Grey Cardigan
0

Why the Derby ditherers were wrong to spike porn story

WHILE audience engagement is high on list of priorities for any form of media, and rightly so, I do think that there are occasions when this can go too far. Take what happened in Derby this week.

The Derby Telegraph, an excellent regional daily, received a tip-off that a named public sector worker on its patch had been caught looking at pornography on his work computer. Fair enough, good story, you might think. But for some reason the hugely experienced editor, Neil White, had an attack for the jitters about whether or not to publish, so opened it out to public debate.

On its Facebook page, the Telegraph said: “We’re investigating a tip-off that a Derbyshire public sector worker has been caught looking at pornography – not child porn – on his work computer. Is it in the public interest for us to publish this story? Should looking at pornography at work be a disciplinary/sacking offence? We want you to tell us your views before we decide whether or not to name and shame this man.”

One respondent, a journalist turned PR man, said: “This is nothing to do with a newspaper’s role. If this idiot is named and shamed then I want an absolute assurance that no employee of the DT has ever looked at pornography. He who casts the first stone…” Which is probably why he’s a journalist turned PR man.

Another weighed in with “No, you should not publish the story. You are not judge and jury. Many folk look at porn on the internet so it’s not uncommon”.

In all, there were 48 comments over a 24-hour period, mostly against publication, so the Telegraph spiked the story.

Now there are a number of questions to be asked here. What job was held by the “public sector employee”? Was he a policeman on duty at the time? Was he a teacher, in charge of the welfare of children? Was he a social worker, tasked with caring for the abused? Was it the leader of the council? All these would influence the decision.

And who were the 48 respondents from a following of 18,000? Were they public sector workers? Were they colleagues of the guilty man? Were they union officials? Were they people who habitually look at porn while at work? Were they even readers? And what next? Do we ask the internet if it wants us to publish details of court cases or serious road accidents? This way madness lies.

Neil White might have thought that he was being inclusive by involving what he hoped were readers in making this decision, but in my opinion he was wrong, very wrong. Newspapers cannot be run by committee. They need a strong editor who is not afraid to make the tough calls and to back his own judgement. What next? Shall we publish the news list and let social media tell us what to publish and what to bin? It’s a huge mistake and one which undermines every journalist on that newspaper.

Meanwhile, in a Local World office in London, a light bulb appears over Monty’s head as he realises that he might not need all those expensive editors after all. Let’s just allow crowd-sourced readers (or non-readers) to run the paper via Facebook. Genius!

WHILE we’re on the subject of the value of an editor, some interesting stuff from Mike Gilson, editor of the Belfast Telegraph for the past five years, where the 48,000 circulation is down only 2.5% year on year and the website racks up three million unique users: “If you invest in journalism you have to get something back for it. Without proper journalism online, you are left with people talking to each other in semi-ignorance.

Open a newspaper and you find out things that you didn’t think you needed to know. You are on an unknown journey in some senses. But largely when you go online, you are looking for things that you already think you are interested in. I need to read journalism I can trust, that tells me something I don’t know, that doesn’t merely confirm my own prejudices.”

It’s what I argue until I’m blue in the face. There is a huge value in the package, carefully selected for a specific audience. And that’s what good editors do instead of handing decisions to people who are more interested in cute kittens, missing dogs and pornography.

Share:
  • googleplus
  • linkedin
  • tumblr
  • rss
  • pinterest
  • mail
Grey Cardigan

Written by Grey Cardigan

The Grey Cardigan has been in newspapers since the days of hot metal and expense accounts. After a lengthy career as chief sub on several regional newspapers, plus a multitude of shifts on the nationals, he was appointed editor of the Evening Beast in 2009 before being ignominiously 'rationalised' last year. He is currently collecting gas in jam jars in case the Russians cut us off. @thegreycardigan

More in Grey Cardigan, Recent, Sticky (87 of 416 articles)
echo2