Leader 08.08.03

Patience and self-control pays off with Prescotts

Two years ago, when she was steering the News of the World, Rebekah Wade had to do the thing that editors hate the most: sit on a story. It was a good one too. A tale of a very high-ranking Government minister’s wife and the son she’d given up for adoption as a 16 year old.

Yet sit on it she did, because of the sensitive and personal nature of the story and the fact that the individuals involved weren’t yet ready to go public.

Last week, she was rewarded for her patience when John Prescott rang to say his family was ready to talk.

Both the NoW and Wade’s new paper, The Sun, would benefit, and even more amazingly, they would co-operate with The Daily Telegraph – which had independently got on to the story – in co-ordinating the press access to Pauline Prescott and her son.

Now who says tabloids have no self-control?

Martin reheated

And so the mystery of the Express’s “World Exclusive” interview with farmer Tony Martin – who had signed an exclusive deal with another title – is solved. Not that it was much of a mystery to readers of the Eastern Daily Press, who would have been thoroughly familiar with Martin’s words. They had, after all, appeared in exactly the same order three-andahalf years ago in the Norfolk paper following Martin’s imprisonment.

The Express was following one of Fleet Street’s immutable laws: if you can’t get it yourself, blag it from elsewhere. Often enough, “elsewhere” is the regional press, whose journalists rarely get the national credit for the excellent work involved.

But it may just be that another national newspaper feels the repurcussions of the Express’s disingenuousness most keenly. The Daily Mirror is under investigation for paying Martin for its own real exclusive, and will have to prove that money was needed to persuade him to talk.

Martin was paid nothing by the EDP, yet he talked to its reporter, David Winning, for five hours.

Killing the ‘sacred cows’

Trinity Mirror is not a place for the faint-hearted, said Sly Bailey in her strategic review. It won’t be a place, either, for the 550 staff who will lose their jobs in the shakedown. Those remaining in the regions won’t be too disappointed to see that head office is taking its fair share of the cuts. But they’ll be less pleased to hear Bailey’s threat to tackle the “sacred cow” of editorial costs. Sacred? That’s not how many will have felt as newsroom budgets have been squeezed ever tighter.

Profits up; journalists out. It won’t be the last time the inexorable logic of the City takes its toll.

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