Regional editor warns of phone-hacking 'backlash'

Journalists working in the regional press have faced a public backlash as a result of the phone-hacking scandal, the Leveson Inquiry has heard.

Manchester Evening News editor Maria McGeoghan told the inquiry yesterday that she was concerned about the perception that the regional press was using the same methods as the tabloids and that ‘we’re all doing something shady”.

‘I think there has been a backlash,’she said. ‘I’ve lost count now of the number of times I’ve been asked how you hack a phone or what the going rate for paying off a policeman is and it’s not funny any more.’

McGeoghan told Lord Justic Leveson that she had recently given a talk to students on an MA journalism course and at the end of the session asked them: ‘How many of you have had friends and family saying, ‘What on earth do you want to go into journalism as a career for?'”

McGeoghan said they ‘pretty much all agreed”, adding: ‘I think that’s very worrying and very sad.”

Peter Charlton, editor of the Yorkshire Post, told the hearing that after the scandal was exposed ‘there was a feeling of annoyance and shock and being let down’throughout the regional press.

‘We have a lot of talented journalists in the regional press who work very hard lawfully, honestly and with transparency to achieve what we do on a daily basis, and they get paid considerably less than our national counterparts,’he said. ‘So I think there was a feeling of annoyance.’

Nigel Pickover, editor of the Ipswich Evening Star, said he was expecting a backlash from readers but didn’t receive a single phone call or letter attacking the paper or its journalists.

‘I’ve been prepared to defend my journalists to the hilt,’he said. ‘In the end, I didn’t have to.”

Noel Doran, editor of the Irish News, conceded that the hacking saga was a ‘problem for the image and the reputation of journalism’but like Pickover he had not sensed a backlash.

‘The problem largely, as we can see, is confined to three or four titles in London,’he said. ‘But I think we have to accept our responsibilities. We have to be able to demonstrate that our standards are as high as possible and I’d like to think we can do so.’

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