Axegrinder: How Observer wrongly credited Panorama journalist with breaking Savile story; surprise county court exclusion; Thatcher memories

How Axegrinder broke Watergate

Panorama reporter Shelley Jofre was landed in hot water by The Observer just before Christmas when it interviewed her and published the following Tweet:

“Panorama reporter Shelley Jofre on breaking the Jimmy Savile child abuse story.”

The errant tweet exposed Jofre to Twitter ribbing from, among others, Mark Williams-Thomas, whose award-winning Exposure documentary really did break the Savile story.

The Panorama reporter made clear she had made no such claims and that the story itself had not said so – just the headline and tweet.

She told a conference at the London School of Economics last week: “Unbelievably on a Sunday I spent half of a day trying to get this corrected.

“You phone up the newsroom, there’s obviously one poor guy on online and he says, ‘oh, the person  who tweets for us isn’t in today’.

“Well, maybe you could ring him at home and ask him to correct this because this is really, really important and it makes me look really stupid, inferring that I’m claiming to break a story that I obviously didn’t break – so get it sorted out.”

Surprise exclusion from county court

Freelance journalist Christina Zaba was surprised to be excluded from a hearing at Bristol County Court by an usher who said it would “breach provisions of the Data Protection Act”.

She managed to get into the court anyway after the claimant, who was involved in a case related to unpaid invoices, said she was her union representative (both are in the NUJ).

But she was left concerned that a previously unknown clause of the Data Protection Act was being used to keep journalists out of courts.

Press Gazette received this response from HM Courts Service:

“It was a chambers application listed before District Judge Exton in Hearing Room 1. So, although the reason given was incorrect (data protection) the clerk was right in that it was a closed hearing so members of the media would not be allowed access.”

But Zaba is still not convinced that the Courts’ Service has got it right. “They did let me in as a union rep, so it wasn’t a closed hearing was it? There were four court staff there and they agreed that I couldn’t come in under the Data Protection Act because peoples’ financial details were being discussed. If the courts can’t get the Data Protection Act right then what hope is there for anybody else?”

Thatcher memories

Two memories of  Margaret Thatcher from journalists who got up close and personal to the great lady.

The first from former Matlock Mercury editor Don Hale who met her at a Conservative Party event in Buxton in 1988.

“I was taken to and ushered into the event by a series of high security measures and watched in awe from the sidelines as the rally reached an incredible stage-managed crescendo of noise awaiting the arrival of their leader.

"The atmosphere was electric and by the time the ‘Iron Lady’ finally appeared, numerous hand-picked overloud support groups were already on their feet encouraging a mass hysteria of fan worship to the backing of some powerful, stimulating and deafening background music.

“It reminded me of the old newsreel footage of Hitler’s Nazi rallies in the 1930s and any minute I expected the standing ovation to be matched with straight armed salutes.

“I have never seen so much security in all my days and the police and military presence was amazing with low flying jets, helicopters and a large and heavily enforced, armed no-go zone.”

Former BBC journalist Michael Cole recalled covering Thatcher from her Tory leadership bid in 1975 onwards.

He said: “She invited my wife and me to lunch at Chequers.

"When the WRAF corporal serving the lemon tart dropped a slice on the antique rug, it was Prime Minister Thatcher who ran to fetch the dustpan and got down on her knees to sweep up, assuring the young lady there was no harm done and not to worry.”

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