Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Hello, is there anybody in there, is there anybody home...

It's been a while, I know, but stuff happens.

There's been a lot going on. Things were fraught over the summer at work as we were down a few people and those of us who remained were kept rather busy. But things have settled down, we're up to almost full strength and work is keeping me busy.

Leveson. Ye Gods but it's causing trouble. The predicted trouble is not Leveson and his recommendations. That, I can handle. And to be honest, I agree with much of what he wrote, if not all of it. He was particularly insightful and kind towards us local newspapers

But, as predicted - at least by those of us in the newspaper world who didn't hack phones, didn't blag medical records, didn't bribe coppers or DVLA staff and didn't lie about not doing it afterwards - the backlash has begun.

I remember a reporter friend at my previous paper who was told to go down to the queueing mourners at the civic centre who were all ready to sign a book of condolences for Princess Diana following her death in a horrifying car crash in Paris. Hundreds of people were in the queue and the reporter was tasked with getting a few comments from a handful of them, explaining why they were there, how they felt, why signing the book was a way of offering their sympathy for those left behind. However, very quickly what he got was criticism, and then outright abuse.

"Why are you here? It's your lot that killer her. You lot killed her you bastards... You scum!"

Yes - a 25-year-old ginger-haired reporter from Southend who liked doing stories about house music had apparently been the cause of a Royal death in another country. Or at least someone very much like him...

Obviously, trying to point out the difference between a local scribe and French paparazzi was a mute point. I mean, they're all the same, aren't they? All the same. All vermin. Like those on benefits, eh? All skiving scum.

Except that one doesn't represent all. It's a hard concept to have to accept. It means having a few calm thoughts, recognising the difference between good and bad, right and wrong, and having the conscience to not take the easy "you're all the fecking same" and accept that one's opinions could do with being tweaked a little.

So, as I said, the backlash has begun, again. Already in my role I'm having a few problems with officers who think I have horns, a curly tail and cloven hooves. That I will taunt them and call to them with my siren song, tempting them onto the rocks of corruption with a well stuffed brown envelope and the promise of a well paid column after their retirement (possibly their enforced "A19" retirement).

I know... mental, eh?

I have bribed cops you know. Oh yes. A cup of tea at Capn Jaspers. To date I have bribed two Chief Superintendents. I bought them a cup of tea and insisted the deposit went in the Fishermen's Mission charity box afterwards. Oh, and a Sergeant. He got a cup of tea as well. And a burger. In payment of the burger he'd bought me a few weeks before. I promised him it would balance out.

Scandalous, aren't I!

Devon and Cornwall Police have responded to Leveson by taking on recommendations by HMIC to ensure that all contacts between journalists on daily publications and police officers is recorded. Reporters on our sister weeklies don't have to go through the same thing, but the paper I'm currently working on, telly and radio, all have to submit to it. The copper has to note down on their computer system their name, the date, who they spoke to and from what organisation and what they talked about. The information gets sent off to the police press office who "monitor" it.

Of course, any suggestions that officers will be carpeted if they speak to the wrong person, or say the wrong thing, are scurrilous, unfair and a downright untruth and I will horsewhip any of you who suggest such a thing...

Sadly, despite these vicious rumours of it being used to terrify officers into choosing not to talk to the press, some officers appear to have found it far easier to, erm... well, not talk to the press.

I get a lot of "oh God, not you Carl, now I'll have to fill in one of those bloody forms and I'm up to my eyeballs in paperwork as it is... tell you what, you bugger off and I won't have to fill it in". I also get a couple of "but we're not allowed to talk to you anymore Carl - I'm sure there was an e-mail from one of the Chiefs saying not to talk to you. Everything has to go through the press office now. Yes I know they've gone home, but that's the new rule". I've even had a couple along the lines of "Can't really talk to you Carl. Apparently you're person non grata at the moment with the bosses. It was after that article you did... you know, the one about the Plymouth Headteachers having concerns about Op Encompass not working as well as it used to..."

I also occasionally get a few "feck the forms, this is not 1984 and I won't have some busybody in Middlemoor telling me I don't know what I can and can't talk to you about. Now, I've got this appeal I want in the paper and I want it prominent. And I've had a result on that racial assault and they're up in court next Thursday, can you get your magistrates reporter to cover it". Which is nice.

Anyway, there are trolls about, it's late and I've got to get home. Those brown envelopes won't stuff themselves you know...

I've just learned that Amy Childs, from that telly programme The Only Way Is Essex, is coming to town and I am praying to God, or in my case Billy Bragg, that I won't be sent to cover it. Please Billy, watch over me and keep me safe from celebrities...

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