Hannah Bewley, Brent reporter for the Willesden and Wembley Observer, has filed her last reports fro that paper. During her time at the paper, which is an off-shoot of the Harrow Observer, despite having little space she published some great investigative journalism. The paper was particularly vociferous in its support of the campaign against Brent library closures.
Her departure reflects a reduction in editorial staff of the Trinity South group and the closure of some titles. The WWO, expensive at 90p where sold, is likely to have fewer Brent stories in the future which is a pity.
Meanwhile the pressure which is exerted on the local press is evident in the adjudication published in last week's Brent and Kilburn Times. The Press Complaints Commission upheld a complaint by former Labour councillor Jim Moher against Lorraine King, the BKT news editor but rejected two further complaints by him about accuracy and the opportunity to reply to stories.
The complaint that was upheld was about a comment that she made on Facebook about an unnamed individual Lorraine identified as a 'failed wannabe MP'. and in which she stated ''I plan to make his life a misery as much as possible' and 'Lord God forgive me if I bump into him before I get back to work, you will be visiting me in Holloway'. The BKT argued that the comment was made on a personal Facebook account that could only be seen by 'friends'. The comment had been made after she received an email from Moher which said:
Here you are again this week giving extensive coverage to the most scurrilous and unfounded attacksand concluded:
PS By the way it was me who sorted your permit problem.At the time that Moher's email, one of a series, was sent Lorraine King was on compassionate leave after the death of her mother. The PS refers to a parking permit that Ms King needed for grieving relatives. In the circumstances she found the email upsetting which led to the Facebook comments.
Although the Commission's remit does not cover social media content they ruled that as the comment related to the news editor's contact with Moher in her professional role, and could be viewed by individuals who she came into contact in that role, it could be considered under Clause 4 of the Code which states:
Journalists must not engage in intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit.The Commission considered that the implied threat of violence was not intended to be taken seriously but concluded:
...it had no hesitation in finding that this constituted intimidation withint the meaning of Clause 4, and a serious failure to uphold the highest professional standards required by the code.The Huffington Post in covering this story said it was the first time the PCC, which is shortly to be ablosihed and replaced by several bodies, had decided it could rule on what journalsits said on 'private' social media accounts LINK:
Mike Jempson, Vice-chair of NUJ Ethics Council, told HuffPost UK it was an issue that the union had debated on several occasions. "Difficulties have arisen because some employers encourage reporters to express their opinions on blogs and to engage with their publics via social media, yet as reporters they are expected to retain a degree of impartiality," he said.
“Journalists share the right to freedom of expression with all members of the public, and should not feel constrained in how they express themselves. Indeed many journalists also write fiction, drama and poetry which is not a matter for the PCC."
While stressing it was important the journalists themselves made the distinction between personal and professional contributions on social media, it would be "a pity, and improper, if the PCC and its successor IPSO were to determine that all material by journalists published on non-commercial outlets that operate their own agreed contributors’ codes should be subject to the Editor’s Code.”Readers will make up their own minds about this but I do hope that the BKT maintains its robust coverage of local issues, which has sometimes inevitably made it unpopular with local councillors. Lorraine King has been an excellent news editor and local press coverage is especially important now that we have a Council with a very large majority. The BKT must continue to be 'on the side of the people'.
Wembley Matters in the past has had its own dealings with Jim and Roth Moher LINK