By Jean Morgan
Macclesfield Express trainee Fiona MacCartney saw her “world exclusive” interview with the widow of murdered detective Stephen Oake splashed across the nationals last week. Only one newspaper gave her a credit.
Yet the poignant confession by Lesley Oake that she cried herself to sleep at night cuddling her husband’s pyjamas was a scoop they all coveted.
The Greater Manchester Police press office had been inundated with requests from national and international media for interviews with Mrs Oake, the widow of Detective Constable Oake, following his stabbing during a raid on an asylum seeker’s flat in Manchester. The Macclesfield Express was aware that large sums of money had been offered, but knew it could not compete with chequebook journalism.
Then came an unexpected turn of events – Mrs Oake wanted to speak to the Macclesfield Express, and MacCartney in particular.
MacCartney lives in the same area, Poynton in Cheshire, as the Oake family and has attended the same Baptist church on occasion.
She was at the funeral service at the church and it was through the Baptist ministers’ recommendation that Oake spoke to her.
MacCartney, 26, who has been at the Express for six months, told Press Gazette: “My story was syndicated through the Manchester Evening News [part of the same group]. It was exactly the same copy, but only the Telegraph acknowledged the Macclesfield Express.”
MacCartney explained that while her newspaper had covered the story closely, she had kept her distance, not pushing for interviews.
“I think the family liked the coverage we had given them in the paper and she rang up herself. She was fantastic; she really opened up,” said MacCartney. After their telephone chat, MacCartney went round to the Oake house with a photographer.
MacCartney’s news editor, Pat Hills, said: “We’re very proud of Fiona. What she did was the right thing. She didn’t push herself on these people. She gentled herself into the family by chatting to the ministers and gaining their trust.
“In the beginning, we were pushed out a little by the Greater Manchester Police. All the press were warned off because the police were very protective of the family. But the family decided in their wisdom that they would invite us to interview Lesley Oake.”