Police investigate threat to reporter at Hull Daily Mail in wake of backlash from arts leaders against title

Police are investigating a threat against a reporter at the Hull Daily Mail, which came shortly before an open letter signed by more than 270 arts and culture leaders in the city alleged “persistent inflammatory reporting” at the paper.

Meanwhile editor Jamie Macaskill welcomed an “open and constructive” dialogue with signatories of the letter and pointed to the title’s history of campaigning journalism.

“At Hull Live and the Hull Daily Mail we have the interests of our broad readership at the heart of our coverage and we have a history of campaigning journalism,” he said.

“In recent weeks we have highlighted the urgent issue of violence against women, raised money for frontline NHS staff, and launched a campaign to provide free school meals for local children affected by school closures.

“We understand the responsibility we have to ensure our coverage is accurate and informative and continue to welcome an open and constructive dialogue with the communities we serve.”

The letter –  signed by about 275 people in the arts sector including TV comedian Lucy Beaumont, the director of Hull Jazz Festival, three CEOS, four actors, 18 writers, 13 musicians, a Labour councillor and at least one former Hull Daily Mail journalist – accused Hull Live of causing harm to marginalised people and communities in the former 2017 City of Culture.

Former editor-in-chief Neil Hodgkinson, now Reach’s marketplace publisher for the North East, Yorkshire & Scottish Regionals, and senior editor Jenna Thompson met with representatives of the group last summer but the letter claimed “little has changed”.

The signatories asked Macaskill to “acknowledge the harm your publication has caused and continues to cause, listen to those who offer constructive criticism and begin to report on Hull in a way that brings us all together, rather than drives us further apart”.

Their objections came to a head last month with the publication of a story about Labour councillor Aneesa Akbar who hit out on Twitter about Prince Philip’s past “racist” remarks hours after his death.

In the story, Akbar stood by her comments while Hull Liberal Democrats accused her of hypocrisy after she criticised one of their candidates for leafleting during an agreement not to campaign as a mark of respect to the Duke.

Press Gazette understands police are investigating a threat made to a female reporter over the story. A Humberside Police spokesperson said: “We are investigating a report of malicious communications made on Monday 12 April. This investigation remains active and ongoing.”

Press Gazette also understands Hull Live is in a dialogue with Akbar.

In March last year, the paper apologised for running an opinion piece that labelled people who advocate diversity as “enemies of our country”.

The article also said Islam “traditionally doesn’t belong in our land” and that people with ties to India and the Caribbean have a “divided loyalty”.

Then-Hull Live digital editor Thompson said the unedited submission had not been seen by a senior member of staff before going to print, blaming in part disruption to working patterns brought by the start of working from home because of Covid-19.

[Read more: 2020 was the year when people rediscovered local news, says Reach audience chief David Higgerson]

Other accusations levelled in the letter include the “repeated mistreatment” of the Traveller community, the “constant dehumanising” of homeless people with substance abuse issues as “zombies”, the platforming of anti-vaccination voices, and an alleged failure to fully follow Samaritans guidelines on reporting suicides.

Those who signed the letter said this showed the website has “routinely shown a lack of care, curiosity and compassion in the way that it reports serious subject matter”.

They also said the comments on Hull Live’s Facebook page had “become a lightning rod for bigots to share their contemptuous views, often with little moderation”. Facebook only began allowing pages to limit who can comment on posts at the end of March.

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