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Coronavirus chiefs say sorry to regional press after ‘media flim-flam’ jibe

Adrian PhillipsRegional journalists have won an apology from coronavirus response bosses after coverage of a council chief’s interview was dubbed “media flim-flam”.

Lancashire Resilience Forum, which coordinates the county’s response to the pandemic, has said sorry after publicly criticising the reporting of comments made by Preston City Council chief executive Adrian Phillips, pictured.

Mr Phillips told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Preston’s director of public health had said “don’t kill granny” to young people to try and focus the message around keeping older relatives safe.

The comments were reported by a number of local and national news outlets, but prompted a backlash from the forum, includes representatives from authorities including the emergency services, local councils, health agencies and other organisations.

In reference to the “don’t kill granny” quote, the forum posted on its official Twitter account: “This is media flim-flam – it’s not our slogan and we never said it was.”

But the tweet prompted criticism from regional press figures, including Lancashire Post deputy editor Nicola Adam.

Nicola, who also edits a number of JPIMedia weeklies in Lancashire, said in response: “Blame the media. Yawn. This was a quote from the chief executive of Preston City Council not ‘media film flam’ as is so Trumpishly claimed.”

She added: “We certainly never said it was a slogan.”

Ed Walker, editor-in-chief of Reach plc’s hyperlocal news service In Your Area and founder of independent title Blog Preston, also criticised the tweet.

He said: “A good lesson here that if you’re going to go in for a hit like this then you need to be specific.

“Local coverage has been measured and well updated in what’s been a challenging situation.”

And Liverpool Echo political editor Liam Thorp said: “When you say ‘media flim-flam’, do you mean media directly quoting the council’s chief executive?”

As a result of the criticism, the forum later posted a clarification in which it praised the coverage of titles including the Lancashire Telegraph, Lancashire Post and Lancashire Live.

In a statement, the organisation said: “Trusted local media are amongst the best places to find the most up-to-date and relevant information about coronavirus in Lancashire.

“Some weren’t best pleased about an earlier tweet where we clarified there isn’t a “don’t kill granny” campaign.

“We didn’t intend to attack our local media colleagues and we’re sorry if it came across like that. We’ll stress again that they’re doing a great job for Lancashire.”

You can read all our coronavirus-related stories here.