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Editors hit out at defendants citing Caroline Flack in story complaints

Regional press editors have raised concerns over an “offensive” trend of readers, including court case defendants, citing the death of Caroline Flack in attempts to get stories taken down.

Industry figures say they have been subjected to a “daily deluge” of such complaints after TV presenter took her own life last month.

Since Ms Flack’s death, a ‘Be Kind’ campaign has been launched in a bid to tackle online bullying – but editors say it is now being used as “a stick to beat journalists.”

While parts of the national media have been criticised over their coverage of Ms Flack while she was still alive, her family chose their local newspaper the Eastern Daily Press to posthumously share a message she wrote in the days prior to her death.


Iliffe Media editorial director Ian Carter, Reach plc Midlands editor-in-chief Marc Reeves and Oxford Mail editor Samantha Harman say Ms Flack is being “inappropriately referenced” in complaints about stories published by their staff.

Ian told HTFP: “It’s ironic that the Be Kind trend is now being used as another stick to beat journalists with.

“I sat on the Kent Online newsdesk this week and within the space of a couple of hours three people had mentioned Caroline Flack when haranguing our news editors. In each case, it was an attempt to have a court story removed.

“I received an email the same day claiming that publishing the names and addresses of people in court cases amounted to ‘bullying’ and again urging us to ‘Be Kind’.

Added Ian: “I find it quite offensive that people are attempting to use the Caroline Flack scenario for their own ends and we are letting them know so.

“The abuse our reporters receive on social media or in person for doing their jobs is completely unacceptable and I am pleased so many people across the industry are fighting back.”

Ian had intitially raised the issue on Twitter, citing an email from a woman complaining Iliffe had covered her son’s court case after he was charged with stalking.

The email in question ended with the words: “Haven’t you learned anything from Caroline Flack? #BeKind.”

In reply to Ian’s tweet, Samantha wrote: “We’ve had this. Hoped it was a one-off, sad to see it’s become a thing.

“Defendant called and said we’d better not publish anything from her case because of Caroline Flack.

“It is offensive and inappropriate to use such a tragic case to try and excuse yourself from due process.”

Marc added: “Same. It’s becoming a daily deluge.”

HTFP reported earlier this week how Birmingham Live, one of the titles which Marc oversees, had published an “explainer” setting out why it covers court cases after receiving complaints from defendants about seeing their names in print.

Journalists at the title say they have been asked why they have published reports of cases without the “permission” of defendants and faced demands to take stories down from the site.


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  • March 4, 2020 at 11:12 am

    German investigative journalist Reiner Luyken once branded Rupert Mudoch a ‘cultural Chernobyl’, and it’s difficult to disagree when you look at how the wider press in Britain is perceived.

    The British local press especially is hardworking, underpaid and (largely) moral.

    Sadly, its reputation has been sullied over time by a few rags and their so-called journalists.

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  • March 4, 2020 at 11:39 am

    Whilst ‘diddums’ is an excellent contribution to the debate, I’m not sure anyone’s crying about it. More just discussing a new trend that’s arisen.
    I don’t, however, accept for a moment that reporters and news editors should take abuse – whether on social, on the phone or in person – as ‘part of the job.’
    Anyone who thinks that is acceptable is, frankly, an idiot.

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  • March 4, 2020 at 2:56 pm

    I never was one for tact, me. I suppose being polite to pillocks who’ve been got bang to rights trying to hide behind Flack, even after they’ve had their day in court, is something top journos and editors, of whom I never was one, learn over time.

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  • March 4, 2020 at 4:12 pm

    Best banter I ever had on this score was when some woman complained that I’d wrongly reported she’d been convicted even though she’d been acquitted, demanding we print an apology.

    I explained to her that she’d received a suspended sentence.

    “That means they’ve quashed it doesn’t it?”


    “Oh right, sorry.”

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  • March 5, 2020 at 10:12 am

    Abuse is totally unacceptable but if you encourage social media responses , and indeed lift them as quotes to fill holes, then you are going to get idiots enjoying their 15 seconds of fame winding up the press. Fact of life.

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  • March 5, 2020 at 2:11 pm

    This is nothing new. Time was when a local felon would simply phone up using the opening gambit of “my old mum’s very frail and it would finish her off if she read that I’d been in court”. After the paper came out, the conversation would go along the lines of “how dare you print my court case without my permission”. I’ve worked with some brilliant news chiefs who had giving them short shrift off to a fine art.

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