Wednesday, April 22, 2009

To print or not to print

What would you do if the chairman of the local bench was up in his own court for shoplifting, threatened to pull his firm’s advertising if you ran a word of it and your staff urged caution because his wife had heart problems? Oh, and he was a pillar of the local community, did shedloads for charity and was a big golfing buddy of your chairman.

Yep – the poor sod gets 100pt Ariel Bold across the front page, a decent turn inside on his wife’s sudden heart attack and a cross-ref to a leader on how we expect our betters to set an example.

Obvious, yes? But not to the journalists of the future, apparently. The scenario is one used in media workshops run by the Independent Schools Careers Office to make candidates think about the dilemmas they could be facing in the real world.

Over two days last week, 40 of the 70-odd candidates from schools such as Eton and Cheltenham, said they’d either not publish it at all, or tuck it away inside so as not to sensationalise. A few said the decision was purely commercial, but most sympathised with his position and didn’t want to upset his wife.

Where does this come from? It’s not as if these extremely bright youngsters, all destined for our top universities, don’t read newspapers.

Could it be that these papers simply give a more caring impression than some of us may imagine?


Anonymous said...

It might be ok for a national editor to say he would always publish and be damned,but it's different for those on a weekly with senior directors worried about advertising revenue. Then it could be a case of publish and you will be out of the door!

Richard Burton said...

No different. I was a local editor for many years. Don't forget, we're talking about a leading public figure blackmailing a publication dedicated to bringing its readers fair and unbiased coverage. Why should someone who can simply flash the cash, get special favours while a poor housewife who innocently forgets to pay for a box of matches as she struggles to keep kids quiet at the tills suffers the indignity of seeing her name in print?

You're not a local paper editor, I'll bet. Or you'd know that.

R. North said...

Local papers in my area are not what they once were. I'd not be surprised if finances dictated editorial, policy. It's a sign of the times.