Did journalists really steal photos from the homes of bereaved relatives?

Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre told the Leveson Inquiry that ethical standards in journalism have improved immeasurably since the 1970s when he started out in the trade.

And to prove his point he said this:

“It was not uncommon for reporters to steal photographs from homes.”

But did they? So asks former Take a Break editor John Dale on the Gentleman Ranters website.

I’ve often heard it repeated that it was standard practice for reporters on death knocks to slyly pocket pictures of loved ones from mantle pieces. And this seemed to be backed up by the testimony of Roy Greenslade and Bob Satchwell also speaking at the Leveson seminar.

Since I was born in 1973, I have no idea what the truth is. I’ve certainly seen no evidence of it in my experience as a journalist since 1997.

But on the issue of photo-stealing Dale writes:

“I reported for some of the most competitive outfits – Raymonds of Derby, Hopkinsons of Leeds and Bradford, and the Daily Mail – and I swear I never saw it.

“I think back to the very decent men and women who were my colleagues. They would not have done it just as I would not have done it.

“It was not even necessary. We were skilled in gaining trust – easier then, I think – and when we did the ‘death knock’, we respected our interviewees and in return they respected us because our newspapers were about real people and real lives, not ersatz celebrities, and the readers understood we were doing a job.

“We’d ask for photos and in nearly all cases they would be fetched and entrusted to our care. Theft would have been redundant.”

We can expect more on this topic from John Dale’s new website: Planet Tabloid Reporter.

He has also started a petition attacking what he describes as a slur on the reputations of older journalists.

Do any Press Gazette readers know if photo-stealing was really as common as has been implied?

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