Afternoon Hearing on 18 January 2012

Hearing Transcript

(2.00 pm) MR BARR Thank you, sir. We were hearing, Mr Gilson, just before the short adjournment about the superinjunction in Northern Ireland. Have you had experience in Northern Ireland of superinjunctions being defeated by new media? MR GILSON No. There's certainly been there are currently about four or five superinjunctions in operation that we know of, but no, I've not heard any anecdotal evidence or otherwise of them being beaten that way.
Q. Mr McLellan, you tell us in your statement about the decisions that you made for your paper in relation to the Ryan Giggs story and your paper published a story which in effect put the story out of the social media and onto the pages of a national newspaper. You tell us in your MR McLELLAN: It was the Sunday Herald.
Q. I've got the wrong paper, I'm terribly sorry. Mr Russell, is that your judgment? MR RUSSELL No, I am the editor of the Herald and the editor-in-chief of the Herald, Sunday Herald and Evening Times newspapers but the Sunday Herald and the Evening Times both have their own editors who are free to edit their titles as they see fit. They do answer to me. My involvement with those two titles tends to be more about budgetary and corporate nature. But the editor of the Sunday Herald, you know, spoke to me on the Saturday to say this is what he was planning to do regarding the Ryan Giggs story, which is what you're referring to.
Q. It's explained that the decision was taken not to reveal any more names and it's explained that's because it was thought there was a risk of privacy litigation? MR RUSSELL I think that I don't really want to speak for the editor of the Sunday Herald particularly, but a large part of the thinking of what was done was to show or to sort of illustrate how the superinjunctions aren't really working when the name of the person concerned was, you know, very well known to parts of the population all over social media and the Internet, et cetera, and it was really to show that or illustrate that the legislation wasn't really working. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON How is this problem coped with in Scotland? MR RUSSELL Well, this was LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The whole business of privacy being protected by injunction, is it? MR RUSSELL There is means for the Scottish courts to grant an interdict, but my understanding is they're not quite as wide-ranging necessarily as the so-called superinjunctions are down south. MR McLELLAN: Perhaps if I can come back, what I was referring to was that once the Sunday Herald had taken the decision to publish Ryan Giggs' name, we had a discussion about whether or not we should follow suit and name the other people who were known to have injunctions against publication. We decided not, on the basis that even though there was no injunctions applicable in the Scottish jurisdiction, that it wouldn't protect you from legal action for breach of privacy in Scotland, and we took the decision that the situation was markedly different with Ryan Giggs compared to the other names, and that even if we chose to push back the boundaries, the chances of us being able to defend a privacy action against us were few and far between so we decided not to. MR BARR Which takes me on to the next aspect, the cost of legal proceedings LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Just before you go to cost, if there is an interdict granted in Scotland, does that bind everybody? MR RUSSELL Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON In the same way that an injunction would work here? MR McLELLAN: Yes, it does. It's just the fact that if you don't go through the Scottish process, you still have a choice open to you as to whether or not you go ahead and publish, but it doesn't protect you from further action anyway, so you still have just in the same way that you could wilfully publish something that was going to either be in contempt of court or defamatory, but you would know that there was going to be a legal come-back. Similarly, where you know that there are individuals who are acting to protect their privacy, you could well face action for that anyway, whether there's an interdict or not. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I see. MR BARR Moving on to costs, the question is, and I'll start with you, Mr McLellan: does the cost of litigation have a chilling effect on what your newspaper publishes? MR McLELLAN: It's certainly a factor. You know, for instance in a criminal story where you know that you're not perhaps going to be there's no chance of prosecution for contempt of court, but there may be a chance of action for defamation, so that by and large you would step back from that, even if you thought that you were going to be in the right, that if it was felt that you're likely to face an action, you're better off not publishing because we wouldn't be able to afford the cost of defending our position. I can't remember the specific instances of it, but that has happened more than once. It happens on more than an annual basis.
Q. Do you have CFA, conditional fee agreements, in Scotland?
A. They affect us whether they're in Scotland or in England. We do come across them, the Chris Jefferies case being one in point.
Q. Mr Feeney, is the cost of litigation a problem for your newspaper? MR FEENEY I think the threat of potential cost with CFAs clearly has a chilling effect on all newspapers and it causes you to think very deeply before you decide to publish something.
Q. Mr Russell? MR RUSSELL I think, as with a lot of legal issues, there's a risk balance. For the sake of a story that might make only a few sentences, it wouldn't be worth necessarily taking on a risk that could cost you many thousands of pounds in legal fees. If it was an important story that was bound for page 1, then the risk, if there is such, becomes you know, the balance changes and you may be more inclined to publish.
Q. Is it the risk of litigation that's really in your mind or is it the cost of the litigation? MR RUSSELL It's largely the cost. I mean the risk, if you don't believe the story to be true it shouldn't be published, well, you know, whether it's five paragraphs or pages 1, 2 and 3, it's the cost, sometimes it's not worth the cost and the time that would be incurred by putting a small story in the paper.
Q. Mr Gilson? MR GILSON I don't think there would I can't think of examples where I would not publish thinking about the cost of legal action. I think the more heartbreaking thing is the amount of complaints that we've abandoned afterwards because of the cost of proceeding with them and given in the early or in ways that we wouldn't have done if the costs weren't involved. But I don't think there are many times that we would just think, "That's going to cost us too much to run".
Q. Can I come to some of the methods that might be used to stop a complaint escalating to litigation? First of all, there's been a suggestion that a readers' editor is one way of managing comments and complaints cheaply and speedily and reducing legal costs. For your newspapers, I'd like to ask each of you in turn, do you think it's a good idea? MR GILSON We have one. We've had one in every newspaper I've edited in the last few years, and we created one. In fact, the readers' editor is the managing editor of Independent News, whose statement you have there, and he has a brief to take all complaints and be honest, he writes a weekly column, he adjudicates on things. In fact, two weeks ago he effectively in his column said that we were wrong to publish a front-page picture of a minister grieving at the funeral of her father. I don't particularly agree with that, but his column said it and I think there's it performs a very good role with the readers. One of the things we need to think about is the relationship we have with the readers. They are the judges in the end, they'll buy us or not. I think it serves a good purpose to show we're thinking, debating the ethics, having discussions. Paul sat down with me and asked me why I'd done it and I said the reasons why I did in his column, it's not binding, but I think it serves quite an important purpose to show that you're thinking about things and you're not just sort of whizzing through publishing and be damned. So I've always had one and I think it's a great idea. We publish prominent corrections and clarification columns as well. And I just think as long as you give he or she some independence to make genuine decisions, or certainly come to genuine opinions, it can work. Obviously they're not binding in any sense, we could do the same thing again, but it's hard, it's hard to go against what your readers' editor has said in the columns of the newspaper.
Q. Mr Russell, you've heard that evidence of a successful exemplar. What's your view? MR RUSSELL The Herald doesn't have anybody with the specific title of readers' editor. I don't think that's necessarily necessary. But we have any sort of readers' complaints are always dealt with as efficiently and quickly, as thoroughly as possible. Complaints either come directly to myself or our senior assistant editor who's a very experienced journalist and he effectively fills the role of readers' editor and he does our liaising with the PCC, et cetera, and if a clarification or correction needs to be printed, he will action that.
Q. That arrangement, I understand, it doesn't have quite the same independence, does it, as the scheme that's just been explained to us? MR RUSSELL On the face of it, no. You could argue that, but ultimately he's his role is to come to me with his recommendations. He's not free to publish anything he likes about his investigation into a complaint, but he will come to me with what he recommends as the best course of action. But ultimately he is an employee of the paper, as is the case just described is also an employee of the same company. So it's kind of it might be a semantics to describe quite how independent somebody would be in those circumstances.
Q. Thank you. Mr Feeney? MR FEENEY I'd like to think that I'm the readers' editor on the Evening Post. All complaints come to me, I lead the investigation into them, I question the reporters involved, the section editors involved. I decide if the complaint is justified. If it is, I agree the wording of any clarification, correction or, if necessary, apology with the complainant. And corrections and apologies are always placed on page 3 of the newspaper.
Q. That is a system which has the virtue of taking the complaint straight to the top at the outset, but the vice of no independence at all; is that right? MR FEENEY Yes, but in the same way as if there was a readers' editor, that reader's editor would presumably still be an employee of the company.
Q. Mr McLellan? MR McLELLAN: I'm the same as Spencer really. Complaints come to me and I either we will publish a large number of these, I'll engage with the complainants either by writing to them directly or by publishing my views alongside theirs in the paper. We don't have a formal readers' editor column as such, but we do, in common with most papers these days, have a prominent clarifications and corrections section. There's two elements to this really. One is whether or not you have a system which reflects openness and a willingness to accept criticism and other people may have a view to what you've published and the question you raised at the outset is whether or not this helps deflect expensive litigation. My view is that an open attitude that's prepared to publish criticism is a good thing from the point of view that Mike raises, but as far as deflecting litigation is concerned, if somebody thinks they have a case worth money, no readers' editor column in the world is going to stop them going after you for cash. MR FEENEY I'd also add that our letters page is open to readers to put alternative points of view. If they disagree with the way that the newspaper has handled a story, they're quick enough to write letters for publication telling us that, and we publish them.
Q. If a letters page is a vehicle for any reader to express a view about a story that you've published, can I use that as a peg on which to hang the hat of moving on to the right of reply? Where you publish an article which offends the subject, what are your approaches to a right of reply? Perhaps I can start again with Mr Gilson. MR GILSON I would say it depends on the circumstances. Obviously in a story which you would have thought well, you hope would have been well researched and well rounded and fair and accurate, then that person would have been in that story, if he was an important part of it. Obviously letters pages are very important. Right of reply can be done in all kinds of ways. If on balance you look and think there's something we missed, probably by accident or because we weren't aware, there are all kinds of ways that you can write another story, a follow-up story to include someone in. There's a range of different tactics. In terms of a formal thing that says right of reply, I we would tend to put that in the letters page or, if not, come to some agreement where a genuine point moved the story on, we would run the follow-up.
Q. Do any of the rest of you adopt any different approach or is that the general way it's done? MR McLELLAN: We're very fortunate, we have a large comment and opinion section, and it's a variety of different lengths in there, so we're quite happy to give people the right of reply that is neither a follow-up story, which is a disguised correction, or something in the letters page. We can offer something that's somewhere in there's an alternative to that and we do that quite regularly, and in fact, in the spirit of openness and debate, we're quite happy to do that. It's not something that we feel that we're backed into. If someone has a different view, then I feel that's a positive thing to be able to allow them to express that in our pages. In fact, with our columnists, we almost encourage our columnists to argue with each other, so there's a free flow of opinions, and that helps demonstrate that we don't regard ourselves as having the monopoly of wisdom over anything we publish. MR RUSSELL I think it's worth bearing in mind there's a vast difference between a complaint that's been made because of a factual inaccuracy or because they feel they've been treated unfairly or just that they don't like the story. I think that's worth bearing in mind. There's a lot of stories appear in all newspapers and magazines that somebody just doesn't like, and that doesn't necessarily mean that they're entitled to a right of reply necessarily.
Q. Moving on to a slightly different topic but connected. I showed you, Mr McLellan, this morning an article dating from 2003, which has been sent to us by a member of the public. The member who sent it in takes issue with it and thinks it shouldn't be published. Indeed she says it was taken down at one stage and reposted. I don't want to go into the rights and wrongs of the specific complaint, but given that the article dated back to 2003, I wanted to ask you: does your newspaper have a policy on for how long old stories remain on your website? MR McLELLAN: There's a difference between remaining on the website and being part of the electronic archive and I think that we have a very extensive electronic archive. If we decide to take a story down, then the story remains down. Now, how this story the first I knew of it was when you presented me with the letter this morning. How that story reappeared is a mystery to me.
Q. I'm not really wishing to explore that because I quite accept it's not something you can deal with now, but I'm interested in the general proposition that once news is out there on the Internet, if someone is contesting it, it seems once it's there to stay there and even if you take it down from your own website, it can then circulate in other ways? MR McLELLAN: Yes.
Q. What policies do you gentlemen have for how long you keep material posted, whether on the main site or on an accessible archive? Perhaps if I start the ball rolling by asking Mr Russell: what does your newspaper do about that? MR RUSSELL As regards the actual website, stories don't tend to stay up on it for that long because the contents are constantly updating on a day-by-day basis. As John said, in terms of something that's gone on the website today, you'll be able to access that for many years to come just because it's I'm not an expert on the technology behind the Internet, but it's there, you Google it and you'll find it.
Q. Do you think there ought to be some sort of policy whereby news comes down after a certain period or are you committed to keeping it out there? MR RUSSELL Not really. I think there may be an occasion where it would justify it, but generally, I mean the archives of our newspapers going back years and years are available to members of the public in public libraries, national library of Scotland, et cetera, so it's not as if it's the only place you could find these stories. In a year or two years' time, the content is still available to members of the public, either by buying back copies from ourselves or going to the national library et cetera. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Do you think there's a different responsibility these days? Certainly the old chestnut was that your newspaper today wrapped your fish and chips of tomorrow. And of course somebody could, with enough diligence, research back into a story and go into those wonderful libraries with enormous volumes and turn over the pages, I've done it myself, but there is a difference between being able to do that and being able, with four or five clicks of your mouse, to access any story, however long back in the past it was. MR RUSSELL I take the point you're trying to make. I don't know that it's it would be correct to have a change of policy just to the availability of these stories just because modern technology makes it easier to find these stories than it was say 10 or 15 years ago. If the stories there are publicly accessible and it's there publicly accessible LORD JUSTICE LEVESON In one sense you're right, but it may be that the past allowed stories to have a shelf life which, as I say, could be researched, but now there is no shelf life. That might actually mean that people get more concerned about what's in the paper today because it's in the paper today, tomorrow, next year, next decade, 30 years' time. MR RUSSELL It's certainly a point of view. I'd go back to as long as archive newspapers are kept, I don't personally see a huge difference just because it's easier to access it online than go to the national library. I don't see why that means you should be taking stories offline when they're still available in other places. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm not saying necessarily you do. I'm merely identifying the problem. MR RUSSELL Absolutely. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You have read in the newspapers more than once of criminal trials that are affected by the ability of jurors to research on the web and so learn things about those who are on trial which are not in the trial and which of course they could have gone to the National Archive and found out if they wanted, but who would do that? MR RUSSELL I agree, but I think that's not just a newspaper problem. If a notorious criminal is on trial, there's an awful lot of material available on that person on the Internet that isn't in newspaper archives. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I entirely agree. You shouldn't be defensive. MR RUSSELL No, I'm not, sorry. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm not in attack mode, I promise you. I'm simply trying to investigate the reality of the position. MR RUSSELL Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And to wonder whether we should be thinking about this. Not necessarily in the context of conduct. MR RUSSELL I agree that it is an issue and it is something that should be addressed, but I think that's more a wider Internet problem than a newspaper electronic archive problem, personally. MR McLELLAN: I think there's a clear clash in the availability of information, particularly for local newspapers, for the access to details about relatively minor offences and the principles behind spent convictions. It's very obvious that if something is a spent conviction but the public can easily access information about something which is by law supposed to be buried in the past and that person is supposed to have, you know, paid their dues to society, then that is something which we as an industry haven't wrestled with and certainly the Internet as such has no interest in wrestling with it, but as a moral question it's a live one. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Your comment there throws out a slightly different point that is very focused on what I'm thinking about, namely what are the differences between the newspaper industry and what I've called the elephant in the room, the Internet, on the basis that the Internet just contains I say just it contains facts, information, undigested, unfiltered material. Whereas the press can sell itself as providing mediated fact, assured facts this is what you were talking about at the beginning of your evidence and responsible comment. And whether there is anywhere bridging that. The problem that is generated by the Internet, so as to maintain a healthy, vibrant press. MR FEENEY I think taking a story down off a newspaper website isn't difficult, but it doesn't solve the problem, as we found with a bit of experience. We were trying to resolve a libel claim, and we took the offending articles off our website, but the complainant's lawyers kept on pointing out they could Google their client's name and find references to the inaccurate stories all over the web. In the end, we went to Google and said, "Can you help us with this, can you do something that would just make sure all of these articles were removed?" and I think Google's response was, "Well, we might be able to but we're not going to because our ethos is cyberspace information hangs there". I think it's a problem that actually has to go as high up the scale as the big search engines to try to resolve it, if it can be resolved. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think that it may be that some of the search engines will be giving evidence, but I'm very conscious one of the witnesses to the Inquiry was Mr Mosley, who is going around the world taking down stories about him in relation to a case where he succeeded in litigation in this country. I don't need to identify the story because each one of you knows exactly what I'm talking about, but it is a problem. But on the wider question, I'd be interested in any of your views. MR GILSON It's going to be very hard to put the genie back in the bottle with this information overload. For our own newspaper, we will think very hard about putting minor court cases up in the first place because there is the issue of spent convictions. Obviously historical issues in Northern Ireland and the Troubles are up there for anyone to see. In fact, our Troubles archive is a unique resource for people. But I think and we will also go back in and correct stories, and that's about as much as we can do once it's out there. I think there has to be things you mentioned about court cases and people looking at past stories about them, it's an issue for everybody. The courts as well as newspapers. And all we can do with our own sites is do what we do now, which is correct and take down. Certainly in terms of previous convictions, which is your concern there. I think the other side of it, though, is once it's out there as a story that someone did something ten years ago, it's just out there, it's a matter of record. I'm not so sure that is necessarily a bad thing. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm not adjudicating that, I'm merely identifying the consequential problems, which are real. MR GILSON Sure. MR McLELLAN: There's a growing number of requests/complaints to us from people who have appeared in the paper at some point in the past, some black mark in their lives and they want it erased. It's not rare for those requests to come in and that will grow and grow the more stories appear, and on the Internet, as time goes on, there will be a lot more people than there have been whose names and faces have appeared in newspapers and they don't want them to be on websites any more. As we've already heard, we can do all we can, but by and large, if you put something up, it's up there. MR BARR On the question of apologies and corrections, one proposal is that the principle should be that an apology is printed in the same place that the offending article took place. Parity of prominence. Would any of you like to express a view either in support of or criticising that proposal? MR GILSON I think there's a whole sliding scale of how much was wrong, the size of the error. To make a very blunt instrument of that was the splash therefore it should be on front I think would be something that I would be very concerned about. I think a regular place where people know and come, and we have that and a lot of newspapers do now, where there are corrections, is a good method because it does it puts them all together. Some days you look like you've made a hell of a lot of mistakes and that's not a good thing to happen, but the practicalities of same place, same prominence, I think, are a problem.
Q. Is there room for exceptions? MR GILSON Yes, I think there is always room when you've negotiated say a page 3 or page 1 is always a problem, I think, because it would have to be you know, every aspect of that story would be so wrong, and obviously there have been examples that we know about, where you can see that was right to do that and actually the paper had to do it to protect its reputation, but I can't think of too many examples where you would say, "That was the splash, therefore we should splash it on the front". It would be disproportionate.
Q. Do any of the rest of you take a different view or are you in agreement with that? MR FEENEY As I said earlier, all of our corrections appear on page 3. That means for the vast majority the correction is appearing at a much earlier position in the paper than the original story. I have agreed on one occasion to publish a correction and apology on page 1 because, as Mike said, the error was sufficiently serious to merit it. You can still agree a page 1 correction and apology if it's merited, but if you have a fixed position, then the majority of cases, unless your fixed position is somewhere at the back of the paper where I think you're then not entering into the spirit of it, then your fixed position is going to be earlier than the original story anyway. MR McLELLAN: I think the public expectation is that any rectifying of an error should be proportionate and that the proportionality, I think we have to accept proportionality has to be part of the process of deciding what is the right level of correction to take place, in order for the industry to make sure that it is as much in line with public expectation as possible, that's what we're about, being in line with the way our readers think, and I think we have to accept that the greatest transgressions have to be rectified in a suitable and proportionate manner. I carried a front-page correction where a story was completely wrong 14 years ago, so it's not as if this is suddenly something which we're all having to come to terms with now. It has happened and happened a long time ago.
Q. If everyone has said what they want to say on that issue, I'm going to move to the question of contact with police officers. Can we start with off-the-record conversations between reporters and police officers? Does any one of you prohibit such conversations? If you all are content for your journalists to have off-the-record conversations with policemen, what controls, if any, do you think there ought to be, or guidance to your journalists, when engaging in that sort of contact? Mr McLellan, could I start with you? MR McLELLAN: I think the principle of reporters talking to other members of the human race on an on the record or off the record basis should not be up for debate. That's what we're about. I think it's as much for public bodies to decide how their employees and representatives interact with us. We are supposed to be out there digging things up that people didn't know about, things that perhaps people don't want us to know about, and it's part of our function to talk to people, be they police officers or any other members of establishment bodies. For us to limit who we can and can't talk to I think would be counter to everything that we're about. But if police forces or health boards want to ban their employees from talking to us, that's a different matter. But for us to instruct our people not to talk to people, that would be very strange.
Q. Does anyone take a different view? MR GILSON I would just like to say in a lot of cases nowadays chance would be a fine thing. One of the things that followers of the Inquiry might have formed the impression that this is going on all the time. I have to say that the way that information is closed off these days by organisations employing huge numbers of press officers to stop the sort of thing that you're talking about is enormous. In some areas press officers outnumber journalists. The old arrangements which we all are old enough to come up with of talking to a policeman on a basis of trust in a way that John said, in a way that we should do, that's what we employ people for. We employ people to get around press officers, let's be honest. But actually the truth of the matter is perhaps apart from and I've edited quite a bit around the UK but actually my experience is a gradual closing down of these things to the point where it's bad for democracy. The amount of crime that happened in your patch hardly gets reported, so sorry, I didn't quite answer your question there, but I think it's LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, it's a valid point, and indeed one of the things that was said to me when I visited a regional newspaper was in terms the inability for the crime reporter to speak to the detective on the ground rather than to have to go through a press office. But that works both ways, doesn't it? It requires trust and confidence, but it equally requires the same from the reporters. MR GILSON Indeed. MR FEENEY Can I just say in terms of press offices, I think all organisations have these press offices now and very often they're poaching our most experienced reporters to staff them, but in our experience, very often these press officers themselves will request off the record meetings and briefings to provide us with information that they think is useful but they don't want to be attributed back to their organisation. So it's not a case of the journalist seeking a whispered conversation in the corner. The press officers themselves are saying, "Can I tell you things off the record which you can use in the paper but don't quote me." MR RUSSELL I think that's quite an important point. If we speak to police, whether it be on the record or off the record, it's not just to get a story for the paper. The police need the press, the broadcast media hugely for witness appeals, to help solve unsolved crimes, et cetera. When I was editor of the Paisley Daily Express I had a meeting with a senior officer one time who said not a day goes by where they don't get a phone call into the CID room saying "I'm phoning about the story in the Paisley Daily Express, I think I know something" and I think it needs to be borne in mind that it's not just, you know, so we get stories that we have contact with the police. MR BARR I think it's very clear from all of your statements, which are going to be posted on the Internet, the very valuable work that's done by the press to help the police in their work. For the purposes of the Inquiry, what I'm interested in is: do you sense an attempt by your local police forces to try and shape the way in which they are reported in your newspapers to help to mould their image and if so MR FEENEY If you speak to the chief constables they will be open and tell you that they are charged with controlling the public's perception of crime and they are very anxious to not see too much crime reported in local papers.
Q. I see Mr McLellan nodding there. Mr Russell, Mr Gilson. Mr Gilson, you're nodding. Mr Russell, is that your experience? MR RUSSELL There's an element of that as well but I don't think I think it would be unfair to criticise the police. Any organisation, if you're doing a story on them, they want their organisation painted in the best possible light and I don't think the police would be any different from any other organisation in that regard. MR FEENEY But it is actually a Home Office directive to chief constables to manage the perception of crime MR GILSON (Overspeaking) I think the whole idea, the whole issue, you're right, Spencer, is this message went out to try and the fear of crime was bigger than the crime itself, as against our reporters, even on a local level, we would say if your shed was burgled down the road, and I lived in the same road, actually I'd quite like to know about that. MR McLELLAN: I think that's a very good point because there's different kinds of publications. Now I live in Edinburgh. I have heard the Chief Constable say that we've got to be very careful about creating a fear of crime where, as far as we're concerned, you people live in a very safe environment, and by and large Edinburgh is a very safe environment. So the police policy is not to give us information about minor crime, and so the pages of the Evening News are not filled with bicycle thieves and sheds being broken into. That's a policy of the police. Go to another publication, the local Neighbourhood Watch newsletter, you will see stuff there from the beat cop who is telling people, "Be careful because there's been a number of break-ins in this street and we're investigating". So the police are controlling what goes in some media, but then the beat cop is quite happy and able to talk to his local Neighbourhood Watch who then publish a newsletter that goes out to all the houses in that neighbourhood. So therefore you have two very different perceptions of what's going on in communities and two very different publications, but in terms of the Inquiry, those are still publications. The Neighbourhood Watch newsletter is a publication as much as our newspapers are, and the police have a different viewpoint to what goes in one and the other. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The real trick is how to get balance in this. If I wear a different hat, as I do, I am very keen in my capacity as chair of the Sentencing Council to do what I can to promote confidence in the criminal justice system, and I do that by identifying what in fact is happening as opposed to sometimes what is said to be thought to be happening, and they're not necessarily the same. MR FEENEY You want to instill confidence by suppressing what is actually happening and LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, no MR FEENEY that's what happens when the police don't inform us of crime. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON One of the problems of that is that when I started at the bar there was a reporter in my local court who would then accurately tell the story of what happened in court so that those who read the account in the local newspaper could see the facts. What tends to happen now is there isn't a reporter in a local newspaper and a police officer will give his version of the facts, which may be rather higher than actually the jury ultimately convicted of, so they tell an assault case as deliberate, intentional knifing, whereas he wasn't convicted of wounding with intent but of a much lesser offence of violence. So the facts are reported at the higher level and the sentence is then reported at the lower level and everybody says, "What's going on here? This is ridiculous". That's because of lack of accuracy. MR GILSON I would be very, very loath to take any policeman's view of a court case and run it in a paper because you've lost your privilege. But I think the other issue is trying to get back to the old days of trust. If you meet people on a regular basis face to face talking about it, the next time either one of you does something that breaks that trust, that's what used to be the good old-fashioned journalism which I worry we're now seeing as almost like a crime itself and I think we need to be slightly careful about that. Because what we would like, and as I said at the start, I take on reporters who will not stop at a press office. That to me is no good. I want to speak to the people who are actually doing the things, making the decisions, and despite what it might come over in terms of dealing with the Met police, for example, I'm afraid we are in a democratic deficit with the amount of information that is being kept in all these organisations. In my view. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Am I right in saying that there aren't local reporters going to courts any more? MR GILSON I think that's a bit too brutal, but LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Broad. MR GILSON nevertheless it is a real concern. In certain towns and cities there are bloggers don't go to the town halls and to the courts. Local reporters do. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON One might say equally the same about local government and MR GILSON Indeed and that kind of shining a light sadly is at risk, there's no question about that. MR FEENEY If a town loses its paper, then clearly courts and councils are not being reported and held up for public scrutiny. I don't know about my colleagues, but in my paper we cover the courts still. But I think what I was talking about more was crime reporting than court reporting. It's the incidents of crime that I think the police are deliberately downplaying. MR McLELLAN: There is also a balance for us as editors to make sure that our pages are not crammed full of depressing news about our communities and the only picture we paint of our communities is a relentless one of crime ridden estates where everybody lives in fear of their lives. We have to strike a balance. Certainly the courts, more now than ever before, are the preserve of agencies. Some are very good agencies who supply very reliable copy. There's a case just going through the PCC recently which was a mistake as a result of information passed on in good faith by court officers, a Crown Court, where the case was I think it was Cardiff Crown Court it actually went through and the case was involving somebody living in a newspaper area that was not in the Cardiff area and the information was picked up wrongly and the result was a complaint. I think it's fair to say that we don't staff up district courts and magistrate courts the way we used to. I used to spend every Monday and Tuesday in Chester Magistrates Court and knew the clerks and lawyers and it was a great grounding, but I doubt very much whether or not the local papers are staffing magistrates courts at the same level as we used to. We certainly in Edinburgh, the Edinburgh Evening News hasn't staffed the sheriff's court regularly for the best part of 15 years. MR BARR Thank you. Moving to the question of contacts with politicians, what I'd like to explore first of all is whether any of you as editors seek to influence your local politicians, for example by getting them to support a campaign that the newspaper is running or something like that. I'm not putting this question with any pejorative angle, I just seek to understand the sort of contact that there is between you and your local politicians; obviously in the case of devolved governments, with your regional MPs. Could you help us with that starting with you, Mr McLellan? MR McLELLAN: It's the other way around. They want our support to help them. Especially there's a little debate going on in Scotland right now, for which both sides would like our newspaper to support them. In fact, we've been asked just recently when is the Scotsman going to come off the fence as far as the independence question is concerned? I said with three years to go, not yet. Obviously we do over the years I've recruited the support of local politicians for our campaigns, but by and large certainly in the position of the Scotsman and Scotland man on Sunday it tends to be the other way around.
Q. If there is that hunger on the part of the politicians to get your support, does that put you in a position of some power over them? MR McLELLAN: I think it puts us as being an important part of the debate and that's the way it should be. Certainly we're fortunate enough to live in a country where we do have a great variety of publications and a number of different views would be held, and I think that the courting of politicians of editors to discuss the things that they want to see enacted seems to me to be part of the process.
Q. We heard yesterday from the editor of the Guardian, talking about power that he held as an editor of a major newspaper, and you're the editor of a major Scottish newspaper. With that power, what responsibility is there vis-a-vis your dealings with politicians? MR McLELLAN: Responsibility in what regard?
Q. Ethical responsibility. Do you think you're under any particular ethical constraints in your dealings with politicians? MR McLELLAN: I'm not sure that I would necessarily describe it as an ethical one. I think it's a necessary part of our job to listen to all sides of any argument and come to a view ourselves as long as we feel that our view is being honestly held and we can defend it and that we've listened to what has been told to us from lots of different sides. We're in a different position because we serve a small country, and it's not in our interests to drive a particular a narrow agenda because even from a practical point of view we don't have the readership mass to be able to take a niche of our readership and say we're going to agree with this section of readership and not this one. Obviously there are lots of people who would challenge me on that because so far the Scotsman has not been a cheerleader for independence and no doubt you could find not a small number of members of the SNP who would argue that we are taking a position. We have previously set out our stall in favour of fiscal autonomy, for instance, which is not a policy favoured by any of the parties particularly right now because the SNP's policy is for full independence. So we will take a balanced view given what we think the majority of readers will empathise with, and we will take a view what we think is the right position to take, but not necessarily follow any particular party political line, but it's part of the warp and weft of a political newspaper operating in that sphere that there will be things that people agree with and things that people don't and we have to take cognisance of lots of different views.
Q. If you say the word "we" a lot in that answer, can I pick up on that. Accepting entirely that as the editor, it's your call. MR McLELLAN: Yes.
Q. It's part of the editor's function, if you do come off the fence in what you've described as the little question in due course, is that a decision that you will discuss with the proprietor of your newspaper before coming off the fence? MR McLELLAN: On a major decision we will let the managing editor know what we're going to do but we don't consult them as such. We don't seek permission to take a position. It's a courtesy to inform them what position the paper is going to take, but there's no process for them to commercial people to come in and say, "We think you should be doing this because we think we're going to be in a stronger commercial position should you do this". That doesn't take place.
Q. Is there discussion and are views expressed by the people at proprietor level, if I describe it that way, seeking to influence you, accepting though that the ultimate decision is yours? MR McLELLAN: I've never had a discussion with anybody at Johnston Press senior management level about the direction the paper is going in. I've never had the conversation. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Johnston Press own how many titles? MR McLELLAN: Over 300. MR GILSON When I was editor at the Scotsman, which is a few years ago now, coming up to the election the Scotsman came out for the SNP in the election under my editorship, or was about to, and the chief executive this is all a matter of record approached me at the time and said, "Look, you're the editor, I understand all that, but we're a little concerned about what you're doing in the Scotsman", as is right that he should do so, he's the chief of the company. We had a discussion about the position of the paper and in the end, as he rightly admitted, it was my decision and although he wasn't in favour of it, we did come out in favour and say that the SNP should win that election. So that's the sort of relationship that I've always had. Absolutely right we have a discussion, a sounding board and positions and fears. Obviously this was more on the business grounds, I think, were the fears at the time. But having listened to what he said and having talked and thought where our readers were, which is much more important, at that time we thought it was time for a new government and we carried on supporting the SNP.
Q. Mr Russell, your experience perhaps, using the little question as an example, are you the subject of a lot of contact with politicians on it at the moment? MR RUSSELL Yeah, I wouldn't say a huge amount, but yes, I speak with politicians, a politician or politicians, not necessarily every day, but I reckon one or two, three times a week, yes, and they're interested in our views as a paper, I'm interested in their views and how they see the debate moving forward, the consequences of what would happen if this happened sort of thing and there's a lot of discussion about that. It's really for them to become they sometimes see the Herald as a barometer of public opinion so they'll ask us about readers' letters that we've had, et cetera, and our views, and it's good for us to know what's sort of going on in their heads as well.
Q. Is the paper's editorial line on that or perhaps other important political questions something that's discussed with the proprietor? MR RUSSELL It would be discussed with them, with my the managing director of Herald and Times Group, I'll have an occasional discussion with him about it. He will perhaps ask he may well give me his opinion, he may well ask my or the paper's opinion, he may well ask me why I made certain decisions, but it would be wrong to suggest he has tried in any way to influence the paper's political line.
Q. Thank you. Mr Feeney, relations with politicians? MR FEENEY I think it's worth bearing in mind for a local paper the politicians that reporters have most contact with will be local councillors. You need to keep that context in mind. We're not talking about having conversations with ministers of state or the high and mighty. We do also talk to our MPs and our Welsh Assembly members, but we all live in the same town, so our contact, I would say, is constant and everyday. Yes, we always ask them to support our campaigns. They always seek the newspaper's support for their objectives. Their objectives and our campaigns often chime. They tend to be retaining local facilities or jobs so it's not a case of anybody being in another person's pocket. Why the relationship is close inevitably is because it's geographically close. It's not cosy in the sense that we wouldn't criticise what they're doing. Tory and Lib Dem MPs are quite rare in South Wales but we do have a Labour government in Cardiff and while I meet and speak to the AMs regularly, we won't hesitate to criticise Welsh government policy.
Q. If you won't hesitate to criticise, does that instill any fear in the politicians of the power that you wield as the editor of the most popular local newspaper? MR FEENEY Fear would be overstating it, but the very fact that they're keen to get the newspaper to support their objectives I think indicates they realise the importance of a local paper that's well connected in the community. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON One of the topics that I'm required to look at is the relationship between the press and politicians at a national level here in London. I have in you four gentlemen representatives of the most significant newspaper organs that have to deal with very important government institutions that are locally based: The Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly. Do you consider the relationship that you have with your respective governments at that level is too close, not close enough, about right, works, doesn't work? And what is it about it that works or doesn't work? I'm asking a very general question. I won't ask you to comment upon the situation here in London because that's not what your experience is, but if you could give me some assistance, I'd be grateful. MR GILSON I think in Northern Ireland it's a unique government because it's a mandatory coalition after the Good Friday Agreement, so there is a degree of unanimity in government which doesn't create an adversarial parliament. Very often, and this has been said by many people in Northern Ireland, the press is actually the official opposition, so that puts us in a slightly different position, which means that we see ourselves as a critical friend, but decisions are made in a slightly different way within the executive of five, and the way that we're governed doesn't really allow a situation where we could favour one or the other. We're effectively putting them all to task within the context, of course, of where we come in Northern Ireland and where we are and the fact that the government is actually working and devolution is actually working. We have to be careful. A critical friend is how we see it, but in terms of parties we are really sort of on behalf of our readers trying to expose what's going on in Stormont and how far we have to go. It's a fairly simple relationship. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Okay. MR RUSSELL I'm comfortable with the relationship myself and the paper has with politicians. Sort of aside from what Spencer said, most of my dealings wouldn't really be with local councillors, it would be kind of similar to John, it would be with senior government with whether it be Scottish government or UK government ministers, et cetera. In terms of the relationship, I think it works well. We like to think we share the common goals of the politicians, which is to make Scotland a better place for Scottish people and our readers. I think the important thing is yes, it could be easy for either a politician or for an editor to go too far or for the relationship to become too cosy sometimes and it's incumbent upon your professionalism and moral compass that both sides don't allow that to happen. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Let me stay with Scotland while I can, then I'll switch to Wales so I have it sorted out in my mind. MR McLELLAN: I suppose I'm satisfied with the situation the way it is, because if I wasn't, I would do something to change it. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's fair enough. MR McLELLAN: I'm not close to any of the politicians. I know them but I'm not close to any of them or the parties. Certainly no version of lavish Chipping Norton parties in Scotland as far as I know. I think that's probably the way it should be, a healthy relationship but a certain amount of distance. MR FEENEY I think the great merit in Wales is the ease of accessibility to the people running the government in Wales. It's a smaller pond, if you like, and that's a great advantage, that it's quite easy to get to speak to people and get your point of view across and have the discussion but in no way is it a cosy relationship. I'd say it works well. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. MR BARR The final topic is the future of regulation, obviously from the starting point of whether or not the existing system needs change at all. Can I ask you first of all looking forward in whatever form regulation might take, how can the regional voice and the regional interests of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales best be secured going forward? Mr McLellan, could you start? MR McLELLAN: Sure. I think from a very straightforward point of view I think whatever system we have in the future, I think what we in Scotland need is an assurance that we have the same kind of representation that we have just now, not necessarily from a point of view of an editor from Scotland being on whatever the PCC/Press Standards Authority, whatever it may be called is concerned, but there's a guarantee that someone from Scotland is involved in the new process. I think there's a pretty strong likelihood that serving editors will no longer be part of the day-to-day Commission. I think we all pretty much accept that's likely to happen. So therefore that removes the guarantee that Scotland has of a representation on the body, and I think we'd really be looking for some kind of replacement that enshrines a Scottish place in the new body, not necessarily a serving editor as at present. Certainly as far as and similarly for the Code Committee. Obviously the Code Committee issues are different to those being discussed as far as the make-up of the Commission itself is concerned. But that would certainly go a long way to guaranteeing that we have that unique representation on the new body.
Q. Implicit in what you're saying I've been doing my homework as well so I'm pretty sure I know the answer to the next question you're in favour, are you, of a single body, not separate Scottish and English bodies? MR McLELLAN: Yes. As I said this week, we would have a situation where if there was a separate Scottish body, then most of our organisations would have to deal with two bodies and two sets of regulations, and that would involve a cost and a considerable complication for us, that a story published in our newspapers could end up being brought to two press standards bodies. I think it's important to us, setting aside the politics, I think it's important that we deal with one body. As far as the national press is concerned, with papers, the highest circulating papers in Scotland now are London papers, and it would be strange for them to have to deal with two bodies. I think a single body serving the needs of Scotland as well as the rest of the UK would be a preferred solution.
Q. Mr Russell, do you agree with that? MR RUSSELL Broadly. I'm not ideologically opposed to a Scottish press standards authority, but I think as things stand the practical difficulties would be fairly large and substantial and that's not to say they couldn't be worked through, but I think it would be very difficult to see how you could work a Scottish press standards authority while the PCC or an equivalent is still running in England dealing with London-based titles, but it is something that would need to be given more thought because if Scotland does move towards full independence in the next few years, clearly there may need to be more thought given to that.
Q. Mr Feeney, for Wales, would you contend for a separate body or not? MR FEENEY No, I wouldn't, and I don't think it's necessary to insist that you have an editor who is working in Wales on the PCC or whatever follows from the PCC. The code of practice applies right across the UK. Certainly as far as Wales is concerned, the law is the same as in England and journalists should be following the code and obeying the law. I do think there needs to be a single regulatory body. Not as much as splitting England and Scotland but I've seen it suggested that perhaps the PCC could continue and simply regulate for the local and regional press, something else could regulate the national press, and I disagree with that because I think that would suggest that the PCC, or whatever follows it, and the regional press in some way is second division or the journalism that's being regulated is lesser LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Actually, it might say quite the reverse. MR FEENEY Well, I would argue that journalism in the regional press is not lesser than the journalism in the national press, so I wouldn't support an idea that you had separate regulatory bodies for regional and national papers. MR BARR Mr Gilson, the same issues? MR GILSON Yes, I think a single body makes sense. I think a single body that recognises there's a lot of different countries in the UK, there's a lot of different circumstances would be fine, and also a lot of different newspapers doing different things, not all of them breaking the law. I don't think you could ask for much more than that. I don't see a point of separating it. I think it's right that it's a UK-wide body.
Q. Mr Gilson, I am going ask you this because you work in Northern Ireland and it may be that you speak to your colleagues in the Republic. There's a system of regulation operating there which has been the subject of quite a lot of positive comment. If you have discussed the pros and cons of our respective systems with your colleagues in the Republic, could you help us with the benefit of those conversations? MR GILSON I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to give you information that would be of that much use to you. I don't really know that much about it. Obviously I've had experience over here with the Code Committee, but I do think that the Republic copied a lot of the early PCC model, as indeed most of the world, let's be honest. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Although it's enshrined and encapsulated within legislation, isn't it? There is a background act MR GILSON Indeed, yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON in Ireland. MR GILSON So I'm afraid I wouldn't be an expert on that. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. MR BARR Compulsory membership of whatever regulator emerges in the future, is anybody against compulsory membership? MR McLELLAN: It's very difficult to know how you can compel without some kind of statutory background. That's the issue we're all wrestling with, and even the proposal to have some kind of civil law contractual underpinning still doesn't answer the question about how you compel someone to sign up to a contract. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You're absolutely right. What you say is that actually there is a framework and that you make it independent regulation by insisting that the way in which the framework operates, the way in which the standards are devised are all entirely independent; in other words, run by the industry and others, but with no government involvement at all, and that in some way you find an independent standards regulator who again is not answerable to, appointed by or in any sense linked with government or the state. That's the issue that we're struggling with. MR McLELLAN: Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But that might be a way forward. Although I've not got there, as I say to everybody who I raise this question with; I'm merely thinking. MR McLELLAN: I think the suggestions about the Reynolds defence enhancement for any organisation signed up to a new system I think looks good on paper but would have to be demonstrated in fact. I think Mr Desmond was up last week. The root of his decision to be outwith the system is a financial one and the thing that will compel him to come within the system will be a financial one as well. The morals and the ethics of it all are not part of that process. I think that without a compelling reason to be within the system that's not statutorily binding, it's difficult to see how that can be cracked until it can be proved that actually being outwith the system costs you money. That's the thing which the Reynolds defence attempts to deal with that. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's very difficult to change the law for one group of people and not for another. MR McLELLAN: Absolutely. Very dangerous, too. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much. Yes. MR BARR Cost. Obviously at the moment if you're within the PCC you make a contribution to PressBoF and any future system is going to have to have an arrangement by which it is funded. Do any of you have thoughts about that that you would like to share with us? MR McLELLAN: We heard from Lord Hunt just before Christmas about the hope that by reforming the way in which we regulate internally will reduce the workload on the current complaints body, which will free up resources to pay for the enhanced functions that are being talked about around the edges of the current system. I think we have to give that a chance, if we can, by being more proactive on our side, and with the PCC, or whatever it's called, passing more things back to us. If resources can be freed up within the existing arrangement and the enhancements can be funded from within the existing payments, then great, but we will have to see whether or not that actually happens. I have doubts as to whether or not it will be as simple as that, but if there is a brief from within the organisation that we can reapportion resources by taking on more base then we will that's something which the industry, I think, will have to take on board. For the national papers, not such a problem because they have managing editors, deputy managing editors, assistant managing editors. For us it probably means more work for us as individuals, but that's just the way it is. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think your concerns are very realistic. MR FEENEY I think I would just say don't replace the PCC with something vastly more expensive, which is going to cost us a lot more to be involved with it. We heard before lunch that the regional and local press is in a fragile financial state, its health is fragile, and please don't make any recommendations that's going to exacerbate that situation. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It may be one has to be more imaginative about the way in which it's all funded. I understand the problem. I make it abundantly clear I am a great believer and always have been in what local newspapers do, and by local I'm not merely talking about those that serve particular areas, I'm also talking about the Scots, the Irish and the Welsh papers, and their position is very familiar to me so I've got the message. I'm not promising anything, as I say every time I say something like this, but I understand the point. MR BARR Finally, the Inquiry is hearing a lot of evidence about different proposals for the future. If any of you have particular points about the future that you would like to raise now, please do so. If you have thoughts which can't be communicated succinctly, then by all means contact the Inquiry in writing setting them out. If anybody would like to say anything orally, please do so now. MR FEENEY I think I've just made my point. MR GILSON I think it's been an excellent opportunity to address you today. I think we just have to bear in mind that we're here because of an exceptional set of circumstances, and I think that if we've done anything to get over to you today how seriously we take our responsibilities to our readers and our ethics, then we'll have done all we can do. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much indeed. I accept that of course it's an exceptional set of circumstances that's brought us all here today, but as I've said to many people, over the last 40 years there have always been exceptional circumstances, then there's been some inquiry or something that happens and everybody says, "Oh, it will be much better tomorrow", and it is, it is, until the day after tomorrow, when there's some other great story, and over a period of time, so we've bounced along. I am very keen to find a way that respects all the positions that you've described, deals with all that is good in journalism, which is a very, very great deal, but actually does find a method of coping with what isn't so happy. Thank you all very, very much indeed for coming to give evidence. Thank you. It's probably sensible for me to rise for a few minutes while we change teams. (3.14 pm) (A short break) (3.24 pm) MR BARR Could I ask that the witnesses are sworn in, please. MR NOEL DORAN (sworn) MR NIGEL PICKOVER (sworn) MR PETER CHARLTON (sworn) MS MARIA McGEOGHAN (sworn) Questions by MR BARR MR BARR Mr Doran, if I could start with you first, please. You've provided the Inquiry with a witness statement. Are the contents of that statement true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief? MR DORAN To the best of my knowledge, yes.
Q. You tell us that you were appointed as editor of the Irish News, a daily newspaper based in Belfast, in April 1999, having been deputy editor for the previous six years. You began your journalistic career in 1978 working in the weekly newspaper sector with firstly the Antrim Guardian and then the Ballymena Observer. You then moved to the Belfast Telegraph, a daily newspaper, as a news reporter and later as local government correspondent, from 1984 to 1992, before spending two years as duty news editor with the commercial broadcaster Downtown Radio/Cool FM. Is that right? MR DORAN That's correct.
Q. Mr Pickover, if I can ask you next, please, are the contents of your witness statement true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief? MR PICKOVER They are.
Q. If I turn now to your experience, you are the editor of the Evening Star which is based in Ipswich, which is part of the privately owned Archant group of newspapers, magazines and websites. You've been in the newspaper industry for 39 years, all of this time on daily newspapers, regional and national. You started as a junior on the Star in Sheffield and you've worked on the Daily Mail as a freelancer, the Daily Express as a staffer and the Sunday Express as a freelancer. You rows to an executive production role on the Daily Express before leaving the company when production switched to London in 1989. You held a senior editorial role at the Yorkshire Evening Press in York before moving to Ipswich as deputy editor in 1994. You tell us that the Evening Star has won 17 newspaper of the year titles in that time and you're also president of you were the president of the Society of Editors in 2008 to 9 and you spent five years as a Society of Editors board member. Last year you were given an honorary Fellowship of the University Campus, Suffolk; is that right? MR PICKOVER That's true.
Q. Mr Charlton next. Are the contents of your witness statement true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief? MR CHARLTON They are.
Q. You tell us that you have been the editor of the Yorkshire Post for more than seven years and have edited daily regional papers in the north of England for nearly 24 years. The Yorkshire Post is an upmarket morning newspaper which serves England's largest county and you bill yourself Yorkshire's national newspaper, so you'd identify, would you, with the others coming from devolved powers as a national newspaper? MR CHARLTON I'm sure everyone's familiar with how Yorkshire is treated or Yorkshiremen portray themselves, but it's fair to say that we do bill ourselves as LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Do I need to declare myself as a Lancastrian? MR CHARLTON Not at all. I'm a Cumbrian. MR BARR You're an advocate for the region you serve and you put a premium on campaigning and investigative journalism. You tell us that you started as a reporter on the Cumberland Evening News and Star. You moved to the West Cumberland Press Agency and then to the China Daily in Beijing, before moving on to become deputy editor of the Lancashire Evening Post in Preston, the Gazette in Blackpool, the Star in Sheffield and then from 2004 onwards the Yorkshire Post. You are a Society of Editors board member and a founder chairman and current board member of the Johnston Press Editorial Review Group. Recent awards include the 2011 UK regional newspaper of the year runner-up and O2 Yorkshire newspaper of the year in 2009 and 2010. MR CHARLTON For clarity I should say the China Daily was simply a secondment while I was at the Lancashire Evening Post.
Q. I see, thank you. Ms McGeoghan, could you confirm, are the contents of your witness statement true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief? MS McGEOGHAN: Yes, they are.
Q. You tell us in your witness statement that you joined the Manchester Evening News as assistant editor in 1998 after nine years at the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo where you held a series of senior roles including features editor and deputy editor. Before that you worked in a freelance agency based in Lancashire and was health correspondent on the Lancashire Evening Telegraph and you're of course presently the editor of the Manchester Evening News and have been from March 2010 onwards. You were also editor-in-chief of a number of weekly titles; is that right? MS McGEOGHAN: That's right.
Q. We heard from the last panel of witnesses about the economic climate in which you are operating LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Before you deal with general matters, Mr Barr, I wonder whether I could ask Mr Doran whether he heard the evidence that was given by the predecessor set of four dealing with interreaction with the devolved administrations, whether the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and indeed Stormont. MR DORAN I did indeed. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's not quite the same area that your three colleagues are discussing. No discourtesy was intending in putting you in this group rather than the other; simply fitting five people along the back. But is there anything that you would like to add to that discussion about that relationship which doesn't really impact quite the same way on your colleagues? If you do have anything to add to the particular position that you hold in your relationships with Stormont, maybe we can just link that in to the other evidence we've heard first. MR DORAN Certainly. Briefly, Mike Gilson mentioned that we have an unusual political structure in Northern Ireland, which is effectively a permanent coalition, and probably we should stress how unusual it is, 108 MLAs 106 of those are effectively in parties of government. So our relationship with those parties is always diverse, but I think the question earlier was: could it be too close? I think I can confirm it's certainly not too close. We don't see very much of them. They tend to keep us at arm's length, which probably suits both sides. It's probably four years since I saw the First Minister, Deputy First Minister more regularly but infrequently. In previous times under direct (inaudible) from Westminster the Secretary of State would have regularly briefed the Belfast editors. The First Minister and Deputy First Minister are joint office, they are equal status, and they haven't managed to do that since devolution came in in 1999, but let's just say they haven't rushed into it. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. Is there anything else you'd like to add on those general topics that they spoke about? MR DORAN No. I would echo most of the points that were put forward. I think it's important to have a constructive relationship with our senior politicians. I don't think it's wise that it should be too close, and it certainly hasn't been. I think mostly, not always, but mostly it's been professional, usually reasonably amicable, but it has its ups and downs. I don't really think it compares to the way things were in London over a period of time. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Okay, thank you very much. Sorry, I just felt that it would be sensible to link that evidence in. MR BARR Indeed, sir. Back, really, to the question of the present climate in which you're operating. Would you all agree that these are difficult times for newspapers in general, particularly in the regions and in your case in Northern Ireland? MR DORAN Yes. For me to begin?
Q. Please do. MR DORAN Certainly they are difficult times in terms of circulation, difficult times in terms of advertising revenue. I think everyone would find the same pattern. Our newspaper is a little unusual in that our circulation is ahead of where it was 20 years ago but only just. Most others would have declined substantially in that period and certainly there's pressure on our advertising revenue which in turn puts pressure on our editorial operation. We have to give very careful consideration to what we cover and don't cover, and I'd say most of my colleagues across the regional press would give the same analysis.
Q. Mr Pickover? MR PICKOVER Yes, my newspaper operates in Suffolk and we're hoping in terms of circulation, as in the print product, to declare either a level performance or a slightly increased performance for last year, which is encouraging. In terms of our audience, we are bigger than we've been in a generation. When you add the print circulation to the online figures, we're bigger than when I first started my journey in Suffolk. So we have some things to celebrate. Of course everybody's indicated there are pressures on us from the recession and from some losses in commercial areas. It's our job to be creative to overcome those problems. MR CHARLTON Similarly I would say that pressure on advertising does of course put pressure on the number of journalists and the resources that you have available to do the job. Our preoccupation in the regional press is the transformation to a digital era and getting our content out across multi-platforms.
Q. Ms McGeoghan? MS McGEOGHAN: As well as the Manchester Evening News we have 20 weekly titles in a merged newsroom and circulation on the Manchester Evening News and the paid for weekly titles is declining, but our website has got 1.5 million unique users every month and is growing, and I think the challenge for all of us is how we can make more money out of that. Obviously you get advertising revenue, the more users we've got, but it's two sides of the story pretty much across the industry.
Q. For those of you who are part of groups, we've heard some evidence before about the impact of mergers and acquisitions law on small regional titles that wish to merge. Is that a problem? Has that been a problem for any of you? MS McGEOGHAN: Not specifically. I think the Kent Messenger decision was a disappointment. I think there's probably an appetite for more consolidation as we go forward and anything that could make that easier I think would be welcome. MR PICKOVER It's not been a problem for us. MR DORAN Just to declare an interest, more than five years ago the Irish News did make an objection under the monopolies legislation to the ownership of the Belfast Telegraph which was then under Trinity Mirror, and that objection was ultimately upheld and the Belfast Telegraph was sold as a result of that between five and ten years ago. Certainly not in the recent past.
Q. In terms of the pressures, obviously the recession is one. New media is giving you all a challenge for the future. Are there any other factors working in the market which are affecting you? I am thinking here about the rise of free newspapers, perhaps, published by local authorities. Are they affecting your business at all? MR PICKOVER They are there, but they don't affect our business. Sometimes we work in harmony with local authorities. We're aware that some of the weekly groups particularly might have had issues, but it's not a problem in my marketplace.
Q. Does anybody want to add to that at all? MR CHARLTON I think we're all familiar with the competition in the printed media, that there is a plethora of magazines out there which compete for advertising, and we've dealt with free newspapers for 20-odd years now, so I think it's very much a status quo in print terms.
Q. I'll move on then to culture and systems. Mr Doran, there was something which particularly struck me in your witness statement for those who have come and told us about very extensive paper systems for corporate governance incidence. You tell us in paragraph 3 of your witness statement that the Irish News is an independent family-owned newspaper and you do not have your own specific corporate governance policies. It's plain from what you go on to say that you rely simply on the PCC code. You then point out in paragraph 4 of your witness statement that the PCC has never ruled that you have been in breach of its code of practice during the time that you have been the editor. I wanted to ask you, given your newspaper's lack of formal systems: what is it then that is the key to your ethical success vis-a-vis the PCC? MR DORAN If you define it as an ethical success, but we would be satisfied with the way things have worked out with the PCC. Because we are an independently owned newspaper, not part of a wider group, I suppose inevitably there are more pressures, more duties which fall upon the desk of the editor, and I would tend to deal personally with every matter raised by the PCC where possible. In practical terms, I effectively do reply to every communication from the PCC, whether it's at the more serious end of the scale or the less serious end. We take it seriously and discuss it with our senior members of staff, we go through matters with our reporters and I think we have a very good record for listening to what the PCC suggests, taking on board their points, defending our corner if necessary and hopefully learning lessons along the way. It is correct that we've never been at the receiving end of a critical adjudication and there have been some matters which the PCC have gone through in forensic detail with us, some involving individuals, some involving public bodies, right up to as far as the Minister for Health in our jurisdiction, and we've been able to defend what we've published, we've been able to stand over our coverage. We have listened carefully to the objections and criticisms, taken them on board and generally speaking I think we've been able to deal with those and fit in with the provisions of the PCC's code of practice.
Q. How have you personally as editor inculcated ethical practice into your reporters? MR DORAN Not just reporters. Subeditors, photographers, staff in all sections of our paper. The paper is divided, as most papers are, into editorial departments and you interact very closely with the heads of those departments and your senior staff generally, so that the staff have a good idea what you're looking for and have a good understanding of the PCC's code of practice. Because, as many people have mentioned, going to law is a difficult area. It's difficult for the member of the public or the individual concerned, but it's also difficult for the newspaper, with considerable risks. It doesn't happen very often in our part of the world, but when it does, it can be spectacular. Probably in our case most memorably when a restaurant review was the subject of a defamation case which we lost at the lower court. It was a critical review. The restaurant owner did not like the description of his restaurant and was awarded ?25,000, which left not just us but almost every newspaper in a non-enviable position because not just restaurant reviews, book reviews, cinema reviews, almost every review would have been in a very perilous position. So we challenged it at the High Court using the good offices of Lord Lester, we were ready to go to the House of Lords but fortunately we did win at the Court of Appeal. What we did not get was our costs, which was surprising to us in the circumstances. So at the end of the day everybody paid on that particular case. We wouldn't particularly want to go back there. If we had to, I'm sure we would because our directors stood solidly behind us, but if we can resolve matters through the PCC, it's very much in our interests to do so and it's very much in the interests of the general public as well.
Q. Mr Pickover, you tell us that the PCC did an away day in Ipswich and this was an example of the PCC coming out to spread the word to people, your readership, regional newspaper readers. Did you think that that was an important and valuable part of the regulator's role? MR PICKOVER I think it was very useful and I'd welcome them back tomorrow. I think they went to other places as well around the country, but they came to us and we had a very healthy attendance I remember in a church in Ipswich I attended. In terms of complaints, I deal with all the complaints, or my deputy, and anything to do with the PCC I will personally deal with. You asked about my members of staff. All my reporters and editors carry the Editors' Code of Conduct which is a very useful guide. I don't know whether you have seen it, but we all have it in our pockets. You can't get better than that. If you abide by that before problems, that's part of the solution I think should happen.
Q. Where do you place the relative emphasis? Is it important to have the systems in place or to just have the culture or do you need both in order to stay ethically afloat? MR PICKOVER I think in these times that we're discussing, it's best to have both. You can't have too much. In fact, we go one stage further, as you're aware, and we have an ombudsman who reviews how we've dealt with reader complaints. Because if you judge it widely, we're gatekeeping our own issues. These are issues which don't go to the PCC. So we have an independent person who looks at how we've handled those complaints and has it's a he has his own column in the paper every month.
Q. Thank you. Mr Charlton, I'm looking at the Editors' Handbook which you exhibited to your witness statement. It's page 10 of the Editors' Handbook. It deals with the role of the editor and it reads it's about training. It's referring to a training programme: "This training programme is aimed at editors, deputy editors and other senior editorial executives and looks at building an editorial strategy, handling moral, ethical and legal editorial issues and policy. It is group policy that newly appointed editors should attend this workshop within the first three months of their appointment." Can I take it that in the group that you work for, new editors are given training on their role, responsibilities and ethical conduct? MR CHARLTON Yes. Ethics is a major plank of the training programme for trainee journalists within Johnston Press. It's also available for all senior journalists. Newly appointed editors not only have that course, they are also mentored by an existing editor who is a friend that they can ring, that is not directly involved in their division, but they can ring them and talk to them and get over any immediate issues that they may have. That's across the board.
Q. Your evidence on this point is in some distinction to that which we heard on Monday about the editors of national newspapers, two of whom told us then that they'd taken up the position of editor without any formal training. Do you think there is a valuable role to play in formal training for new editors? MR CHARLTON I think in any senior position you can find yourself alone within the organisation, and it's often quite nice to have somebody that you can talk to at the end of the phone.
Q. Your answer emphasises having the help on the end of the phone rather than the actual training. Are you trying to say rather quietly that the training wasn't in fact very important or MR CHARLTON I've been an editor for 24 years, so I didn't go on that particular course.
Q. I see. Again, are you LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But have you organised it? MR CHARLTON The group development training manager organised it. I was part of the committee that established it as a training course. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Have you validated it? What do you think of it? MR CHARLTON Personally, I haven't. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm going to press you once more. Is there an evaluation that actually demonstrates the worth of the course that you set up? MR CHARLTON Obviously there is feedback from the course and it is updated on an annual basis. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So the feedback is positive? MR CHARLTON The feedback must be positive because we're continuing to do it. I would imagine that we wouldn't be doing it if it wasn't well met. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Okay. MR BARR Ms McGeoghan, how do you ensure ethical conduct for your staff? MS McGEOGHAN: I think it's essential that it runs through the entire staff and I think that the tone is set from the top. All reporters carry the code. I think it's part of the contract of employment that they abide by it. We also have an internal system where we will update any PC if there's an ongoing PCC problem, we make it known within the editorial computer system that there's an ongoing issue there, and I think everybody in the office, from me all the way through the staff, know that we absolutely insist on treating people with courtesy and decency, and even though it was written in 1921 and this goes back to our Guardian Media days when CP Scott wrote his famous leader when he was editor of the Manchester Guardian about papers should be run with honesty, integrity and fairness, courage and with a sense of responsibility to the reader and the community that we serve, I think that's never been truer than it is today.
Q. So where do you stand on training, particularly ethical training for newly appointed editors? Do you think that by the time they get to that stage, it's really not necessary, or would you support it? MS McGEOGHAN: If we have a newly appointed editor who had come in from within the group, I think that would be good, but like me and my colleagues, we've been around quite a long time, I'm in my 30th year as a journalist and I've worked my way up through the Evening News, so these are not standards that I've set, these are standards that have been set for many years and people are aware of them.
Q. Can I move now to the number of sources that you need before you publish an article, and accepting that it may be a question of horses for courses and it depends on the story, but I notice that, Mr Doran, in your statement you say: "Any claim on an issue of public interest should normally have two sources." Is that essentially a safeguard to ensure that you are getting it right? MR DORAN I think that's a reasonable proposition. It's very difficult to compare one story with another, very, very hard to say that any two issues, even in a newspaper in our part of the world, are going to be identical, but as a general rule, if a reporter and it would generally start off with a reporter can indicate two firm sources in relation to a particular claim, we take that pretty seriously and we'll give it every consideration for publication.
Q. If you were publishing on a single source on a public interest matter with a journalist who wasn't prepared to name his source to you, would you go ahead? MR DORAN I think that would be a difficult one and I think we probably wouldn't do it. We certainly have turned down stories in the recent past because we know we're likely to be challenged and we know we have to be able to stand over what we publish. But generally speaking, by working closely with the reporter on the news desk, you will usually, if you're determined to publish the story, come up with the second source as necessary, and maybe even more than that along the way. Of course, it really depends on the level of the trust that you can place in an individual reporter, and I'd like to think that certainly in our case we have a very experienced team of reporters and a very experienced news desk structure, which I work with very closely, and I think we all understand each other and I think we know what's required of each other.
Q. Thank you. Mr Pickover, the question of multiple sources, I'm talking here about controversial stories, not where the Archbishop of Canterbury has told you he's going to resign. On a controversial story and public interest issues, a single source, if your reporter won't tell you who the source is, what's your approach? MR PICKOVER The first thing is on contentious stories, check and cross-check. We would find out. On sources, I wouldn't publish a story unless I knew the source. I'd have to know the source.
Q. Mr Charlton? MR CHARLTON I wouldn't publish unless I knew the source. As regards how many, people would have to give us the information. I think you may take it off one person because you're being transparent if you put the allegation to the individual before publishing.
Q. Ms McGeoghan? MS McGEOGHAN: Two sources as a minimum, and as Noel said, we have a very experienced group of reporters and a very experienced news desk structure, and I trust them. If I needed to know the name of a source, I'd be told it.
Q. I understand from your witness statement that you have a computer-based checking system as well? MS McGEOGHAN: Yes. That's to do with that's a system where we upload any court orders we're aware of, court advisories, any reader issues that are ongoing, so we don't repeat the mistake again, Press Association advisories, and they are uploaded into a database. As with any database, it's only as good as the information that you put in, and when a story is ready to be put on the page, it cannot go through the physical process of being put on the page until it goes through a legal check where there's a cross-match with any troublesome words, names or phrases which flashes up the legal warning.
Q. Do you think that that investment was worth it? Do you find that that does save you from what would otherwise have been trouble? MS McGEOGHAN: Yes. It was a piece of software that was written in-house about ten years ago and I think it's invaluable. It's a great reminder. There are things that come up regularly, like naming and the rest, but with specific issues that are ongoing, to have that final check is very valuable indeed.
Q. Can I move from general questions about ethics and practices to ask specific things? This Inquiry was set up following the phone hacking scandal. I'm going to ask each of you in turn if you've ever come across phone hacking for journalistic purposes during the course of your careers. Ms McGeoghan? MS McGEOGHAN: Never.
Q. Mr Charlton? MR CHARLTON No, I haven't.
Q. Mr Pickover? MR PICKOVER No. MR DORAN Not any newspaper I've ever been associated with.
Q. Does that mean that you've come across it on other papers that you've not been associated with? MR DORAN Yes, I've heard it on an anecdotal basis but not something I could testify on. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON We've probably all now heard about it on an anecdotal basis. MR DORAN Yes, but particularly in Belfast but not specifically, quite specifically not in the Irish News and not in connection with any of the journalists under my jurisdiction.
Q. And nothing that you feel you could give reliable evidence about? MR DORAN Absolutely.
Q. Bribery of public officials, payments to officials for stories. Have you come across that in your times as reporters? Ms McGeoghan, I see you shaking your head. Mr Charlton? MR CHARLTON No, I haven't.
Q. Mr Pickover? MR DORAN We pay our staff, not our sources.
Q. There are certain circumstances in which subterfuge can be appropriate where it's in the public interest. I'd like to ask each of you about your approach to public interest and the use of subterfuge and in particular whether you have any systems and safeguards in place when considering using subterfuge. Ms McGeoghan? MS McGEOGHAN: I listened to the earlier session with interest because I think we're now all trying to work out what subterfuge is, is there a definition of it, is it somebody going out to buy something, like a test purchase or something? If I was to do that and we were to do an investigation, obviously I would be very involved in it and would let senior editorial people within the group know about it.
Q. If one of your reporters is going under cover, do you making a written record beforehand of what is going to happen and why? MS McGEOGHAN: While I've been editor that hasn't happened to my knowledge, but hearing the evidence this morning, I think it's a good idea, because if it does go wrong, you can go back to the day you made the decision.
Q. Mr Charlton? MR CHARLTON I've never used subterfuge. I wouldn't rule it out providing it was within the law. If it was proving a case of a public official taking bribery for instance, and you were going to get evidence on it, then yes, I could see instances where you might use subterfuge. To use your own analogy back.
Q. Would you record that in writing in advance with your reasons? MR CHARLTON I think from today I would do. I think previously we would have known about it because it would have been the subject of some discussion with our lawyers ahead of publication and ahead of doing it. There would have been a log of it simply because we'd have been paying money out for pre-publication advice.
Q. Mr Pickover? MR PICKOVER Never used subterfuge. My view is that there's always another way, there's always a way around to ask your questions. Examples would be that we've had reporters in nightclubs swabbing for class A drugs, which we've found, or we've tested security at the port of Felixstowe where we're literally gone in through barriers to find out what their security's like. We've never found the need for subterfuge.
Q. Mr Doran? MR DORAN Never used subterfuge, similar to my colleagues. I probably wouldn't rule it out if the circumstances demanded it. The only other point I would possibly make is every area is different, but in our part of the world we have paramilitary organisations over the years who have turned their attentions to journalists. One was shot dead, another was nearly killed and others have been threatened and attacked along the way. If one of our journalists found themselves in a tight corner and had to be economical with the truth, I'd be perfectly happy with that to get them out of that position, but generally speaking we haven't used subterfuge and I don't think there's circumstances in which we might.
Q. Moving to the question of complaint handling, there's been a proposal for a readers' editor as a way of avoiding matters escalating to litigation for dealing with complaints of all shapes and sizes. Can I ask for your reaction to that proposal? Ms McGeoghan? MS McGEOGHAN: I think I'm the readers' editor. The buck stops with me. And I think within most of our structures we have somebody who will do the initial handling of the complaint or escalate it up and I will respond to complaints myself. We probably already have somebody in there. To bring in somebody just to do that, I think that would be a luxury that we can't afford. MR CHARLTON I would also regard myself as being the person responsible and I think an apology from the editor carries more clout than it being someone specifically brought in to do the job.
Q. Mr Pickover? MR PICKOVER I'm proud and honoured to be the readers' editor of my readers in Suffolk, but we don't always get it right. We all have to learn the power of being sorry sometimes; we have, as I say, a second tier, which is someone who reviews how we've handled a complaint and if that adjudication goes against us, we publish it. Just briefly, it's not a difficulty to say sorry and to print that in your product, because actually saying sorry, your readers welcome that.
Q. Mr Doran? MR DORAN I think we're of similar mind. We don't have a readers' editor, it's not something we'd rule out. It might be more appropriate in a larger group which cuts across different titles. I think our structures have served us fairly well in their present form.
Q. There's been another suggestion, that there should be a conscience clause in the contract of each journalist entitling the journalist to refuse to act unethically. What's your reaction to that? MR DORAN It would probably have to be extreme circumstances involved. It hasn't arisen in my time. No one has come to me and said they have ethically a problem with a story we were undertaking. I think we'd be a fairly mainstream main paper in that regard, but it's not an issue that has come up in my time.
Q. So you're suggesting that it's unnecessary? MR DORAN At this stage, I would have thought so.
Q. Mr Pickover? MR PICKOVER Adherence to the code of practice is in our contracts, as Maria mentioned. We wouldn't see the need for a conscience clause. All our journalists can talk to their management, senior management, whether it's beyond me. Very happy for that to happen.
Q. Mr Charlton? MR CHARLTON I don't think it's necessary. I think honesty, fairness and balance are the principles which guide the majority of regional papers. MS McGEOGHAN: I don't think it's necessary either.
Q. Whistle-blowing policies. Mr Doran, you don't have any written policies so you would say you don't need it; is that right? MR DORAN Well, we may be forced to review our position because we have been dealing with a particular issue within the National Health Service in Northern Ireland. We dealt with a number of sources who we would regard as classic whistle-blowers but the authorities in their area are trying to treat them, as one executive suggested, as a criminal motivation, called in a Home Office team and notified the police about material that we published, which we considered to be beyond doubt to be in the public interest. This is material about physical, sexual and mental abuse which was covered up. This was material in relation to a former cancer centre which was simply abandoned with files and expensive equipment just left to rot, and we published all this absolutely accurately and we find the people who blew the whistle on this under investigation, which we are very concerned about.
Q. That's more of a matter of you protecting your source or there being come-back for your source. I'm thinking more about whether procedures are necessary to protect someone within your organisation who wants to come forward and blow the whistle on unethical practice. MR DORAN It has to work both ways. If someone wants to come forward, I think they have to be protected and probably through the provisions of the PCC. I think that would be an unusual set of circumstances. I'm not aware of a regional newspaper where that has happened, and there are something like 85 regional dailies across the UK. If it happened, I think we would have to apply the same principles to whistle-blowers within our own organisation as we do to those in the essential public services.
Q. Do you all agree with that proposition? Prominence of apologies. You heard me put to the previous witnesses the proposition that the apologies should be printed in the same place as the offending article. Do you agree with that in principle, Ms McGeoghan? MS McGEOGHAN: No. I think that could get very complicated indeed. If we have a correction and apology, it goes on page 2. There's also a section on the website that it can go on. That seems to serve us well. MR CHARLTON Clarifications and corrections tend to appear on page 5 of the Yorkshire Post. If someone complains about a story and it's a serious complaint, we take it down from the website whilst we carry out our investigation. There are one or two exceptions. If someone does have an objection to something that might have been written in our Saturday glossy magazine and it's about a homes article, sometimes the correction will stay within the magazine because I accept that there are people who read the magazine who don't read the main paper and vice versa.
Q. Mr Pickover? MR PICKOVER Upheld complaints and clarifications appear on page 2. I have on several occasions carried corrections on page 1. I have no fear of that whatsoever. The biggest complaint I often get is that the complaint resolution isn't in the same place. Once you reach the place that you're not worried about saying sorry, page 1 is not a problem.
Q. Mr Doran? MR DORAN Fortunately page 1 corrections are very rare in our part of the world. I think page 2, page 5, all equally appropriate. I think equal prominence would be natural. I should stress that we are a compact newspaper, we usually have probably one story on the front page. It's not likely there's going to be a whole range of stories with issues arising from them. The detail will be carried on the inside pages and that's where it probably would be appropriate for any clarification or correction which you have to address to be placed.
Q. Can we move on to relations with London tabloid newspapers. Mr Doran, I'd like to ask whether this applies to you. Do you find you're competing on perhaps some big story with the London tabloids or is the Northern Irish market not like that? MR DORAN It's a little more complicated. The Daily Mirror, for example, has a Belfast, a Northern Ireland edition which clearly would be competition for the Irish News, although they do things slightly differently to ourselves. So certainly a degree of rivalry there. Not really head-on competition because as I say they handle their stories differently, possibly competition for readers, and that would be pretty real and pretty robust on some occasions. The other main London papers would have a much smaller presence in our part of the world and a very limited readership and it would be difficult to regard them as head-on competition.
Q. Against that background we'll explore the issue in more detail. Mr Pickover, Ipswich was the subject of a major news story a few years ago when a number of young women were tragically murdered by a serial killer and you've provided us with some insights into that and we've done research and provided you with some of the news coverage of that. Can you help us a little bit. From your experience as a regional editor, how did tabloid practices differ from your practices when they came to town to investigate that story? MR PICKOVER The tabloids investigated arrived in great numbers to do their investigations, far, far greater than the resource I would have. My advantage, of course, is being on patch and knowing not only the people but the places. In terms of their interaction with us, they would call us and ask for the latest leads, desperate to beat each other to the latest angles. Happy to say that we were ahead of them at every point and didn't interface with them. We also have by way of info the arrival of mass TV and radio stations, so we had to deal with those as well. I spent a lot of time on TV and on radio stations at the time.
Q. How did they behave? As far as you were aware, did they behave perfectly ethically in covering the story or were there problems? MR PICKOVER I didn't come across problems. I heard of one issue with international press, which was astonishing, but with national press, because we didn't need them, we didn't interface with them. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's been suggested to me that when the nationals come into a local area because of a very, very big story, they can trample on the flowers, as it were, the relationships that you've developed and then leave you to pick up the pieces. Is that fair or not? MR PICKOVER I've witnessed that in the past in other places. In this particular case that we're talking about, it didn't happen. What we did was launch a campaign on behalf of the street sex workers called "Somebody's daughter". So when they'd gone, and they do go after two or three weeks, they withdraw the tents, go, we were able to preserve our relationship with our readers. MR BARR What interested me in the documents we have on this is there's an article published by your newspaper, the Evening Star, on 8 January 2007. There's a printout in the bundle. The reporter was Tracey Sparling and the piece involved taking the opinion of Tim Crook, a senior lecturer in media law and ethics at Goldsmiths University, and it was dealing with this very subject of when the nationals come to town. On page 2, six paragraphs down, it says: "Some outlets, national newspapers, rushed to name men as suspects without official confirmation and there has been the ever-present risk too of contempt of court and risk to fair trial." Would you endorse those words or not? MR PICKOVER I would. We were very, very careful about the law and we spent hours with our lawyers on the topic. There was a celebrated photograph of the man who was eventually convicted that raised eyebrows and we wouldn't have published that photograph. It was published in the national press. We were very, very careful. Of course, we'd got the Chief Constable just there, not just an anonymous Chief Constable. We knew him and we worked very closely with Suffolk constabulary at the time.
Q. I raise this because this has echos with what happened almost four years later in Bristol when something similar happened but with profound consequences because they got the wrong man. Were you getting any off the record information from the Ipswich police, the Suffolk constabulary about this? MR PICKOVER We were talking to the police all the time. I recall vividly those dark, dark days, and it was in the middle of winter when there was a real fear that somebody was about to snatch the latest young lady off the streets, so our job was one of community reassurance as much as anything. The Chief Constable's early warning in a press release that he'd be looking at contempt of court was very helpful in some of the control that was in place then. I do see a different set of circumstances in Bristol. It changed.
Q. Can I ask you now whether you feed stories to the nationals. It may be that some of the tabloids like to print stories that are not the sort of things that you would print yourselves. Do you get the situation where you get that sort of story and pass it on to the nationals? Ms McGeoghan? MS McGEOGHAN: We have a syndication department which sells our stories to the nationals. MR CHARLTON We have an agency that looks after our syndication. MR PICKOVER We have a syndications internal agency but it only processes material that we've published ourselves. We don't go any further, if that's what you're alluding to.
Q. If you get a kiss-and-tell coming into the Evening Star, you're not interested; is that right? MR PICKOVER I'd have a look at it, but I wouldn't be passing it on if I wasn't prepared to publish it.
Q. I see. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Depends who's kissing and who's telling. MR PICKOVER Of course. MR DORAN We don't encourage sending material to the London papers. It would be relatively unusual and we would take a dim view of it. Unless there were very special circumstances involved, we would not encourage it. MR CHARLTON It is only on material that we've used previously, just to make that point. MS McGEOGHAN: Same with me, so it's been through our checks.
Q. Can I ask you about another controversial case, the McCann case. I'm going to ask each of you in turn whether you covered it and whether you took the same line as the nationals did or whether you reported from a different perspective. Ms McGeoghan, what did the Manchester Evening News do? MS McGEOGHAN: I think we took our material from the Press Association, so that would have been very straightforward and wouldn't have gone as far as all the titles. The Press Association is a trusted source.
Q. Did that land you in hot water in the end or not? MS McGEOGHAN: No. MR CHARLTON We also took our copy from the Press Association and dealt with it in a similar fashion and we didn't have any problems. MR PICKOVER Exactly the same. MR DORAN The same again.
Q. There's obviously been an enormous amount of adverse coverage about the behaviour of some tabloid journalists. Has there been any backlash from the phone hacking scandal which has either concerned you as journalists or which, worse still, has affected your businesses? Ms McGeoghan? MS McGEOGHAN: I think there has been a backlash. I've lost count now of the number of times I've been asked how you hack a phone or what the going rate for paying off a policeman is and it's not funny any more. I'm very concerned about the perception that we're all using the same methods and we're all doing something shady. I'm very concerned about that. I think one of the things that concerned me most of all was just before Christmas I went to talk to some journalism students doing an MA in journalism at the university and they asked fantastic questions. They have whole modules on ethics. It may well be worth talking to a student journalist. They are a lot more clued up than I was when I was 21. And they asked great questions about self-regulation, about this Inquiry, about the PCC. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, we had a similar session with professors of schools of journalism. I was rather disturbed to hear there was a module in one of their papers on the Inquiry. I asked for foresight of the answers. MS McGEOGHAN: I think they do quite a lot of ethics, but what concerned me was at the end of this question and answer session I said about 40 of them I said, "How many of you have had friends and family saying, 'What on earth do you want to go into journalism as a career for?'" and they pretty much all agreed. I think that's very worrying and very sad. MR BARR Mr Charlton? MR CHARLTON I think throughout the regional press there was a feeling of annoyance and shock and being let down. We have a lot of talented journalists in the regional press who work very hard lawfully, honestly and with transparency to achieve what we do on a daily basis, and they get paid considerably less than our national counterparts. So I think there was a feeling of annoyance.
Q. Mr Pickover? MR PICKOVER I was very worried at the time because, like my colleague, I was sure that there would be a backlash. In my community, there wasn't one phone call, there wasn't one letter attacking us, and I've been prepared to defend my journalists to the hilt. In the end, I didn't have to.
Q. Mr Doran? MR DORAN It's clearly a problem for the image and the reputation of journalism but, similar to my colleagues, I don't think there's been a backlash in our part of the world. I don't think those practices apply to us. As I said earlier, 85 regional dailies, several hundred regional weeklies. The problem largely, as we can see, is confined to three or four titles in London. But I think we have to accept our responsibilities. We have to be able to demonstrate that our standards are as high as possible and I'd like to think we can do so. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think it's very interesting that you say nobody has had a go at your titles, yet all the students they've not had a go at you, but they've all assumed that you've known how to indulge in these practices, which is actually what I've heard otherwise; people say, "We're all tarred with the same brush", and I think it's a very, very important part of the work of the Inquiry to demonstrate that that isn't so and to allow titles to celebrate the very good work they've done without in any sense ignoring the issues that we have to address. In other words, exactly what you said, Mr Doran. We have to address the problem, but I've been very keen to make sure that we publicise all that is good about our press and the significance that it plays in our society. That's one of the reasons why you're here. MR BARR Being very conscious with this question that it's not every national tabloid reporter, far from it, just some who have brought the profession into disrepute, we've noticed in the evidence that a large number of the reporters on national tabloid newspapers started off their careers in the regional press and then moved on to the national press. I want to know whether you keep in touch with some of your former staff who have moved on to the nationals and what they say to you about the ethical pressures on them working within the London tabloids. Is it something in the water or is it something else that's led to the problems we've had? Ms McGeoghan, have you had feedback? MS McGEOGHAN: I can't just trying to think of anybody I know that has moved on to a national title that we've kept in touch with. I don't have that level of feedback.
Q. Mr Charlton, can you help us with any feedback? MR CHARLTON No I can't.
Q. Mr Pickover? MR PICKOVER They move on. I do keep in touch but absolutely no feedback on that front.
Q. Mr Doran? MR DORAN I had lunch today with a former colleague, but he's now on a national broadsheet, not a tabloid, and I suppose we're a little duller than some of the others. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON A little duller? MR DORAN A little duller. Not nonexistent, but a little duller. MR BARR I see. Can I move then on to the question of relations with the police. We touched on this a little already but can you help us with your attitude to off-the-record conversations with police officers? Our last witnesses seemed to think that it was an important part of what they did and ethically gave rise to no questions on the journalists' side of the equation, at least. Do you share that view, McGeoghan? MS McGEOGHAN: I think it's an important part of what we do if you have trusted crime reporters and they have a trusted relationship with somebody within the police force and it's all about getting information that hopefully, you know, leads to the solving of the crime.
Q. Mr Charlton? MR CHARLTON I'm sure that's why we have specialists. We take trouble over having reporters who have specialisms so that they can cultivate contacts.
Q. Mr Pickover? MR PICKOVER I deal with senior police officers on an almost daily basis. I squabble with them on an almost weekly basis. That's to do with stories that might not come out, but the relationship is very, very good and I have one quick example. Last summer when the riots were going on in London, I took a call from an assistant chief constable who was very worried that these riots would spread 60 miles up the road to Ipswich. We worked very closely together over three days. I was able to do stories reassuring the community. There was a real threat, one night the crowd gathered ready to set fire to things, and we helped the police and they thanked us for it afterwards. It's vital to have relationships with police.
Q. Mr Doran? MR DORAN Relationships are generally good. It's slightly unusual that at the height of our Troubles or several disturbances we had a state of the art police press operation which was available to us 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Sadly that's no longer the case. It's probably progress, although it does bring its frustrations when the office closes early at weekends and we can't get vital information from those sources but we still try all the same and I think we have a reasonable set of relationships.
Q. In terms of press officers, which we heard a little about from the last panel, are you finding that the police forces are trying to put a bit of distance between the rank and file and to manipulate their information flows I use that in a non-pejorative sense through press offices? Ms McGeoghan? MS McGEOGHAN: I think there is an awareness of that happening. I've heard your name, sir, included in the conversation when we're talking about information. I think it's very difficult now to if you try and talk to a senior investigating officer on one particular ongoing crime, it's quite difficult to get hold of them, but we regularly ask representatives of the police to come in, to talk to us, explain the family liaison officers, their relationship, and how that works. But I mentioned in my statement on the other side of that, last year Greater Manchester police tweeted every single crime that happened within 24 hours, which we carried on our website, which was remarkable and just showed just how much was going on.
Q. Indeed, as I said to the last panel, it's clear from your witness statements, all of which are being posted on the web, that the regional press does a very great deal to assist the police with their work in capturing criminals. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm just interested to ask about the way in which what I am doing is being represented to you as impacting on what information you should get from the police. MS McGEOGHAN: I think it's I think, as our industry is doing, everybody's tightening up in-house I think is the process that people are going through, and they're looking at what they used to do on a regular basis and thinking should we carry on doing that? I think in general it's it was mentioned in this morning's session it's harder to get information about day-to-day crimes than it was when I was a reporter and we used to ring up the police station first thing in the morning and find out what happened overnight. It's harder to do that. MR BARR Mr Charlton, what do you make of the use by the police of press offices? MR CHARLTON It's a handicap to us doing the job properly, but undoubtedly there's a growing use of press offices amongst all public bodies and again it's it has to be down to old-fashioned reporting of cultivating contacts and being and our involvement in the community so that we get to the people who are making the decisions rather than effectively being fed a smoke screen.
Q. Mr Pickover? MR PICKOVER Police resources are under pressure, like many organisations, Norfolk and Suffolk constabulary have just merged their back office functions, including press office. It's very tight for them too. I judge it as press offices for our reporters, including the crime reporter. My job is to come in at a strategic level and to deal with other things. It's not just the police, though. I've noticed that the fire brigade, that ambulance services and the police all operate behind an electronic fence, which is convenient to them because they are tightly resourced.
Q. Mr Doran? MR DORAN Just to touch on the theme that Peter mentioned there, there's been an enormous growth in the number of press officers across the various services. The police have gone in the other way, they're tighter in terms of their resources, but the devolved struggles at Stormont have an astonishing number of press officers, more than the total number of reporters in Belfast. At some stages it looks as though they've got us surrounded but we'll keep an eye on them.
Q. That takes us nicely into contact with politicians. Perhaps I can put it in this broad way. How do you see the relationship that you have with politicians? Is it right or are there problems with it? I'm coming from the point of view of the balance of power. Are you as editors controlling what goes out to significant numbers of readers and they as politicians in political power? Ms McGeoghan? MS McGEOGHAN: I think we have contact with local politicians because they are the public representatives of our readers. We have quite a few who write columns within our weekly papers that we don't pay for. A whole political hue. And to general politics, I think the role of the Manchester Evening News is to fight for Manchester. Whoever is in power, that's what we do.
Q. So when you say you fight for Manchester, does that mean that you try and influence politicians to do things which are in Manchester's interests? MS McGEOGHAN: I would like to do that, yes. I try and put Manchester's cause wherever I can.
Q. How do you do that? MS McGEOGHAN: For instance, like the budget settlement for Manchester, nobody in Manchester thought that was very fair. We didn't as a newspaper and we've made that known. We had a petition. I went to a Downing Street function and had a conversation with Mr Cameron himself about it.
Q. Do you ever trade LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I must ask: with what effect? MS McGEOGHAN: I'm still waiting. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. MS McGEOGHAN: To be fair, he listened to all our concerns. MR BARR Do you trade anything in return for assurances that they will take steps in Manchester's favour? MS McGEOGHAN: No.
Q. Coverage, articles, anything like that? MS McGEOGHAN: No.
Q. Mr Charlton, your relationship with politicians? MR CHARLTON We have a political dimension to our reporting. We're one of the few regional papers still to have a dedicated reporter at Westminster. One of our current campaigns is in fact a very political campaign which is a fair deal for Yorkshire, speaking up for the region. It's not just a whinge. It followed the demise of the Regional Development Agency, et cetera, and it was impossible to engage the government on regional policy, and we got together with some prominent business people and councils and effectively provided a bank of 60 ideas for the government to implement to kickstart the economy and narrow the north/south divide. That's had all party support and I would think every MP in the region has been in touch with me over that. And all three party leaders have responded. And, in fact, some things have happened as a consequence of doing that. So we are very much involved with our MPs and government ministers.
Q. If I'm understanding it correctly, you're giving voice to regional lobbyists? MR CHARLTON Yes.
Q. Trying to lobby national politicians? MR CHARLTON Yes. We're filling a void.
Q. How do you go about that with the national politicians? MR CHARLTON First and foremost, we launched the campaign in the paper. I delivered the paper to Downing Street. I made sure that the paper was in the hands of all the politicians and we printed off, in this instance, separate pamphlets, borrowing the idea from the Editors' Code of Contact in a similar format, to make sure that they had copies, that they could be handed out, and we did the same with local politicians as well.
Q. I'm not suggesting there's anything wrong in this at all, I'm simply trying to work out what happens. Is it understood that the fact of the lobbying is going to be reported and also the outcome? MR CHARLTON Yes, of course. And MPs do use us as a sort of litmus test for what's going on in the area. We're a very strong business paper, so MPs who are interested in business and what's happening in particular sectors will seek meetings. So will government ministers when they happen to be in the region.
Q. Thank you. Mr Pickover? MR PICKOVER We have strong relationships with our local councillors. We have very strong relationships with our MPs. The three MPs covering our part of Suffolk all have columns in my paper that are exclusive to my paper. We don't pay for them. They have a right to withdraw at any moment or I have a right to stop them if I feel like it. It's a healthy relationship. I wouldn't go walking with them on Boxing Day necessarily, but it's a healthy relationship, and I'm very pleased that I have it.
Q. What do you do to secure for your readers from the local politicians what it is that you think your readers want? MR PICKOVER It's very much fighting for my town. It's my job to fight for Ipswich harder than Maria fights for Manchester, and I'll do that at every point of the day. I find the relationship very, very helpful. I can find out what's going on at Westminster, they can find out what's going on locally. It's not just the sitting MPs as well. The respective Labour candidate also has a column, so it's across the political hue that we carry this material. It's useful what you might call reader content.
Q. You're describing a flow of information. Are you then using that information as the basis for stories about Ipswich? MR PICKOVER If we get stories about Ipswich and we can fight even harder for Ipswich, we will do so.
Q. And issues which affect Ipswich? MR PICKOVER Yes.
Q. Mr Doran? MR DORAN I suppose every paper is different. I find it striking that Nigel has three MPs in his region and they are all his columnists. We have 18 MPs in our region and none of them are going to be our columnists if they can do anything about it. I'd like to think we respect them, that we have a good relationship with them, but it's different because it's not just a regional identity. We have a national identity to look at in our part of the world and, as the title of our newspaper implies, we're from a particular tradition and a particular background but it's very important to respect all traditions and to express the hand of friendship, which I hope we do, to politicians and elected representatives from all traditions. But they won't necessarily agree with us, despite our best efforts. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's one of the reasons I took this issue with you at the very beginning, because it really fitted into the national picture that you have, which is a slightly different subject always to Yorkshire. MR BARR The final topic I'll move to is the future. Can we start with perhaps the present and the PCC. Ms McGeoghan, perhaps you could start us off by giving your take from your experience about how effective the PCC has been. MS McGEOGHAN: In my experience, I think it's very effective. I think to have an adjudication against you is a badge of shame for a paper and we'll work very hard to make sure that that doesn't happen. As I say, I talked about, all the staff know all the carry the code and know how we do things. And I think we have a contract of trust with our readers. They have to trust us, and if we had a constant stream of apologies of corrections and apologies as a result of something that's gone wrong within the PCC code, that breaks that contract of trust. So in my experience, they've been very good, it works for us, and we've also used them for pre-publication advice as well.
Q. Do you find the pre-publication service valuable? MS McGEOGHAN: Yes.
Q. In terms of complaints, we haven't asked you for precise statistics and I'm not going to put you on the spot about that now, but can you give us at least some indication of the sort of level of complaint you get? MS McGEOGHAN: On the go at the moment we have probably two or three, and I think actually, I spoke to Lord Hunt about this when I met him before Christmas I would always rather try and resolve a complaint myself and then the PCC be the next stage. I think the we talked about on the website, on the top of the website it says "Complain here", there's a section, and further down it says, "You might want to take it up with the newspaper directly yourself first". I discussed with him possibly turning round the emphasis on that. But at any given time, we probably have a couple that we're in the process of resolving.
Q. Could I ask the gentlemen if any of you are unhappy with the present state of affairs or whether you think that there is a need for change? Mr Charlton, do you think there's a need for change? MR CHARLTON I think the PCC have done a very good job for the regional press. I think at times, sort of picking up on Maria's point, in the last couple of years they've probably adjudicated on something or dealt with something that they could they could or should have put back to the newspaper first, but that we haven't had chance to actually talk to the complainant and arrive at a solution. I think that there probably is an expectation from the public, and indeed the industry, that there will be change.
Q. Not because of your experience with the PCC but MR CHARLTON Not yes, for other reasons.
Q. Mr Pickover, do you agree with that? MR PICKOVER I do. We've had a lot of time for the PCC. It's not a letter that you like to receive. In my case, it's probably once or twice a year. They have a very good role in adjudicating and coming up with an agreed settlement, and in fact that was the last one we dealt with. It was on an online caption, so it did cover the online publication as well. So, yes, we work very closely with the PCC.
Q. If your experience of the PCC has been perfectly satisfactory, are you accepting of the need, because of national events for there to be a change? MR PICKOVER I am indeed. I think there is an expectation, as Peter says, that we'll beef things up and change certain things, but we shouldn't throw out the good things that the PCC does. You also asked if we'd improve it in any way. I'd just get them a lot quicker because solving issues speedily is in everybody's interests.
Q. Mr Doran? MR DORAN People may become uneasy when they hear regional editors being unanimous about the benefits of the PCC test on a regular basis and we deal with I would say possibly two or three complaints a month at our level. They could come from almost anywhere in the recent past, maybe a supporter of a dissident paramilitary group. Most recently a gentleman who describes himself as a dissident bishop complained to us, but you have to deal with them all. You have to see where you get to and I think the PCC has a very good track record. I accept it's been different in London. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think that's the point, isn't it? It may be that at the level of complaint such as you have had to address, these are amenable to apology and swift resolution. I take your point about how swift. But there comes a tipping point, if behaviour goes over, the accidental or unintended error, that the system doesn't really cope with that at all. Would that be fair? MR DORAN Probably, but I suppose if you're in a position whereby arguably the Prime Minister found himself striving to cope with an issue, you can see the difficulties that the PCC faced. It's not as grave as that at our level. It's unlikely to be. There are issues. I'd like to think we deal with them and I'd like to think that the PCC is the best structure for that in the present circumstances for the regional press and I think that's the way it has been for quite some time. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It might be that if one has a mechanism that is multifaceted, that a complaints system which doesn't lead to a regulatory disciplinary time system, which is not dissimilar from the present, may well work for 99 per cent of all your concerns. MR DORAN I think that would be fair comment. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Concerns that address the regional press. And that one could never get into any sort of rather more structured regulatory framework, because what you're doing isn't generating that sort of issue. Would that be fair? MR DORAN I think that's fair comment, sir. MR BARR Just to link in the way the tabloids have reported on stories which might have had a local element relevant to your titles with the future of regulation, have you felt at any competitive disadvantage because of the way in which certain papers might have published stories nationally in comparison to the way in which you take perhaps a more cautious approach? Is that an issue for you at all or not? MR CHARLTON I'm operating in a different market insofar as in the main my competitors are the Daily Telegraph, the sales, the Daily Telegraph or the Daily Mail, they're the nearest national titles that sell in Yorkshire. We tend to deal with the social and political dimension of news as opposed to celebrity news that we've heard about earlier today.
Q. Does anybody MS McGEOGHAN: I don't really think it's an issue. MR PICKOVER I've always found that we can do what we do adhering to codes and happily leave the nationals following us up later. MR DORAN I'm probably in agreement there.
Q. So if everything's been explored, if there were to be a new regulatory structure, do you have anything to say on the question of the cost of that new structure and how it should be funded? MS McGEOGHAN: I think if we go right back to the beginning when we were talking about the troubles that the industry was facing, and I know it was mentioned earlier by the other panel, I think we all wouldn't want anything more complicated or more expensive.
Q. Do you all agree with that proposition? MR PICKOVER Creative ways of finding the funding. MR CHARLTON Yes.
Q. The principle the polluter pays? Does that find favour with you? MR DORAN In terms of the exemption from VAT, I think that's a reasonable proposition. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think that might have legal issues, unless you have some legal advice that I don't know about. MR DORAN Maybe not quite within the framework we have here. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No. MR BARR I'm thinking of more generally. Would a cost structure which put the cost on the wrongdoing party see favour with you if it were that certain tabloid practices gave rise to more complaints than the sort of work that you do? MR CHARLTON We'd have to guard against an increase in trivial complaints, which is probably a downside of that going forward.
Q. What if anything do you have to say about ensuring that there's a proper regional voice in any regulatory body going forwards? MS McGEOGHAN: I think earlier on somebody mentioned there might not be editors on the panel any more. I certainly think the experience gained over years within regional newspapers or national newspapers should be used in some way. And it may be that we end up with a two-pronged situation where we have a standards arm and a complaints side of it. That might be something we could work towards. MR CHARLTON I would still like to see working editors involved and again I don't know whether they should be actually on the Commission or whatever, the Commission mark two, or they should operate as an advisory board working alongside. MR PICKOVER An editor's voice but not necessarily a dominating editor's voice. MR DORAN I have an open mind on working editors. I don't really see the need for a regional representative from my area. If it happens, fine. If it's not there, we can live with that.
Q. Finally, is there anything else that any of you would like to say now to the Chairman about the future of regulation or if you don't want to say it now, you're very welcome to make further submissions in writing. Now is your chance if you wish to say anything orally. MR PICKOVER Just one thing. It would be along the lines of preventive being better than restorative and working very closely as we do with the Editors' Code and using that little pocket guide that we have is a great way to stop complaints happening, and we do that all the time. We refer to it. We're not holier than thou, we just use it as a little guide to our working lives and LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Almost all the witnesses have spoken of the value of the code. Whether it needs tweaking or not is another point, but the general value of the code has been identified. The extent to which it's followed is perhaps something else, but the code itself has been much applauded. MR PICKOVER Yes. Since we adopted our ombudsman approach, seven years now, we've noticed complaints dwindle, which is a very interesting point. MR CHARLTON There's a great deal of good in what we do and as an industry we're probably not very good as getting that message out about what we do because dog eats dog. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That works the other way. There is a very great deal about the good that you do, but dog doesn't eat dog, and therefore the fear is that you only expose when things don't go right, that things aren't going right. That's the concern that's expressed that's in the formulation about how one you look to all the organs with whom you come into contact: the police, local authorities, health bodies, politicians, whatever, judges, courts, and hold us to account. That's absolutely your job. The question is: who is holding you to account? But I've got the point. MR BARR Unless there's anything else that you'd like to add, those are all the questions that I have for you. Thank you very much indeed for taking the trouble to come. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you for taking the trouble to come. I think I've said it to you or maybe I said it to the another group, the presence of editors from outside the bubble that represents Fleet Street is, I think, extremely important to make the point that you have each in turn tried to make about the differences, about the value of your work and the important value of regional journalism. Thank you all. Right. That's it. 10 o'clock on Monday. (4.50 pm)


Gave a statement at the hearing on 18 January 2012 (PM) ; and submitted 6 pieces of evidence
Gave a statement at the hearing on 18 January 2012 (PM) ; and submitted 13 pieces of evidence
Gave statements at the hearings on 18 January 2012 (AM) and 18 January 2012 (PM) ; and submitted 1 pieces of evidence
Gave statements at the hearings on 18 January 2012 (AM) and 18 January 2012 (PM) ; and submitted 12 pieces of evidence
Gave a statement at the hearing on 18 January 2012 (PM) ; and submitted 2 pieces of evidence
Gave statements at the hearings on 18 January 2012 (AM) and 18 January 2012 (PM) ; and submitted 6 pieces of evidence
Gave a statement at the hearing on 18 January 2012 (PM) ; and submitted 2 pieces of evidence
Gave statements at the hearings on 18 January 2012 (AM) 18 January 2012 (PM) and 21 March 2012 (AM) ; and submitted 7 pieces of evidence


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