IN THE NEWS: How far should the press be gagged?Posted: November 22, 2011
At Sell Your Story UK’s sister site, Featureworld, we only sell stories to newspapers, magazines and TV that people come to us to sell (interviewees are required to sign a consent form). In fact as publicists, stories are always read back to clients ensure they are happy with them. But it does appear that due to fear within the industry, stories are already not being run … and this is going to affect ordinary people in a way they might not imagine.
Today we received this letter (italics show details and names have been removed) and it is typical of letters we are now regularly sent.
I have just found your site and wonder if you can advise me.
My partner has just been involved in a story with a national newspaper.
After 3 weeks of patiently waiting and after being interviewed, photographed etc, the national newspaper have told us that if the print the story they will get sued on privacy ground by the family involved.
My partner is adopted are there are no human rights for him to find out where he is from!
The family are very famous.
Is there any way we can get our story out?
HI person’s name,
Many thanks for your email and what a fascinating story your partner has.
The national newspaper you mention has one of the best legal departments in the industry and if they feel they cannot print your story then this will be the situation with every single newspaper, magazine and TV organisation.
Unfortunately the climate is such at the moment that many stories – even those that are clearly in the public interest – that might have got into a newspaper even a few months ago now do not.
As you are finding, there is an environment of fear for papers meaning many ordinary people are no longer able to get their story out there. While no-one would condone phone hacking (which in 30 years I have never come across) if the public is not careful, there will be no free press (at the moment there already isn’t, whatever you are reading.)
The national newspaper will have done everything to try to get your story in – they will have tried to check the story out and everyone from the journalist who wrote your story to the editor who commissioned it – will have desperately tried to have your story printed. But papers are increasingly reluctant to take any risk whatsoever and so they will have erred on the side of caution and decided not to print it.
I hope this explains the difficulties and also it is not just you and there is nothing you can do.
Are you worried that stories are already being kept from the public and that claims of ‘privacy’ could stop many stories from ever getting out? Let me know your thoughts below…
Written by Alison Smith-Squire, Publicist and ethical journalist with 30 years experience.