling treatment by Cameron or his spin goons. A great resulting splash of scorn from the Examiner.

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  • April 13, 2015 at 4:50 pm
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    antiquarian is right. Why does the media (including tv and radio) follow like sheep to these ludicrous events? They are nothing to do with democracy and so dull.
    It’s really no loss Examiner. Cameron fans would have heard it all before. His enemies would not read it. Pointless exercise and waste of newsprint or cyber space.

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  • April 13, 2015 at 6:54 pm
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    I get Steve H’s drift but I don’t think he gets mine. The point I was making is that readers are a fickle bunch (tell me about it) and they absolutely don’t care to hear about a newspaper’s problems getting the story. Dishing that up is just self-indulgent. As if anybody out there is bothered if the local paper was snubbed. They want THE story. To say there aren’t any people to go out and get it (er, TALK to the people who met Cameron) is crazy. Should we just sit back and accept what we are (or in this case aren’t) given? I’m just suggesting this paper could have been more pro-active and less moany.

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  • April 13, 2015 at 11:21 pm
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    This story tells the voters what these odious people are really all about.
    They are so out of touch that they fail to understand the significance of the local press.
    By treating local reporters with such disdain, they are showing readers – i.e. voters – their utter contempt.
    It’s something the people of Huddersfield should be bearing in mind when they go to the polls next month.

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  • April 18, 2015 at 8:57 am
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    With respect, I believe that your admirable headline is missing a few words.

    The headline should have been modified to read:-

    Local press treated with the same “disdain” as voters have been treated ove rthe past five years, during Cameron campaign visit.

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