Dave King, pictured left, has remarked on the claims made by Hayley Court, who worked under Dave as health reporter when he was editor of the Swindon Advertiser.
Hayley said she felt she had been asked to act unethically after being headhunted to work as a £50,000-a-year specialist press officer by South Yorkshire Police specifically to cover the inquests.
South Yorkshire’s recently re-elected police and crime commissioner Dr Alan Billings has since announced he will quiz the disgraced force’s interim chief constable Dave Jones over Hayley’s claims.
A jury last month found that the 96 Liverpool football supporters who died at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium in 1989 were unlawfully killed and that blunders by the police and ambulance service on the day “caused or contributed to” the disaster
Dr Billings has since suspended the force’s last chief constable David Crompton over its handling of the Hillsborough inquests.
In an interview with The Guardian, Hayley said her brief had been to emphasise evidence that portrayed South Yorkshire Police in a positive light or suggested that supporters had misbehaved.
But writing on his personal blog ‘Passing Shots’ Dave said: “I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. Spinning is something all press officers and marketeers do from whatever section of industry they represent. It is part and parcel of their work they do to cast their employers or clients in a favourable light.”
Dave said he had met with the head of communications at Thames Valley Police in the past week to discuss media relationships and how the force can convey messages to the community it serves.
He added: “They know the media is a powerful tool – that’s why they employ a team of press officers at Thames Valley, and are very active with their website and social media presence.
“And there are times when off the record briefings with police are useful to put stories into context and to understand what policing issues are around.
“That doesn’t suggest the media are instruments of the police since it is vital they are held to account. But because of the sensitive nature of their work, it is important to have a working relationship.”
Dave continued: “Now [the Thames Valley meeting] is a different ball game to what was going on at Hillsborough and based on past experience with Hayley I’m not quite sure everything appears so black and white as she has expressed.
“However, although it might be considered unseemly for a police force to provide briefings at an inquest, those sort of briefings have been going on for years.
“And if the police were really trying to ratchet up the spin and encourage the media to condemn the evidence or the conduct of those Liverpool fans, don’t you think that this story would have come out earlier, and hardened hacks at the time would have told Hayley to Foxtrot Oscar?!”
Dave left the Advertiser in 2011 to work in journalism training before being appointed Newsquest Berkshire editor-in-chief in January.