Monday, October 27, 2008

The dangers in parish pump

My village magazine has done it again. Hard on the heels of a contempt so blatant I now use it as a teaching aid, this week's issue sees it questioning a court’s decision to jail a teenage sex pest.

After about five pars of routine evidence - including a bit of questionable description that could well identify the unnamed youth - it suddenly began to editorialise, chipping in with lines such as how the defendant must be "in denial" and that the offence was "clearly not a one-off".

Hopefully, a circulation of a few thousand may help to mitigate in the unlikely event that the judge decided to refer it up the line, and I wasn’t in court so don’t know if there was any privileged basis on which to base such comments, but that’s not the point.

Publications like this are springing up all over the place. Rather like the Gestetner-produced leaflets and newsletters that emanated from the Amstrad boom of the 80s, everyone is a publisher these days.

Except that, when you have a 120-odd page glossy with a high advertising ratio and a clearly well-organised circulation network, it does become more than a more back-bedroom affair. I know these organisations can’t afford a £500-an-hour night lawyer to peruse their copy, but a copy of Essential Law for Journalists could be theirs for under £20.

One amusing point: in their attempt to hype up the fact that they actually had a story, they flagged it: The story others would not print!

They clearly didn’t understand it was a fairly trivial local court case, not something that would catch the eye of the agency lads I know well who cover St Albans Crown Court for the nationals.

But they may well have unwittingly hit on the fact that local papers simply don’t have the resources to send anyone to court any more.

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