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Police chief praises local press over dead baby case while criticising national coverage

LEwis HughesA police chief has praised local press reporting of an investigation into a baby’s death after losing “a lot of trust” over national coverage of the case.

Detective Chief Inspector Lewis Hughes, of Greater Manchester Police’s major incident team, has applauded “balanced” and “sensitive” reports by the local media of the force’s investigation into the mystery.

The body of the unidentified newborn girl, who has been named ‘Pearl’ by detectives, was found on the morning of Wednesday 4 April in woodland in Heywood, Rochdale.

According to a piece by PR Week, DCI Hughes and GMP press officer Vickie Custy decided that local media would be the most viable means of gaining leads and aimed to discourage “sensationalistic and speculative reporting”.

Crediting local media for their reporting of a public appeal for the mother of the baby to come forward, DCI Hughes said: “They understood the need to be sensitive to support the work we were doing.”

In contrast, DCI Hughes criticised a Sunday Times story headlined ‘Mystery death of “Baby Pearl” evokes Victorian age’.

The story’s introduction said the “ghosts of Britain’s Victorian past” had returned to “haunt detectives”, adding the case had “thrust police back to a grim era of desperate women and unwanted babies”.

DCI Hughes, pictured, told PR Week: “I lost a lot of trust in the journalist and was concerned about the impact on the investigation.

“We couldn’t let this report create a barrier so we worked with the local media, which provided a balanced report. They understood the need to be sensitive to support the work we were doing.”

He added: “The challenge has been getting the appeals out with the right messages and to avoid sensational reporting. It is a very emotional case and our local media relationships have really helped.”

4 comments

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  • May 17, 2018 at 10:05 am
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    That’s always been the case. Seems you need to be a bit nastier to earn more on the nationals. How many times have local reporters seen nationals ( and TV crews) trample over their patch, upset people, and left for safe haven in London.

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  • May 17, 2018 at 10:30 am
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    National press is garbage, with one or two exceptions. Local press have the contacts, the local knowledge and can’t afford to betray trust willy-nilly the way a chancer from one of the nationals with some right wing news editor dribbling in his ear all day often will.

    Whenever I worked on a local story that got picked up by national press it always went the same way, we’d do all the graft and then our ‘bosses’ in London would sell the nationals everything we’d dug up, from pictures to quotes. On the rare occasion you saw one of these clowns on the street they looked constantly petrified and would just try and trail you around, using your goodwill to try and pinch anything you could give them and get their ed off their back.

    I never, ever had any ambitions to work for one of these publications.

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  • May 17, 2018 at 3:13 pm
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    Jeff Jones – I did work for several of these publications as a freelance and quit after less than a year because I liked to sleep at night. With a few honourable exceptions, the national reporters I came across were a bunch of chancers.

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  • May 18, 2018 at 4:51 pm
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    Heywood Advertiser and MEN reported this extremely sensitively. Something only local press seem to be able to do.

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