Banning ITV News from an Avon & Somerset police press conference because it ran a report critical of the investigation of the Joanna Yeates murder was pointless and counter-productive.
Reporter Geraint Vincent interviewed a former murder squad detective who alleged the investigation had omitted certain basic procedures. Avon & Somerset criticised the report as “unfair, naïve and irresponsible”.
It may have been all those things and more, but ITV News says it gave the press office numerous opportunities to comment before the broadcast and received no reply.
We might expect mistakes like this to be made in the heat of a major investigation, especially when it is the focus of huge media attention. It’s distressing work for the detectives and exhausting for a small press office under siege by journalists. Tempers naturally fray, patience runs out, poor judgment calls are made – on both sides.
But let’s be clear that banning journalists from press conferences because you don’t like what they say is very poor judgment. It looks like a form of censorship and suggests a police force that expects the media to gratefully regurgitate press releases and blindly accept all its reassurances.
The relationship between the police and media has always been like a malfunctioning marriage. For the sake of the children they are condemned to a life together, but there is neither love nor understanding between them.
The secret is to take a deep breath, try to see it from the other person’s point of view before you say anything – and never lose your temper.
GARETH WEEKES, Deep South Media