Neil Entwistle case sparks transatlantic debate on court reporting

Worksop Guardian editor George Robinson has sparked a transatlantic debate on the paper’s website after claiming the US media’s reporting of the Neil Entwistle murder case could jeopardise a fair trial.

Robinson sent the chief reporter of the Nottinghamshire weekly, Debbie Lockett, to Massachusetts, to provide day-by-day online coverage of the trial of the Worksop man, who was convicted yesterday of murdering his American wife and their daughter

‘This is the biggest trial Worksop has ever seen,’Robinson told Press Gazette. ‘Because of that I was much more passionate about having my own person out there giving me the feeds when I want them, with the kind of angles I want, rather than just doing what a lot of people do, which is to take the PA news feed.’

To compensate for the time difference, subs operated on a rota through the night to receive Lockett’s copy.

Not having the chief reporter available locally was an additional drain on the paper. ‘It’s a major luxury to have someone at a trial full time, and it has had knock-on effects back here,’Robinson said.

‘Within the industry, you’re always told to keep your costs to an absolute minimum, so there’s been a bit of creative blagging and deals done, but even so it was costly, and it’s great to have commitment shown to supporting us editorially,’he added, thanking parent company Johnston Press for backing the operation over the past fortnight.

Lockett’s reports generated several splashes for the paper, and were shared with daily sister titles the Yorkshire Post and the Sheffield Star.

Much of the coverage appeared on a special section of the Worksop Guardian website. In addition to text, Lockett also filed video reports.

The case has broken all of the paper’s traffic records, with one story recording 30,000 visits in just two days last week, Robinson said.

The online coverage also included a debate sparked by a series of comment pieces Robinson wrote, criticising US gun laws and claiming the US media’s coverage was prejudicing Entwistle’s chance of a fair trial.

US law does not have the same restrictions on reporting active court proceeding as exist in Britain under the Contempt of Court Act, and the case has had extensive pre-trial publicity for more than a year.

The Boston Herald fired back earlier this month with an article headed: ‘Hometown paper in Worksop has a soft spot for Neil Entwistle”.

The Worksop Guardian website also received many comments critical of its coverage.

“We got some rabid reactions from the other side of the Atlantic where it started turning into ‘you UK people don’t know what justice is and what journalism is’,” Robinson said.

But Robinson said: ‘We were just doing what any other newspaper would do in Britain, which is saying that you can’t hang, draw and quarter this guy until the trial is over.”

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