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Editorial chiefs hit out after Boris Johnson ‘snubs’ regional daily

BorisEditorial chiefs have hit out after a regional daily was “snubbed” by Boris Johnson on a visit to its patch.

The Oxford Mail has criticised the Prime Minister, pictured, after receiving “zero information” about his visit to Oxfordshire.

The Mail had found out on Wednesday night that Mr Johnson was due to visit the county the following day, but despite repeated phone calls throughout Thursday by local government reporter Nathan Briant to Downing Street and other journalists he was unable to find out exactly where or when he would arrive.

Nathan had requested an interview each time he contacted Number 10, only to be told he would be given information “as and when”, later finding out through local contacts that the PM had visited the village of Culham and the town of Abingdon.

An editorial on the incident by the Mail reads: “We found out late Wednesday that the Prime Minister was visiting Oxfordshire. We were not invited; we didn’t even get the courtesy (if you call it that), of being able to ask a pooled question.

“At the time of writing, we have had zero information about the visit – no one will give us official lines on where he’s been or who he’s met. The best we have is a load of selfies on Twitter of a beaming Boris Johnson with members of the Conservative party.

“This isn’t just the story for us, or for this time. It’s happened lots in the recent past with this PM and his predecessor. It’s the story for all local media across Oxfordshire and beyond.”

The controversy comes after reporters from the South Wales Argus and Wales Online were among those barred from filming Mr Johnson during a visit to Newport last month.

Mail editor Samantha Harman and Newsquest editorial director Toby Granville were among those to criticise Mr Johnson over Thursday’s incident.

Posting on Twitter, Samantha wrote: “Local news outlets have a massive audience, all engaged in their local community and politics – and they want answers from you. They deserve answers from you.

“Stop dodging us and by extension, them. They see through it and so do we.”

Toby added: “This utter disdain of the press by politicians has got to stop. And change has to come from the top Boris Johnson. You will all be wanting our support if there’s an election soon.”

The BBC did conduct an exclusive interview with Mr Johnson while he was in Oxfordshire.

Giving his own take on the incident in the Mail this morning, Nathan wrote:” As far as this is concerned, Boris Johnson is not a maverick. He is simply one in a long line of senior politicians who do not want to face scrutiny on certain issues.

“The blame does not just lie with Conservative politicians. Jeremy Corbyn’s manner in many broadcast interviews is regrettable, regularly tutting at journalists’ questions when they don’t meet with his approval.

Theresa May came across as either shy or rude – maybe a mix of both. And on reflection her media strategy – flip-flopping on whether Brexit meant Brexit at all costs or whether it just meant MPs should vote for her deal – was a little shaky.

“All three would claim to support their local and regional press. But being in touch with your own paper to appear responsive in your own constituency is a different thing from supporting the industry as a whole.”

He concluded: “More than ever, leaders need to look beyond their own base. It’s not happening currently.”

HTFP has approached Downing Street for a comment.