Sailors use local press to set record straight

While the national media scrambled to offer cash for interviews with the freed hostages, many spoke to their local newspapers without mention of money.

The Manchester Evening News, South Wales Evening Post and the Plymouth Herald all scooped interviews with the former hostages for free, claiming the perceived integrity of the regional press was a contributory factor.

When contacted by the MEN, Captain Chris Air said he was not interested in money, but merely wanted to set the record straight.

MEN chief crime reporter John Scheerhout, who brokered an interview with Air through his father, said: "He was quite keen to talk to his local newspaper.

Chris is obviously an intelligent guy and had clear opinions about what had happened and wanted to set the record straight about these lies that had been pedalled by Iranian regime.

"It's a fact of media life now that national media are willing to pay big bucks for stories. I think journalists are fairly phlegmatic about this culture in the national press — it's just the way things are. It's not the way the MEN or local newspapers like to approach things. We pride ourselves on our integrity.

In the end, we have to think that good quality honest journalism will always win through."

Scheerhout was critical of the MoD's decision to allow the sale of stories.

"I think it's wrong they gave personnel permission to sell their stories — with hindsight, I think the MoD has realised that.

There are families out there of people who have died during the war who would be upset with these people earning vast amounts of money."

South Wales Evening Post news editor Peter Slee branded the MoD's decision a "cock-up".

"It has backfired fantastically and they are left with egg all over their faces, and I think most people see it in that light as well."

The Evening Post scooped an interview with Lieutenant Felix Carman.

Slee said: "Felix wanted to use the medium of his local paper. I think that was partly because our chief reporter Chris Davies had built up a good relationship with the family through the MoD while they were being held hostage.

"The mum and dad trusted us as a result of that, and when he was freed they steered him in our direction because of the ground work that had been put in.

"We report at ground level and I think the parents recognised that. They tell local newspapers because they want to tell their story to the people who know them and their families locally, rather than with any ulterior motive.

"There's been a lot of favourable reaction to our interview, saying he did the right thing. We made it clear he was not paid, was not seeking payment and we weren't offering any payment."

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