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November 8, 2007

Murrer charge could be end of the line for crime reporting

By Dominic Ponsford1

And now for the bad news.

Put the bubbly away because journalism is under threat again. Plus ca change.

No sooner has Gordon Brown saved the Freedom of Information Act and pledged support for self regulation of the press – than a whole new set of terrors are suddenly befalling our industry.

Mecom boss David Montgomery wants to ditch sub-editors – a barmy idea which is sure to find its way from his European titles to the UK and which presumably means multi-tasking journalists will now be expected to report, sub, blog, video and podcast all at the same time.

Press Gazette magazine this week reveals new moves to off-shore editorial jobs to India in the quest to drive down costs in a move which presents another threat to UK journalism jobs.

But most worryingly of all is Sally Murrer’s hounding by Thames Valley Police which this week resulted in the obscure charge of aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office being levelled against her.

The charge says that she “aided, abetted, counselled and procured” a public officer to make “unlawful disclosures of confidential police information”.
In other words she persuaded a policeman to tell her stuff. If this charge sticks then UK crime reporters might was well pack their bags and go home.
We will have to let the police make their announcements on their own website and forget about journalists altogether.

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News organisations will lose a few readers. But the police – who depend on the public’s help and support for everything they do – face losing much more.

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