Journalists need to “find more positive news about crime fighting to balance the depression factor”, according to Manchester Evening News editor Paul Horrocks.
He believes his title is making a difference in the city once dubbed “Gunchester” by co-operating with the local city council to publicise antisocial behaviour orders.
ASBOs have become familiar to newspaper editors across the country over the past two years as a way of naming and shaming “teenage tearaways”, exposing them to their communities and preventing them from entering areas where they have been causing trouble.
Manchester is arguably the capital city of ASBOs – so far more than 100 have been made there.
Horrocks said: “Each time Manchester City Council takes out an order we give the case high-profile coverage with a picture of the accused if possible. “Publicity combined with the effects of the terms of the order is having positive results.”
He cited cases such as that of Darren Parkinson, an 11-year-old banned from using racist language for five years after subjecting the staff of his local Toys ‘R’ Us store to abuse.
“The number of orders being sought is going down, so it’s working,” claimed Horrocks. “The reactions of those we’ve identified are fantastic. Some of them have said ‘at last my son is getting to grips with it’.”
Chris Fox, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, received a lukewarm conference response when he suggested that newspapers should refuse to take advertisements from nightclubs with bad reputations.
He also said the local press should not publicise gigs for bands with lyrics that are perceived to encourage gun culture.
When the question was asked whether any of the editors present had ever turned down an advertisement on such grounds there was silence.
By Dominic Ponsford