By Sarah Lagan
Staff at Trinity Mirror’s Birmingham Post & Mail have slammed management for calling a journalist’s contact without their knowledge to check an expenses claim.
The journalist only found out when their contact called and asked if they were being investigated. It then emerged that an office manager had traced the contact on an expenses form, called them and made the checks as part of Trinity’s cost-saving measures.
The company has said it will continue to make such checks, but will consult with journalists and managers first.
In an email to staff, Post & Mail editorial director Mark Dickinson said: "Please be aware that audits of expenses are on-going on a random and regular basis."
One insider said that calling a journalist’s contacts without consent had bordered on slander.
He told Press Gazette: "These are draconian measures devised to try to clamp down on expenses. First of all, you have confidential contacts who don’t necessarily want people checking up on them. Then, the first the person knew about it was when their contact phoned them up asking them whether they were being investigated.
"It makes journalists look like they are being investigated for fraud — it’s slanderous in a sense. It cuts to the heart of the journalist and their relationship with their contacts — it erodes the trust. It just goes to show the incredible penny-pinching nature of our company."
Another insider described the move as "absolute madness" and accused the Trinity paper of hindering journalists’
ability to do their job "when as far as we can see there isn’t a serious problem with it."
A Trinity Mirror spokesman said: "Management in Birmingham are checking on an occasional and random basis to ensure that expenses are claimed properly.
"They have agreed to speak to reporters and their managers before getting in touch with contacts. The company is well aware of the importance and sensitivity of journalists’
relationships with contacts, and would not do anything to jeopardise them.
"We are managing costs tightly across the company, which of course includes expenses, but there is no group-wide policy on this particular subject."