Back Issues 13.01.06

BY JON SLATTERY

‘Financial pressures are here to stay’

Cut-backs and redundancies in the regional press are nothing new.

Ten years ago the Westminster Press chain of regionals had suffered a series of job cuts. But WP chairman Hew Stevenson’s (pictured above, right) advice to his journalists was “stop grumbling”.

Speaking at the WP diploma lunch, Stevenson warned newly-qualified journalists that financial pressures were here to stay: “We have to live with it, make the best of it. You hear people saying that newspaper publishers now don’t care about newspapers anymore; they think only short term; the investment analysts and big institutional investors demand quick profits; our bosses are to blame for not taking the longer view – it’s all someone else’s fault”. In the end WP’s owner, Pearson, took a short-term view and sold Westminster Press to Newsquest later in the year in a £305 million deal.

Stott blasts back at Charles Something else that wasn’t new was a punchup between Prince Charles and the press. The Prince, currently suing The Mail on Sunday, was in 1996 doing battle with Today, which had folded the previous November. Today was facing contempt proceedings for publishing extracts from a book by former royal housekeeper Wendy Berry, which was said to be in breach of a confidentiality agreement. Former Today editor Richard Stott (pictured) accused the Prince of hypocrisy.

He said: “It is absolutely outrageous that the Prince of Wales would want to consign people to prison for that kind of thing, when he is prepared to go on TV and talk about his relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles and other matters of confidentiality.”

Morgan defends paps A row blew up over pictures showing Princess Diana weeping as she left the house of her friend Susie Orbach. Diana was snapped by four freelances, three of whom supplied pictures to the Pappix/Big Pictures agency. The only nationals to use them were the Evening Standard and Daily Mirror. The Times published a scathing attack on the paparazzi under the headline “Tears of gold for photographers”. The agency said it was considering taking legal action against The Times and claimed Diana had run past the photographers who had not said a word. The Sun’s picture editor Ken Lennox said he turned down the pictures because they were intrusive. “They were very, very aggressive photos and were, as far as I was concerned, unusable.”

He said the photographers, who were caught on film which was broadcast by Sky, had chased Diana “like a pack of pups”. Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan defended using the pictures, claiming it was not the photographers who had caused Diana’s tears but the problems she was facing over her divorce. “Most of the royal pictures published in newspapers are taken by paparazzi. For newspapers to turn on them now is rank hypocrisy,” he said.

Campaign gaining momentum Matlock Mercury editor Don Hale’s campaign to free Stephen Downing, convicted 23 years earlier for a murder he claimed he did not commit, was gaining momentum. He had been told the case was to be reviewed in a month. Hale said he had twice had his life threatened while carrying out an investigation into the Downing case. He had also been threatened with legal action by Derbyshire police over articles about the case published in the Mercury.

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