A regional daily has backed a rival newspaper’s bid to overturn a football club’s ban on two of its journalists.
The Northern Echo has lent its support to the Teesside Gazette, which wants to resolve a six-month dispute with Middlesbrough FC brought on after journalists Dominic Shaw and Jonathon Taylor were prevented from speaking to the club’s then-manager Garry Monk in separate incidents.
Dominic and Jonathon’s colleagues Anthony Vickers and Philip Tallentire have not had the same reporting restrictions imposed upon them by Middlesbrough, but the Gazette has boycotted press conferences and facilities at the club’s Riverside Stadium since the issue arose.
The paper has also declined to publish quotes from club management or players since the stand-off began, but earlier this week the Gazette, whose Hudson Quay headquarters sit a few hundred yards from the Riverside Stadium, said it was “eager” to resolve the dispute and wanted to work with the club again.
The Darlington-based Echo, which also covers Middlesbrough, has now backed the Gazette’s “principled stance” in an editorial which was published yesterday.
It states: “In many ways Teesside’s Gazette newspaper is a rival to the Northern Echo. We cover some of the same towns, compete for some of the same advertising revenue, and are both in the business of persuading people to buy our newspapers and visit our websites.
“For us to speak up on behalf of the Gazette may seem about as likely as [Manchester United manager] Jose Mourinho offering a kind word to [Manchester City manager] Pep Guardiola but sometimes you have to set aside self interest and look at the bigger picture.”
It adds: “Our natural instinct is to back our fellow journalists, even those who work for a local rival. We empathise with their stance, although the full details behind the spat have never been made clear as the club has remained tight-lipped. Wherever the blame lies we believe that clear-the-air talks between both parties would be a sensible next step.
“In the meantime, a key point to emerge from this affair is that newspapers must remain fiercely independent from the influence of organisations, politicians and businesses. If we ever reach a point when we accept that they can dictate the terms of engagement then the free press as we know it will have died.”
HTFP has asked both the Gazette and Middlesbrough FC for a comment.