Meehan defends Hull Daily Mail over web-porn story row

Hull Daily Mail editor John Meehan has defended his paper after it encountered a storm of criticism for revealing the porn industry links of a local website designer.

The story about HU17 website creator Paul Smith revealed that he had also designed websites related to the porn industry. A Hull Daily Mail reporter posed as an escort girl who asked if Smith would design a website for her.

More than 300 readers commented on the online version of the Mail story, most strongly critical of the Mail's coverage. Many point out that the HU17 local news website for the town of Beverley could be seen as a rival to the Hull Daily Mail.

Editor John Meehan said today: "Our coverage has been entirely legitimate and in the public interest. It was wholly accurate and responsible.

"We reported fully Mr Smith's explanation for his activities related to pornographic websites. We even carried a piece in our newspaper from Mr Smith's website accusing us of mounting a 'smear campaign' against him.

"We believe it is important that people and organisations in Beverley are fully aware of Mr Smith's activities. They can then make their own minds up about whether he is an appropriate person to be running and producing content for a community website.

"There are also important issues related to the fact that he had become a member of a partnership group representing the town and that the local authority, East Riding Council, had actively promoted his website.

"It is interesting that, in our newspaper today, the leader of the council, Councillor Stephen Parnaby, has described Mr Smith's activities in relation to pornographic websites as 'clearly unacceptable'. He has said he wants to know what the council knew about Mr Smith and how it came to be involved with him.

"The story has provoked considerable discussion on our website. Many of the comments are misinformed, but we have continued to allow people to post their comments because we believe passionately in freedom of expression, within the boundaries of the law."

A Hull Daily Mail comment article today said of website creator Smith that "behind the veneer of respectability are some very unpleasant activities indeed".

It said: "Mr Smith has been making money out of building pornographic websites. He has built a vast array of hardcore sex websites, all registered in his company's name and available on the internet until they were suddenly closed after we confronted Mr Smith with our findings earlier this week.

"We had heard rumours of Mr Smith's sordid activities and became particularly concerned when his Beverley website was endorsed by East Riding Council. We decided to investigate, as we would in any such circumstances. The result is the revelations we publish today."

Among the comments on the Hull Daily Mail website was this fairly typical one from Jon R, who said: "The story comes across as though Mr Smith has some kind of Porn Empire, when it appears the reality to be here is a local man working in an industry which rightly or wrongly seems now to be part of everyday life trying to earn a living. I am sure the HDM makes far more money than Mr Smith from the Escort, Massage Parlour and Private Services adverts listed in most of its publications and websites."

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