Monday, 13 April 2009

'Closure of Press Gazette matters because of the stories that will no longer get told': Ponsford

Press Gazette editor Dominic Ponsford writes about the demise of the magazine in MediaGuardian today.
Dominic puts it in the context of closures elsewhere in the media: "The end of Press Gazette after 43 years is another chapter in an unfolding national tragedy, as long-established news organisations go to the wall. It matters, just as the closures and mass lay-offs at dozens of regional newspapers matter, because of the stories that will no longer get told."
As an example he tells how journalist Sally Murrer contacted the magazine "in a state of near hysterical despair. She claimed she had been bugged by police, trailed, held in a cell for 27 hours, threatened with life in prison and strip-searched - and she didn't know why.
"The story sounded fantastical - to be frank she sounded as if she might well be just another of the "nutters" which all news journalists deal with on a daily basis. But over an afternoon in the kitchen of her Bedfordshire home she convinced me that every word of the story of her extraordinary ordeal at the hands of Thames Valley Police was true. She had been the victim of a dogged and at times vicious mole-hunt for doing what all good crime reporters do - having off-the-record conversations with a police contact.
"After persuading Press Gazette's lawyers that Murrer was bona fide, we ran the story on the front page. Finally - in November - all the charges against her were thrown out. Murrer would later say that Press Gazette believing in her and telling the story helped her turn the corner of her ordeal."
He asks: "With Press Gazette gone, who will be left to write these stories? The remaining journalism news websites aren't generally in the business of covering this sort of slow-burn news story. Web-only reporters often need to write five or six news stories a day. Spending a day out of the office chasing a story which might well be a dead-end could mean falling hopelessly behind competitors who have been glued to their computer screens watching the wires and RSS feeds."

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