Soham paper takes trial news off the front page

How The Standard explained its decision

Soham’s weekly newspaper has decided to banish reports of Ian Huntley’s trial from the front page out of respect for the murdered girls’ families and the local community.

Since the disappearance of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in August last year, The Standard has found itself at the centre of one of the biggest stories in the country.

For the first two weeks of Huntley’s murder trial, the story made page one of the paper. But after an editorial meeting, staff have decided to relegate it to inside pages from now on and not to feature it on billboards.

Deputy editor Debbie Davies said: “We feel it is less intrusive if the story isn’t on the front page. People can then choose whether or not they want to read it.”

Davies said that before the murders, the small Fenland town’s biggest claim to fame was its annual pumpkin fair. Now it faced joining Lockerbie, Dunblane and Hungerford as a place synonymous with tragedy.

She said: “The local weekly newspaper has to find a way of reporting this tragic case while bearing in mind that at the end of the trial, we will still expect people to trust us. We still want their wedding reports and death notices and photographs of their school plays to fill our pages.

“Primarily, we also have a duty to consider the needs of the parents – their need to find some solace and comfort when they come home to Soham after a harrowing day in court. Do we really want them to drive through Soham and see Standard billboards screaming shock and horror back at them? “There will be no emotive or shocking front page headlines and no billboards to remind the town of the one event they can’t possibly forget or get away from.

“The case will be reported on two inside pages in the form of a diary of the last five days in court, with a colour piece from our Old Bailey reporter.

“We hope our decision reflects the wishes of our community and have invited them to let us know if we have got it right. And let’s hope that when next year’s pumpkin fair comes around, we can send our reporter along with clear conscience knowing we have the town on our side.”

 

By Dominic Ponsford

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