We need not fear police uploading their stories to newspaper websites

THIS week a police force rather grandly described its first direct upload to a local newspaper website as a “historic moment”.

The reaction from some commentators was just as overstated.

Press Gazette editor Dominic Ponsford said the move was an indication of “what Local World chief executive David Montgomery’s vision for content uploaded direct to his websites ‘without need for human interface’ looks like.”.

He went on to criticise the style of writing and typos, and raise a legal concern about the post on the Torquay Herald Express.

Meanwhile, blogger Grey Cardigan described the idea of police posting their own stories to a newspaper website as “terrifying”.

I don’t share their alarm.

The police would almost certainly have uploaded this story (press release) on their own website, Facebook page and Twitter timeline, from where it would have been shared across the internet.

If it is going to be out there anyway, why shouldn’t it be on the local newspaper’s website first?

Organisations such as the police are now publishers in their own right (a point I’ve made here before). Allowing them to publish through newspaper websites will serve only to help preserve our status as people’s first port of call for local news.

The uncomfortable truth is that in many tightly staffed regional newsrooms press releases from the emergency services are already uploaded with so few alterations they may as well be doing it themselves.

There are provisos to my approval of this. Content uploaded from external sources should be clearly labelled as such (ideally in a separate section of the website).

It should also be scrutinised by a journalist, who when necessary can develop the story, ask any questions required and move it to the ‘professional’ section of the site.

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About John Wilson

Editor of Hereford Times, Ludlow Advertiser, Stroud News and Journal, Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard and Gloucestershire Gazette series. Journalist for more than 30 years.
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