The sometimes tricky relationship between the police and press and its breakdown after the Leveson inquiry was under the spotlight at Goldsmiths yesterday (March 9) at the media forum.
Martin Newell, director of communications at Scotland Yard and Sandra Laville, a former crime correspondent from the Guardian debated the issue at the event chaired by Linda Lewis, a senior lecturer in the department of media and communications at the university.
The discussion focused on the huge impact Leveson – the 2011 inquiry in the culture and ethics of the press after the News of the World hacking scandal – had on communication between the police and the media.
Newell said: “The Met did it’s own investigation into media relationships and produced a critical report fairly damning of the police, and journalists didn’t like it either.
“It included the very strong perception that journalists and the police spent a lot of time together socially, drinking etc. This was obviously an inappropriate relationship.
“Overall it proved that the police should avoid off the record talks with journalists, as it might allow them to print things without the officer being held accountable for revealing that information.”
Laville then put forward the importance of police communication with reporters like her before Leveson, both on and off the record, especially in terms of public interest journalism.
She said: “Leveson made it impossible for reporters to do their job. Police you knew wouldn’t talk to you anymore because they wouldn’t trust you.
“This paired with the extreme way in which the police investigated journalists after Leveson created a really chilling atmosphere.”
Leveson left a legacy of mistrust between the police and the media, as police officers are increasingly nervous to talk to reporters even when the public interest is in question.
Laville characterised the relationship between the press and the police as an ‘on-going conflict’. She said: “It’s my job to get a deeper understanding on a story than a press release or tweet that the Met’s social account will supply. Even with a great relationship, there will always be conflict.”
Both sides are in agreement, at least, that the relationship needs rebuilding.