Sacked gay reporter accuses regional daily of homophobia

Sacked: reporter claims he was victimised for being gay

A gay journalist, sacked after complaining about being sent to cover “crap” public meetings, told an employment tribunal he worked in an atmosphere of homophobia and harassment.

Geoffrey Davis, 32, said he was ground down by years of abuse at the hands of his news editor and editor and eventually stormed out of a disciplinary hearing.

The tribunal panel was told by the reporter that he had been subjected to homophobic taunts by senior staff at the Bournemouth based evening newspaper, the Daily Echo.

Davis said: “I felt victimised. There was a homophobic attitude that I felt existed at the newspaper since I started working there.”

Referring to Echo editor Neal Butterworth, Davis said he was told by him in June 2000: “Don’t fuck with me, Geoff. Nobody fucks with me. I can be ruthless -bloody ruthless.”

The tribunal was told Davis smashed a framed photograph at the newspaper’s headquarters in Richmond Hill, Bournemouth, Dorset, after storming out of the meeting with his editor and news editor.

He was fired for insubordination and damaging company property.

Davis joined the Daily Echo as a senior reporter in 1994, but took two months’ sick leave in 1999 for depression, which he claimed, was partly brought on by stress at the office.

However, the tribunal was told by Andie Stevens, human resources regional manager for the newspaper’s publishers, Newsquest, that Davis had been repeatedly disciplined for many matters, including taking long cigarette breaks, his scruffy appearance, his nose-stud and his performance.

Matters came to a head on 19 September 2003, the morning after Davis had been sent to report on a meeting of the Southbourne Residents’ Forum.

Davis, the tribunal heard, had claimed there was “nothing to report” from the meeting and had told his news editor the meeting was “crap”.

Later that morning Davis was called to a meeting with his news editor, Andrew Martin, and the editor.

Davis told the tribunal the word “crap” was common in newsrooms.

“There was a tray in the Poole office marked “crap” with press releases in it. When there was nothing to do, people would get stories out and say, ‘I’m going to do some crap’. It’s a word that is bandied around in news-papers about rubbish stories, particularly in local papers.”

Davis said he had repeatedly clashed with his news editor. He claimed several encounters had left him in tears and he also accused Martin of making a homophobic taunt.

However, Martin said he “utterly refuted” that any incident of homophobia had occurred involving himself or anyone he worked with.

He added he often had to speak to Davis about his sloppy work.

The hearing was adjourned until 17 February.

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