Baby Jennifer: ‘subdued’ coverage
Mirror editor Piers Morgan’s attempt to have just PA and Reuters cover the funeral of Chancellor Gordon Brown’s baby daughter, to save the family facing a barrage of flashbulbs, went slightly awry.
But the Brown family has thanked the media for adhering to their requests on pictures and for deciding on pool arrangements.
On Morgan’s suggestion, the Society of Editors urged members to consider taking advantage of a pool at St Bryce Church in Kirkcaldy last Friday to avoid unnecessary intrusion. While stressing that it wasn’t a formal request, the society felt Morgan had a valid point and backed his proposal.
But Newspaper Publishers Association members protested that the two organisations would not have the capability to provide all the variety of coverage needed and added another two photographers to the pool.
Scottish newspapers also demanded independent representation.
The Independent represented the London-based broadsheets and The Mirror the tabloids, while the Daily Record was there for the Scottish tabloids and The Scotsman for the broadsheets. The Browns had asked that there be no cameras inside the church or in the churchyard during the funeral service. Cameramen and photographers stayed beyond a police barrier across the road.
Those journalists inside the church by invitation did not produce notebooks.
Morgan told Press Gazette: "I just remember what happened with Dunblane. There was going to be a huge horde of media people going to each of the funerals and the police chief in charge summarily barred all media. When I heard about that I rang him and said, ‘Isn’t it easier if we get represented by a small pool and that we go to each family and ask them if they would object to a small pool?’
"You might be surprised at the answer – all the families involved agreed to a media pool."
Morgan said the funeral of was one occasion where he couldn’t imagine there was an appetite in Fleet Street for a scoop. "There was nothing but overwhelming sympathy – the last thing they wanted was a stampede of journalists marching down to the church," he said.
After the funeral, Morgan said: "It worked perfectly. The pool was broadly honoured. I thought it was imperative that, as an industry, we did what we could to minimise the intrusion. While coverage of the event itself was perfectly justified, I felt, why expose them to flashbulbs. Nobody was hit by a wall of cameras and that was my main concern."
A spokesman for the Brown family thanked newspapers and broadcasters for deciding to co-operate with each other in organising pools. The subsequent coverage demonstrated that all the family’s requests had been adhered to.
Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors, said: "I thought the coverage was suitably subdued."
By Jean Morgan