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Industry chiefs to discuss court coverage ‘crisis’ at seminar

Ian Murray 2Industry chiefs will discuss a national court coverage “crisis” at a seminar to be held on the subject.

Last week University of Gloucestershire journalism lecturer Paul Wiltshire called for a “natioinal day of court coverage” to highlight the difficulty regional journalists face in covering courts.

Now the Society of Editors has launched an initiative in a bid to explore ways in which coverage of courts in the UK can be “dramatically” improved.

The event, entitled ‘Crisis in our Courts – and How to Solve it’, will be staged at the offices of the Telegraph, in central London, on 18 January.

Speakers will include John Whittingdale MP, while the seminar will include Ian MacGregor, President of the Society of Editors and emeritus editor of the Daily Telegraph.

SoE executive director Ian Murray, pictured above left, said: “The society shares the concerns of Mr Whittingdale and many others both in the media, the judiciary and other walks of life that we are facing a crisis in the way open justice is maintained in this country.

“Fewer and fewer courts, crown and magistrates as well as many High Court hearings, are reported as budget cuts force publishers and broadcasters to restrict numbers of staff they can afford to send to the press benches.

“This is dangerous for democracy as well as community cohesion. British justice has for centuries been rooted in the understanding that it is carried out before the eyes of the world. Coverage by local newspaper reporters as well as radio and TV staff has until recent years ensured that transparency.

“Now, because so few journalists are attending hearings, it is as if the bulk of British justice, especially where grass root matters are dealt with, are carried out behind closed doors.

“Without that connection with justice carried out in their communities, the public’s understanding, trust and faith in the justice system must weaken and be subject to rumour, speculation and even trial by social media. It is imperative we find answers to how this can be averted and coverage of our courts improved substantially.”

“We know this one event will not solve the problem, but the society hopes it will kick-start an initiative that will enable real progress to be made.”

The seminar is free and will start at 10.30am, to be concluded by midday with a buffet lunch for those wishing to remain for a networking session.

Admission will be through registration only, and those interested should contact Angela Upton at office@societyofeditors.org

2 comments

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  • November 22, 2017 at 10:15 am
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    . Papers from rival firms should pool resources and pay freelances a decent rate for their copy.
    Covering court properly, as opposed to nipping in for ten minutes to snatch a summing up, is time consuming. Anything must be better than waiting for one-sided press releases from the cops (not their fault).

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  • November 22, 2017 at 10:30 am
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    If the government was concerned about the issue, it would be simple enough to provide an in-house court reporter at each court in the land (or circuit if that were deemed too prohibitively expensive) who wrote independent coverage to be published on a dedicated website, with the media free to lift stories as they wish. Given the unwillingness of today’s media to be present in court (and they still could be), it would threaten no existing journalist roles and would provide employment for a cohort of able journalists cast aside by the industry. But of course there will be no appetite to find the considerable funding necessary from the public purse when such a system would by its very nature publicly expose the dubious crimes of politicians as well as the general public.

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