AddThis SmartLayers

Senior editor urges regional journalists to ‘reflect’ on Nicola Bulley coverage

Luke BEardsworthA senior editor has urged regional journalists to “reflect” instead of defending their coverage after the family of Nicola Bulley criticised media handling of her case.

Luke Beardsworth has said it is “not enough” for regional titles “to point out their coverage has been more respectful” than others, claiming all who reported on Ms Bulley’s disappearance and the subsequent discovery of her body can learn lessons.

Luke’s comments come after Ms Bulley’s family issued a scathing statement yesterday evening in which they accused media organisations of running “appalling” stories about them “to sell papers and increase their own profiles”.

Sky News and ITV were singled out in particular for trying to contact them for comment after the 45-year-old’s body was discovered in the River Wyre, in Lancashire, on Sunday.

The criticism has prompted journalists working in Lancashire to publicly defend their own titles’ coverage since Ms Bulley was first reported missing near the village of Saint Michael’s on Wyre more than three weeks ago.

But Luke, who edited Reach plc website Lancs Live before becoming launch editor at its new national sister brand Curiously in the autumn, told HTFP: “It’s not enough for journalists, regional or otherwise, to point out their coverage has been more respectful than that of other titles, or the behaviour seen on social media, in what has been an ongoing and deeply distressing story like this.

“There’s not one title that can’t reflect on their output over the previous month and learn from it or improve on it in some way.

“Taking the opportunity to adopt that mindset, rather than critiquing the work of others, is, in my view, likely the best way the industry can improve in these situations.”

Luke, pictured, had posted his thoughts about the matter on Twitter last night after the issuing of the family’s statement.

He said: “‘Actually, some journalists are better than others’ as a response to this is ‘not all men’ adapted for Media Twitter.

“Look at what you’d do differently if you had the time again and learn from it, just as Lancashire Police will have to.”

Journalists who yesterday defended the way their titles covered the case included Luke’s former Lancs Live colleague Tom Earnshaw.

Tom, who is content editor at the website, posted on Twitter: “Given what was said on behalf of Nicola’s family just now, I am so immensely proud of the Lancs Live team the last three weeks.

“Among an international media storm, I like to think we acted with decency and respect on what was a hugely sensitive issue.”

Adam Lord, audience editor at the Lancashire Post and its National World sister daily the Blackpool Gazette, added: “Seeing plenty slating ‘the media’ tonight. We’re not all the same.

“We agonised over our Nicola Bulley coverage at the Post and the Gazette in a bid to do right by a community that is now changed forever.

“Thinking of Nicola’s friends and family this evening.”

However, Gareth Davies, a Lancashire-based journalist with The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, agreed lessons could be learned on how journalists cover tragedies in the future.

Gareth, a former chief reporter at the Croydon Advertiser, wrote: “Some of the coverage of Nicola Bulley’s disappearance has been reprehensible. But hers is far from an isolated example.

“Tragedy is big business for large parts of the media, especially in the battle for web traffic, where anything appears fair game as long as it gets clicks.

“In the race to be first, which is ultimately the race for precious clicks or views, the real losers are the people affected by the stories we write or broadcast.

“And we wonder why so many people despise us and others feel empowered to join in the frenzy we create.”

In their statement, issued through Lancashire Police, Ms Bulley’s family said her two daughters “will get the support they need from the people who love them the most”.

But they added: “It saddens us to think that one day we will have to explain to them that the press and members of the public accused their dad of wrongdoing, misquoted and vilified friends and family. This is absolutely appalling, they have to be held accountable this cannot happen to another family.

“We tried last night to take in what we had been told in the day, only to have Sky News and ITV making contact with us directly when we expressly asked for privacy.

“They again, have taken it upon themselves to run stories about us to sell papers and increase their own profiles. It is shameful they have acted in this way. Leave us alone now.

“Do the press and other media channels and so-called professionals not know when to stop? These are our lives and our children’s lives.”

Lancashire Police itself came in for criticism last week over its handling of the case from Newsquest investigations editor Mark Williams-Thomas.

Mark warned police press offices across the country to “wake up” and called for a change in thinking from police communications teams in what he termed the era of the “armchair detective”.