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December 1, 2022updated 05 Dec 2022 10:32am

Agency boss: Journalists face ‘endless legals and daily abuse’ post-Leveson

Ten years on from the Leveson Report, Jon Harris of Cavendish Press on the impact it's had on journalists.

By Jon Harris

Leveson tamed some of the wildest excesses of journalism but it has left today’s reporters and photographers negotiating a legal minefield on daily assignments.

Publication of an article or a picture is never the end of the story as there is always the prospect of subsequent complaints – 99.9% invalid – from those keen to use the 2012 Public Inquiry as a stick to beat us with.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with journalists knowing what they can and cannot report but time consuming memos to newspaper lawyers which once occurred in a blue moon are now a virtually a daily occurrence alongside filing stories and pictures.

And no surprise, fees to freelancers and agencies have not been raised one jot to reflect that fact.

Instead we exist on 1980s pay whilst the constant waterfall of whingeing (which is encouraged by IPSO and seemingly publishers themselves) brings our integrity into question and often serves to de-motivate rather than motivate.

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Yes, we are supposed to take it all in our stride and think “they’re only complaining because we’ve got the story right” – but we are not immune to the incessant noise of these barrack room lawyers demanding an apology and, of course “compo”.

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These days I’m being asked to file memos on how and why one of our a reporters took on her mobile phone in 2008 a picture of a Coronation Street actor lying drug and comatose at 1am in a packed Manchester city centre bar.

Another concerned how we knew a former Eastenders actress was due to get married in 2004 (the reality is one of her close mates was boasting about it to all and sundry – including a close of mine – in a church near me). 

Even defendants accused or even convicted of serious crimes at court are getting their voices heard at IPSO – concerned we may have breached ”privacy” rules or even whether such stories are ”newsworthy”.

Sometimes we are told even inquests – which literally are matters about life and death – are ”not in the public interest.”

Whilst Leveson has thankfully condemned to the past those terrible days of journalists having to doorstep grieving relative at funerals under the threat of being fired, the endless legals and daily abuse of journalists has made the job more difficult now.

We cannot of course blame all our current ills on the inquiry, but something which was full of good intentions to raise our game has sadly become a double edged sword for us a daily basis.

[Hacked Off: Have press standards improved ten years on from Leveson? Not if you ask the public]

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
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