Balance key to race riot Leader stories

Leader: kept ahead of the nationals

The Evening Leader’s small Wrexham-based editorial team may not be used to covering race riots. But they put together editions on consecutive days with three, five and then seven pages of exclusive copy and keep well ahead of the national competition.

Trouble first erupted in Wrexham on Sunday between locals on the Caia Park housing estate and the 40-strong community of Iraqi-Kurd refugees.

The Evening Leader led on Monday with exclusive pictures of rioters roaming the estate carrying iron bars, sticks and clubs. By coincidence an AGM meeting of refugees and asylum seekers was in the news diary for Monday and Leader reporters were able to get comprehensive accounts of the Kurds’ side of the story.

On Monday night Leader reporters and photographers were the only media to remain on the estate and they were there when trouble flared up again and about 200 youths fought pitched battles with police.

News editor Joanne Shone said: “The Iraqi-Kurds gave us some really moving copy about what they had fled from under Saddam and how they were now facing problems in their new home – they felt they weren’t wanted anywhere.

“A late-night patrol of the area by reporter Andy Rogers saw the situation escalating on Monday with hundreds on the streets and riot police trying to control the situation. Picture editor Rick Matthews was at the scene within half-an-hour and remained there until the early hours liaising with me.

“Other local and national journalists had been and gone when the petrol bombs and rocks started flying so the Leader was able to produce an exclusive five-page colour special.”

Staff on the Leader said they were anxious to ensure their coverage was as responsible as possible.

Shone said: “We were very aware of the fact that we didn’t want to incite any trouble – we tried to give a balanced and positive view of what people were doing to try and calm the situation. There was no sensationalism at all in the writing – we just tried to tell it as it was.”

The paper led on Wednesday with a page-one comment calling for lessons to be learned from the crisis.

By Dominic Ponsford

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