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.
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.