Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The Leveson Inquiry

The Leveson Inquiry - Culture, Practice and Ethics of the Press

I’ve only been working as a Journalist/writer for a small number of years and certainly wouldn’t consider myself important enough to appear at the Leveson Inquiry, especially as I haven’t done much work for the national papers that set the tone for the press industry.

There are though three events worth recalling. In 2002 a young Iranian refugee, Payman Behmani, was stabbed to death in Hendon, Sunderland. It wasn’t much more than a few hundred yards from where I then lived and I contacted the Guardian newspaper and provided much of the copy that was filed on the story by their Northern correspondent Martin Wainwright.

Not too long after an asylum seeker in Sunderland was also stabbed in Hendon and taken critically ill to the hospital. I re-rang the Guardian and asked if they wanted me to file some copy and was told by the then Deputy Editor [whose name I can’t recall] they would only be interested if the man died. Fortunately he survived.

In the autumn of 2003 I also wrote a number of articles [potentially 3 of around 1,000 words each] for publication in the popular regional newspaper The Journal. I had already written a number of pieces that had been published in the Morning Star about gulf war syndrome affecting British servicemen who had served in the first Gulf War a decade earlier. I’d followed this up with other pieces on how badly members of the military have always been treated if they fall sick, or are left injured or invalided as a result of their service. The pieces in the Journal were to have a similar focus, but with a more human touch with interviews with local ex-servicemen.

The articles were to go out on a Saturday, starting with September 20th. The night before I was rang by the paper and the final content was read down the phone to me. Next morning – nothing and none of them were ever to appear. On the Tuesday I rang the deputy editor I had been working with and was told he had left his post. I never did manage to speak to him to confirm exactly why but I was told by someone who wished to remain anonymous that “he had quit in disgust” when following a call from the Ministry of Defence the paper had decided to drop all the articles. To matters even worse I got not a penny for my work.

Three years later I was alerted to the fact that Arsenal’s new multi-million pound Emirates Stadium was not up to scratch when it came to facilities for disabled fans. In a nutshell helpers had their seats situated behind the fans, thus when assistance was needed they were forced to stand. Many were doing so throughout the whole match, and as Arsenal were at the time throwing out other supporters for doing just that then the Gunners had a potentially bad news story on their hands.

I worked with the Sunday Express reporter in the North on standing up the information and we had a good piece written and ready to run in the paper. Again it never appeared and the reason was that alerted to the story - by asking them to comment - the North London club had contacted the paper and promised them a couple of major football exclusives if they dropped it. In this case I did get well paid and I was subsequently able to alter and have the piece published in the Big Issue in the South magazine. Arsenal though had avoided national publicity over their new Stadium - and to their credit
they did alter the seating arrangements at the Emirates subsequently.

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