A police chief has publicly criticised a regional daily over what he described as “seemingly heartless” coverage of fatal crashes on its patch.
Mark Polin, Chief Constable of North Wales Police, claims the North Wales Daily Post is showing “scant regard” for victims’ families of road traffic accidents and only telling “part of the story” when it comes to crime coverage.
His comments, which came in an open letter published on the force’s site, followed the Post’s splash on Monday headlined ‘Carnage on the roads’ after two people died and two were badly injured in road traffic accidents in North Wales.
In response, Post editor Andrew Campbell said he would “strongly refute any suggestion that we lack compassion or humanity,” highlighting examples of good causes supported by the newspaper over many decades.
Chief Con Polin claimed that the headline appeared “particularly harsh with scant regard for the families concerned or for those whose job it is to help those involved in these tragic incidents.”
He continued: “I fully understand that the media have a right and a duty to report events, no matter how tragic, and that headlines are formulated to attract attention. The pressures on the modern media, declining sales in print and the need to provide click-bait driven content on the web have been well documented.
“But the often seemingly heartless, or at least thoughtless way in which the paper and website covers local news amounts to a great disservice to the North Wales public, your own reputation and, more importantly, the victims of tragedies and crimes who have enough to cope with without the local paper adding to their sorrows.
“I would appeal to you to show more humanity and compassion in your coverage of such incidents. Your reporting of weekend events also only gives part of the story. Alongside these tragic incidents police officers and staff were also out and about educating and enforcing on the roads.”
Chief Con Polin gave examples from the weekend including a 19-year-old being stopped for speeding and testing positive for cocaine, a 33-year-old woman failing a breath test after being stopped for driving through a road closure, a 63-year-old man being charged with drink driving after leaving the scene of an accident and a 22-year-old being charged with dangerous riving, failing to stop, driving whilst disqualified and with no insurance.
He concluded: “Our dedicated patrols are working 24/7 to keep our roads safe and our summer safety campaign will continue with the sole aim of attempting to reduce the number of serious collisions.”
Andrew has now responded in a further open letter which has been published below Chief Con Polin’s letter on the force’s website.
He wrote: “The Daily Post writes dozens of headlines every day and considers the way they are worded extremely carefully. Consideration always includes the effect headlines may have on the victims of accidents or crimes and their families.
“Sadly, by any measure, last weekend was a tragic one on North Wales roads with two deaths, two people airlifted to hospital and other crash-related injuries. Our thoughts, as always, are with the casualties, their families and the emergency services dealing with the aftermath and the Daily Post, like the police, is consistent in its quest to promote and highlight road safety in the region.
“The Daily Post always seeks to avoid adding to the distress of grieving families or anyone affected by accidents – and if we inadvertently do we are quick to rectify and apologise.
“The use of the word ‘carnage’ to describe multiple accidents and deaths is common within the media and in this instance was definitely not published to offend or to sensationalise. It was a headline designed to encapsulate the magnitude of the weekend’s tragic events.”
Andy concluded: “Finally, the Daily Post frequently highlights North Wales Police’s road safety initiatives and enforcement activity. Information relating to the ‘other part of the weekend story’ was not made available by the police until many hours after Monday’s Daily Post had printed. Had it been available, the information would have been included in the publication.”