Stonebridge demonstration: residents protest over Standard exposÃ©
Angry residents of North London’s Stonebridge estate demonstrated outside the Evening Standard office on Monday in protest at coverage that labelled their homes “a festering sore”.
More than 20 residents wanted to present a 195-signature petition to the editor Veronica Wadley or her deputy but got a cool reception. They carried placards proclaiming “Stonebridge strikes back!”, “Sub-Standard,” “The Standard sucks” and one held by an elderly resident of the Harlesden estate, which read “I am not a crack dealer”.
The group were making known their displeasure at two double-page spreads and a leader article run by the Standard last week asking if Stonebridge was one of the 10 worst estates in Britain, labelling it “a Third World ghetto” where children dealt crack and the residents were terrified to go out after dark.
Jamie Elliott, speaking for the group, said: “Stonebridge is an ageing Seventies estate, which is being knocked down and rebuilt with new homes. Some of the old ones are still standing and they are pretty grotty, but the actual life on the estate, including crime, has improved enormously. In 2002, street crime was down 28 per cent on the previous year.”
Elliott claimed the Standard ignored these facts and that undercover reporter David Cohen wrote “a sensationalist and biased report”.
In Tuesday’s Standard, Cohen hit back. In an article straplined “The violence is real – it must be brought to light”, he said his week on the estate had been terrifying and described how he ordered crack for quick delivery on a mobile, how residents said he could order a gun and have it in 15 minutes and if he ventured out after dark he would end up, sooner or later, “in a pool of blood”.
Cohen was unrepentant about reporting “accurately what I saw with my own eyes” and said vehement denials of the ongoing problems “are a cogent reminder of why journalists go undercover to do exposÃ©s”. Less than 4 per cent of the 5,000 tenants signed the petition, he pointed out.
Elliott said: “Nobody of any seniority was prepared to speak to us and, worse than that, the residents wrote a brief innocuous letter putting their complaint but the Standard has not published it. The residents have worked really hard to change the estate’s reputation and things have got better. It is only the Standard which has taken this one-sided view.”
By Jean Morgan