Note: This article is from the Guardian.
Good morning and welcome to the Leveson live blog.
First up today are the editors of three celebrity magazines – Rosie Nixon of Hello!, Lisa Byrne of OK! and Lucie Cave of Heat magazine.
This afternoon we will be hearing from editors of regional papers – expect Leveson to be keenly interested in their future.
He has several times referred to the value of local papers to communities.
On Monday he was very taken by evidence from the Trinity Mirror chief executive, Sly Bailey, who said the company’s regional papers had been hit badly by the economic recession.
Trinity Mirror had 160 regional titles when she first submitted her witness statement to Leveson, but in the intervening period, this was reduced to 140.
Bailey told Leveson local papers relied heavily on recruitment advertising in property, motors and services but annual revenue from this sector had dropped from £150m at its peak to less than £20m last year.
You can also follow coverage on Twitter @lisaocarroll and @joshhalliday.
The full list of those giving evidence today is as follows: Rosie Nixon, Lisa Byrne, Lucie Cave, Peter Charlton, Noel Doran, Spencer Feeney, Mike Gilson, Marie McGeoghan, John McLellan, Nigel Pickover and Jonathan Russell.
Statements of the following witnesses will be taken as read: Tim Blott, Paul Connolly and Peter McCall.
Three celebrity magazine editors are giving evidence together. From left to right the editors are: Lucie Cave of Heat, Rosie Nixon of Hello and Lucy Byrne of OK!.
Carine Patry Hoskins is doing the questioning. The editors will be questioned for about two hours.
Nixon says the role of Hello! is to entertain and offer an “insight into the lives of the rich and famous”. It is a family-run magazine which aims to cover the “froth of life” – weddings and babies makes up the core content.
Byrne says rival OK! “invites readers into people’s homes” to see christenings, “amazing weddings”.
Photos are of paramount importance to all three magazines. Nixon explans that Hello! will “often run photos over 35 pages; 50 pages if the photos warrant it”.
Hello! has about 40 staff. Its ABC circulation figure is 413,000 copies a week.
Heat has a circulation of 326,000.
OK!, which is owned by Richard Desmond, has fewer staff – about 25 staff. It sells 475,000 copies a week and a readership of 2.1m.
“The internet has absolutely affected newsapapers and magazine without a doubt,” says Byrne.
All three magazines see huge circulation boosts around big celebrity and royal weddings, and last year’s marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton was the “ultimate” story for Hello!, Nixon says.
“The royal wedding – we sold a matter of 1m copies in a matter of days,” says Nixon.
Hello featured Richard Branson’s daughter, Holly Branson’s wedding in what Nixon described as “a tough week, the first week in January” and saw a spike in sales.
OK! sold 1m copies when it featured the Zara Phillips royal wedding, says Byrne.
Patry Hoskins asks about the importance of the PCC code in the workings of the magazines.
Hello!’s Nixon says it rarely encounters problems or complains.
“We haven’t had a complaint in the last five years,” says Nixon, but the code is there to guide them.
OK! is not part of the PCC because proprietor Richard Desmond quit the regulator in January last year. Byrne says she abides by the PCC’s code of practice, however.
We all adhere to it – It’s something I’ve had for so many years. I have a copy on my desk as well. If we have a journalist who doesn’t seem to be aware of the code of practice, about privacy laws for example…
The editors are asked about the public interest test in relation to covering private lives of celebrities. Cave says she will use the public interest defence when a celebrity is hypocritical about their family.
If it’s a celebrity who portrayed themselves as a real family person and earned money with photo shoots with their children and they were found out to be having an affair … if they were the type of celebrity who sold a lot of aspects of their life [this would be justified].
Byrne says OK! specialises in stories that come from the celebrities themselves. “A huge percentage is working directly with the celebrities,” she adds.
Hello! also works “directly with the stars every step of the way”. “It’s a really honest, trusting, sort of relationship – we ultimately wouldn’t do anything to upset anyone,” says Nixon.
Heat, on the other hand, often pokes fun at celebrities. Lord Justice Leveson is asked to look at a photo in this week’s issue – Heston Blumenthal as an egg.
Leveson raises a laugh when he quips: “It’s a very different sort of journal to my normal [one].”
Heat says its picture desk has a set of questions it will always ask an agency if it appears the photo was taken in dubious circumstances, but most of its photos are taken at public events such as film premieres. Cave says:
Normally it’s glaringly obvious if there’s been an infringement of that celebrity’s privacy and we wouldn’t go anywhere near it.
She adds the magazine would usually ask to see the full set of pictures to find out if there has been any harassment of the subject.
The pictures taken of William and Kate taken on a Welsh beach have come up again. The inquiry has already heard how newspapers were offered these but decided not to publish them after Clarence House asked them not to because they photographer had followed the royal couple.
Hello!’s Nixon says they didn’t use the pictures after checking with the royals’ PR representatives even though they had been published on the internet.
We were offered photos of Prince William and Catherine last Friday. They had been taken on a public beach in Anglesey … so we approached them [Clarence House] to find out if any harassment had occured, but it wasn’t immediately obvious from this set, but they had obviously been taken with a long lens.
Nixon says some celebrities are especially sensitive about photographers – JK Rowling for example – but there are “individual circumstances”, for example when celebrities take their children to a film premiere and are happy to pose with them.
Cave says it would be useful if the PCC had a regularly updated list of celebrities who didn’t want their photos taken.
The editors are asked about copy approval.
Heat doesn’t normally do this because it “makes the celebrity appear quite anondyne”.
Hello! would do so if pushed, while OK! doesn’y usually but would concede if the celebrity insisted on it.
About 70% of the material in Hello! is pre-agreed; at OK! the figure is about 80%.
The front page of Heat, not displayed on Lord Justice Leveson’s desk, has the headline “our men love our wobbly bits”. #Leveson #hacking
The editors are asked why celebrities sell their weddings. OK! made its first big splash back in the 1990s with a reputed £1m deal to cover David and Victoria Beckham’s wedding.
Hello!’s Nixon tells Leveson not to believe everything he reads about the so-called “buyups”. THe magazine would have gone out of business if the £1m here and £1m there it had reputedly spent on weddings were true.
Some of our biggest scoops are completly free, some of our biggest weddings we haven’t paid for … sometimes they [the fees] are donated to charity as was the case with Holly Branson … there was no sense of a bidding war. I find myself very rarely in a bidding war these days.
OK!’s Byrne says sometimes celebrities want magazines to cover their weddings because they can help with security and other arrangements.
Byrne says Charlotte Church went to OK! when she had children because the magazine offered copy approval and she knew it would diminish the chances of her being stalked by paparazzi.
Nixon says unfortunately celebrity baby pictures are very valuable.
There can almost be a bounty on the head of that child for the first photos; they can make a paparazzo a lot of money …
Heat editor Cave says a celebrity who opens up about their private life still deserves privacy.
I don’t agree with the principle that once a celebrity has sold an aspect of their private life, they are open season. I don’t think it’s fair … it doesn’t mean everyone has a right to invade their private life.
OK! editor Byrne agrees:
I don’t think it should be open season … whether they seem to court the press or they don’t.
Asked about prior notification, Hello!’s Nixon says the magazine will usually tell celebrities’ PRs in advance about stories as it doesn’t want to risk future access.
Hello!’s Nixon says most of its stories are from one source, but journalists are encouraged to be open and transparent about their sources and will notify celebrities prior to publication.
“But we are not in the business of printing salacious gossip … we wait for confirmation before we print,” she says.
Heat’s Cave says its best practice guidelines require stories to be double sourced; a single source, unless it comes from the celebrity, is not enough.
OK!’s Byrne says the magazine gets “a handful of complaints” a year. The Northern & Shell magazine is not part of the PCC, so the complaints will be dealt with by the editor or the deputy editor.
A complaint from a celebrity will be discussed with her and the legal department and will sometimes result in an apology in the Hollywood Gossip pages, which are quite close to the front.
Byrne says the magazine publishes an apology “maybe twice a year”.
Hello!’s Nixon says her magazine rarely gets complaints, and has received none during her time as editor. If it does, it uses its 7 Days section, which is midway through the magazine, to print any apology. It doesn’t get very many reader letters and when they do they are generally quite positive.
Over the 14 years Heat has been in existence, it has had eight PCC complaints. It rarely gets complaints from readers, says Cave.
She says the PCC complaints will be discussed with the external lawyer. Often if a reader disagrees with something in the magazine they will put it in.
One current complaint, which came in by email, is about Jordan – AKA Katie Price – looking like a meerkat. Cave asks Lord Justice Leveson if he wants to have a look, and the judge replies:
I’ve seen the email about the meerkat.
“That’s all that matters,” says Carine Patry Hoskins.
It went a bit surreal there. Lord Justice Leveson telling us he’s seen the complaint e-mail to Heat about the meerkat
Hello!’s Nixon says “One of the important things is we are not over-regulated because there is a lot of brilliant, exciting journalism and [it is important] that we are not all tarred with the same brush.”
Nixon says she hopes the new body she hopes will be so good, everybody will want to be part of it and not forced to be members through statute.
Nixon says she would like better representation on the PCC for weekly magazines.
Good Housekeeping is the only magazine represented on the PCC. It is a monthly magazine and doesn’t have to face the same decisions as Hello and other weekly magazines, she says.
Byrne says her relationship with the PCC has been “very good” but there needs to be wider representation on the commission.
She believes the the lay people on the PCC should be general members of the public of all age profiles and fewer editorial people.
OK!’s Byrne says she would be very unhappy if some sort of edict about how magazines should go about their business was handed down following the Leveson inquiry.
We haven’t really done anything wrong. This inquiry came about because people were doing illegal things and we haven’t done anything wrong.
Hello! has taken a decision not to publish any photos of the Duchess of Cambridge when she is going about her daily life, but sometimes these appear in the foreign press.
Byrne says she is sometimes “extremely shocked” by the foreign covers, including “crazy” Italian magazines. She cites as an example an extremely graphic depiction of a woman who whose body was recently found in the Sandringham estate.
Heat’s Cave is asked about pictures in the magazine this week of Simon Cowell on a yacht.
She concedes that a yacht is a “private place” and it didn’t seek his permission before publishing.
“We know from Simon Cowell, he kind of enjoys the lifestyle that goes with his celebritiy and he’s clearly playing up to the paparazzi,” says Cave.
“It’s rare we would choose a picture of a celebrity in a private place, Simon Cowell is quite unique …”
Heat’s Cave says recent pictures of Christine Aguilera that came with comments about her weight were justified because it was discussing how she “loves her wobbly bits” and the singer had spoken about her weight publicly in the recent past. The magazine also checked with the agency to confirm that the singer was aware the photos were being taken.
Heat is now asked about another person who the magazine said it felt was too thin.
The celebrity is not named and the picture appeared with the headline “Hope you are going for a burger”.
“The celebrity is not quoted, but you say she clearly needs feeding up at bit and attribute a quote to her. Did you check with that young lady if she was happy to run that photo?” asks Patry Hoskins.
“I don’t believe in that instance that we did, no … because it was taken in a public place. We felt it was a picture in the wider world,” replies Cave.
She said people in the office were shocked by how the celebrity looked and this contributed to the decision to publish.
Heat readers are invited to send in photos of “unposed” celebrities for a £200 prize for “This week’s spotted” competition.
The inquiry wants to know what steps the magazine uses to ensure the celebrities are not harassed by readers entering this competition.
Cave says “if they see a celebrity in a public place and they are excited by” readers will take a picture anyway and post it to Twitter or their Facebook page.
Cave is asked about a complaint by Katie Price about a sticker the magazine issued in 2007 of the model’s disabled son Harvey, who suffers from septo-optic dysplasia, a rare condition which causes blindness and growth hormone deficiency. The star made a complaint to the PCC.
It was a grave mistake. Everyone who works for the magazine at the time and still works for the magazine is mortified by that incident.
Katie Price – aka Jordan – has withdrawn her complaint about a Heat sticker mocking her disabled son Harvey after the magazine apologised … and made a donation to charity.
The Press Complaints Commission has now dropped a formal investigation into the sticker, which showed Harvey’s face and was captioned “Harvey wants to eat me”.
Heat published an apology headed “Harvey – sorry” on its letters page, admitting it had made a “mistake” by printing the sticker of Harvey, who is blind and has a hormone problem that causes weight gain.
The magazine also made a donation to charity.
The inquiry has now taken a short break.
The inquiry has resumed and Hello!’s Rosie Nixon is asked about an interview with Harry Potter author JK Rowling that was published in 2001, seven years before Nixon was made editor.
Patry Hoskins reads out the transcript of evidence given Rowling to the inquiry in November. She said that Hello! had taken an article from a different source and repackaged it.
Q: I will move on to false attribution in paragraph 63. In Hello magazine an article in 2001, or hereabouts, claiming to be a rare and exclusive interview.
Q. The one which never occurred?
A. Yes. I think people might think that’s quite a banal ccurrence, but in fact it’s not. If you are trying, as I am, to make it quite clear that my personal life – my family life is out of bounds, then the perception that I had granted an interview to a magazine that is primarily notorious for going into people’s houses,photographing them with their families, hearing personal details of their private lives, and I censor no one by the way for doing those interviews. I don’t thinkthat’s an awful thing to do. It simply happens that that’s not something I wish to do. So the magazine asserting that I had done it, I feared, would then be used as justification for further invasion: “Well you gave an interview to Hello magazine, you are prepared to sell your private life in this way”, and as is clear from my statement, what they had done was taken that article from a different paper and repackaged it. From a different source, and repackaged it.
Hello’s Nixon says the quotes in fact came from a Q&A session with a group of children arranged by Comic Relief. She admits the packaging of the story as a “rare and exclusive” interview was “clearly misleading”.
She said the magazine now treats the term exclusive seriously and there are processes in place to ensure the mistake is not repeated.
Nixon is asked about the high-profile court case folowing Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas’s wedding in 2000.
The wedding had been sold exclusively to rival OK! but Hello! obtained pictures via a freelance photographer and published a spoiler.
The Douglases sued Hello! and it was forced to pay out considerable damages.
“Now there is a ring of protection around exclusives which means it is unlawful for other publications to spoil exclusives,” says Nixon.
She says that preceding this case in 2000 OK! had spoiled a number of Hello! exclusives and it hadn’t complained so there was a cavalier attitude and a feeling spoilers were normal.
This happened 12 years ago and the culture now is very different, says Nixon.
There is now a more co-operative attitude because the magazines no longer have send out legal letters to rivals warning them not to spoil their exclusives.
OK!’s editor agrees this is the case.
Nixon says: “It was a mistake, a very costly mistake. We simply are not in that position any more. We wouldn’t publish those photos.”
OK!’s Lisa Byrne is questioned about some of its celebrity shoots. The inquiry hears that photographs of Jade Goody’s increased sales of the magazine fourfold.
She is asked about a PCC ruling in 2008 that criticised magazines that failed to deliver content promised by front-page teasers.
OK” ran a front-page headline referring to the star-studded Wayne and Coleen Rooney, but it was merely an advert for the he coverage in the following week.
Byrne says she was on maternity leave but there had been a double-page spread (DPS) curtain-raiser for the footballer’s wedding. She said she can understand how some readers might have been upset.
The inquiry hears about an apology OK! published to Sienna Miller over an interview carried on 16 March 16 2010.
The interview was bought in following some promotional interview the actress had done. It did not tag it “exclusive” in print, but it did so online.
The description of the interview as an exclusive online was inaccurate, Byrne concedes.
OK!’s Lisa Byrne is asked about a recent issue of the magazine with a cover photo of the Duchess of Cambridge.
Themed around her 30th birthday, it carries the cover line “My husband is my soulmate – world exclusive”.
Patry Hoskins asks if Byrne feels that it is misleading because it gives the impression the magazine has an interview.
“‘Catherine’s star guest, the intimate party, gifts, star guests and delicious menu’. Does this not mislead the reader?” asks Patry Hoskins.
Byrne says there was speculation at the time that Prince Harry and Pippa Middleton were organising “this ridiculous party” and, “we spoke to the palace who said it was going to be a real intimate occasion and all it did was put a piece together exploring what they bought each other in the past, what their favourite food.”
So, says Patry Hoskins, the piece was based on speculation. Byrne says that she is comfortable with what she has done.
I will protect this magazine because it is my baby and I want it to be very successful.
All magazines have to do to an extent sell their publication but not cross a barrier. If we had, we would have said ‘world exclusive’ and we haven’t done that.
Patry Hoskins moves on to Kate and Gerry McCann’s evidence to the inquiry in November.
They claimed they were offered an exclusive OK! magazine interview as a bargaining tool after they were defamed by the Express and Star newspapers – all three publications are owned by Richard Desmond’s Northern & Shell.
Byrne says she can’t remember this. She says she can’t think of an occasion when she has done an interview alongside the newspapers – apart from the recent coverage of Big Brother – because she always wants exclusives.
The inquiry has now taken a short break.
The inquiry has now resumed and will hear from editors in northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales along with the editor of the Manchester Evening News and the Yorkshire Post and the Ipswich Evening Star.
Tim Blott from the Herald, Paul Connolly from Independent News and Media, David Brooks from the Birmingham Evening Mail have their written witness statements read in.
Four editors are giving evidence before lunchtime: John McLellan from the Scotsman, Spencer Feeney from the South Wales Evening Post, Jonathan Russell from the Herald and Mike Gilson from the Belfast Telegraph.
David Barr, junior counsel to the inquiry, is doing the questioning.
McLellan says the Scotsman is primarily a political and business newspaper and it also serves the arts community.
Feeney says the South West Evening Post publishes three different editions daily.
Russell describes the Herald as a Scottish national newspaper with a large international readership.
The Belfast Telegraph newspaper, says Gilson, is “for the entire country of northern Ireland” – it focuses on politics, arts and news from the UK and the Republic (of Ireland).
All four say they are suffering a decline in circulation and in advertising.
Lord Justice Leveson says he is trying to grapple with the idea that the media are all are under pressure, but none more so than local newspapers.
“I am very keen to understand the dynamics so I have a picture of the dynamics,” he adds.
Feeney says the general view is that advertising revenues in the past five years have “about halved”.
McLellan echoes Trinity Mirror chief Sly Bailey’s assertion earlier this week that advertising is dropping like a stone in certain categories.
The big categories that have taken the steepest fall, recruitment, property and motors have taken the most flak, in particularly recruitment which was the mainstay of the regional press, which it is fair to say has all but disappeared.
McLellan adds that internet has offered advertisers an alternative to newspapers. He adds:
Traditionally regional newspapers regarded recruitment advertising across the board as a cash cow … There was nowhere else to go locally, that’s ended now.
Feeney says the Welsh government is now considering removing the obligation for councils to publish traffic order announcements in the local press. If that goes through it will mean the loss of £1m a year in revenue.
Lord Justice Leveson asks is there any good news in all of this.
McLellan says there may be a chink of light with the uptake of tablet reading on iPads and other devices. “The new way of reading on tablets or phones is that people are relearning they have to pay for these services,” he adds.
Gilson says he is “not as pessimistic as some of the others”.
The old inky product is not dead … bumping along the bottom was mentioned this week; that is still the case, [but] there is still a demand for a big print product in the hand.
Barr asks about sources of stories.
McLellan says if he is going to print a story from an anonymous source, he needs to have the confidence that that source is trustworthy. But he says anonymous sources are an important part of the mix.
Russell says he has had occasion to reject stories if he doesn’t know the name of the source.
Gilson says he may trust a reporter’s word if they did not want to divulge the information and they had a long track record.
McLellan says if he had a reporter who worked for him for a long time and whom he trusted, the reporter would not have a problem revealing the source because the trust works both ways.
Barr asks about subterfuge and phone hacking. He reads out a letter from Gilson to the PCC when he worked at Johnston Press suggesting subterfuge may have been used.
All four editors say they are not aware of phone hacking ever having occurred on their papers.
They all similarly deny their papers have made payments to police officers.
Barr focuses on the issue of subterfuge.
Gilson says the decision about whether it is in public interest comes first; there is a strong debate; lawyers might be involved and it would only be sanctioned by the editor.
In one recent case he sanctioned subterfuge but the discussions as to whether to go ahead took place over several months.
He says the discussions are not recorded in writing or minuted.
When you are involved in those things they are not done overnight and the journalists are all thoroughly briefed and controlled.
Feeney says he hasn’t used subterfuge during his time on the South Wales Evening Post.
McLellan subterfuge has played a part in most of their journalistic careers. For example, some of his staff used subterfuge to investigate an alleged swingers’ club off Princes Street in central Edinburgh.
We once sent a male and female reporter to a new swingers club; but they were not swingers but had to pass themselves off as swingers …
It was not something we had any great moral debate about.
McLellan asks where to draw the line – if subterfuge was made illegal would it cover “secret diner” restaurant reviews?
“Readers would regard it [subterfuge] as part and parcel of what we do, finding out things, exposing things,” he adds.
Barr asks about privacy and whether McLellan gives prior notification if there is a risk of damage to someone’s reputation.
McLellan says he can’t think of an instance where that would apply, other than that swingers’ club story. The Scotsman, generally, doesn’t do stories that invade people’s privacy, he adds.
Feeney says the South Wales Evening Post approaches people before publication but gives a recent instance when he withheld information about a missing woman in Wales even though it might have helped find her.
In terms of invasion of privacy, that’s at the forefront of their minds. There is an American woman who has gone missing in Swansea and the paper has been given information about her private behaviour from an impeccable source which may be useful to find the whereabouts of this woman but we choose not to publish it because he felt it was too intrusive.
The inquiry has now broken for lunch.
The inquiry has now resumed. Editors are asked if the cost of libel has a “chilling effect” on the press.
McLellan says the cost of defending a potential action could deter them from doing a story.
Feeney says the threat and potential cost of CFAs have a chilling effect.
Russell says there is a “risk balance” for a story that might only take a few sentences that would possibly incur huge legal fees, but if the story was destined for the front page, things might be different.
The inquiry has now resumed. Editors are being asked if the cost of libel has a “chilling effect” on the press.
McLellan says the cost of defending a potential action could deter them from doing a story.
Feeney says the threat and potential cost of CFAs have a chilling effect.
Russell says there is a “risk balance” for a story that might only take a few sentences that would possibly incur huge legal fees, but if the story was destined for the front page things might be different.
The inquiry moves on to readers’ editors. The Belfast Telgraph has one; but the Herald doesn’t, but readers’ complaints are dealt with as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
South Wales Evening Post editor Spencer Feeney says he likes to think he is the readers’ editor. All complaints, corrections and if necessary apologies go through him.
He says apologies appear on page 3 of the newspaper. (This is unusual in that page 3 is one of the most valuable pages in a newspaper after the front and back page.)
McLellan says he is happy to give a complainant an alternative to a new story – which is a disguised apology.
He likes to demonstrate that the editorial staff don’t have the “monopoly of wisdom”.
Barr moves on to how long stories remain on websites.
McLellan says there is a difference between remaining on the website and remaining in an electronic archive.
Russell says stories done today will remain online for years to come – the archives of the newspapers are available in public libraries so it is not as if it is the only place where older editions can be found.
Feeney says taking a story down off the internet doesn’t solve the problem. He cites an example of an article that was removed because of a libel action but references to the libellous article could still be found through Google.
“Google’s attitude was ‘we might be able to’ but it probably wasn’t going to,” he says.
Leveson says he is very aware of this following Max Mosley’s testimony last year. The former Formula One boss told the inquiry he was pursuing search engines across Europe to get references to a libellous article about him in the News of the World removed from the internet.
Barr asks if the editors agree on the principle that there should be parity of prominence with apologies and corrections.
Gilson says it would be a blunt instrument to give an apology the same prominence, for example if there was a mistake in a front-page story that the apology should also appear on page 1 with the same prominence.
“The practicalities of same place, same prominence is a problem,” says Gilson.
Feeney says he has in the past printed an apology on the front page because it was merited.
McLellan says the public expecatation is “that any rectification should be proportionate”.
He says he carried a correction on the front page 14 years ago. “It’s not as if this is something we are all coming to terms with now.”
Barr moves on to off-the-record discussions with police officers. He asks if all four editors are content to have off-the-record conversations with the police and what controls, if any, there should be should there be on such conversations.
McLellan says reporters are supposed to be there digging up things that people didn’t want to know and it’s part of newspapers function to talk to the police.
For us to limit who we can and can’t talk to would be counter to everything we are about.
But if police want to ban people from talking to us that would be different, says McLellan.
Gilson says he worries about “the closing-down of these things – to the point that it’s bad for democracy.”
Feeney says very often police often approach the best reporters to recruit as press officers. The press officers also seek off-the-record discussions with newspaper journalists.
Russell says: “The police need the press, the broadcast media for witness appeals for unsolved crimes etc … it needs to be borne in mind that it’s not just so we get stories.”
Police policy is not to give the Scotsman information on minor crime, says McLellan. But local neighbourhood newspapers will be full of that, because the police have a different policy for them.
Wilson says newspapers are vital for the police. Bloggers don’t go court, he says.
“If a town loses its paper, then clearly council and courts don’t get covered,” says Feeney.
McLellan says magistrates’ and district courts aren’t staffed up at the same level as they used to. In Edinburgh the sheriff’s court has been staffed for “the best part of 15 years”.
Politicians’ relationship with the press is now under the spotlight.
McLellan says politicians actively seek their support, particularly now in Scotland. But he stops short of agreeing with Barr that this gives them power. He says the press are an important part of the debate.
The courting of politicians with editors to discuss the things they want to see enacted seems to me to be part of the process.
So far McLellan’s paper is not being a cheerleader for Scottish independence. It will take a view it believes is right but not follow a particular political line. “It’s part of the weave and weft,” says McLellan.
McLennan is asked if he does come off the fence on “the little question” of Scottish independence, it will inform the managing editor. But he says there is no discussion from the commercial people to say which way would make more money for the paper.
I have never had a discussion with anybody at Johnston Press about the direction the paper is going.
Johnston Press owns about 300 titles.
Russell talks about the Herald’s relationship with politicians. He says the paper is not influenced by executives’ discussions with government.
Feeney says the South Wales Evening Post is not afraid to criticise the Welsh assembly.
Breaking news: we are hearing that 40 alleged phone-hacking victims are about to or have just settled their claims with News International. More than 60 people including Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan were suing the publisher, with the cases due to be heard in February.
We will bring you more news as we get it.
The inquiry discusses the possibility of separate regulatory press bodies for regional papers and the nationals.
McLellan says it would be strange for nationals to have to work with two bodies.
Russell says he is not ideologically opposed to a Scottish press standards authority but the practicalities would make it “very difficult”.
Gilson agrees that a single body makes sense. “A lot of newspapers are doing different things and not all of them breaking the law.”
Asked about whether compulsory membership of the PCC is a good idea, McLellan says it’s very difficult to see how it could be done without some sort of statutory underpinning because you can’t compel someone to sign a contract.
Leveson says McLellan is “absolutely right”. He adds the statute could set up the framework, but that “in some way you find an independent standards regulator who is not answerable, appointed by, or in any sense linked with government or the state”.
Feeney urges Leveson not to replace the PCC with anything more expensive.
The local press is in a fragile financial state. Please don’t make any recommendations that’s going to exacerbate that.
Leveson says it may be that we will have to be “imaginative about how it is all funded”.
The inquiry is now taking a short break.
Amelia Hill is checking out reports that 40 phone-hacking victims have settled with News International.
We are awaiting confirmation from NI. We will bring the latest here and you can follow Amelia on @byameliahill on Twitter.
Expected victory for all 40 phone-hacking claimants tmw as News Group agrees substantial damages. 10 cases left for Feb trial #hacking
Most of the witnesses in the past 10 days have been men and that’s because there are so few female newspaper editors. The last session is expected to involve one woman – Maria McGeoghan of the Manchester Evening News.
The inquiry has now resumed with four new regional editors being sworn in: Maria McGeoghan of the Manchester Evening News; Peter Charlton of the Yorkshire Post; Nigel Pickover of the Ipswich Evening Star; and Noel Doran of the Irish News.
Doran says the Irish News’s circulation is unusual in that it is slightly ahead of where it was 10 years ago. However he says the commercial pressures means he has to give consideration to what they cover and what they don’t cover.
Pickover says the audience for the Evening Star is growing when the internet readership is taken into account.
McGeoghan says circulation of the MEN is declining but the website has 1.5m unique users every month and is growing and this is the challenge for the industry.
The Irish News made an objection to the ownership of the Belfast Telegraph which was owned by Trinity Mirror. That objection was upheld and the Telegraph was sold to Independent News & Media but there have been not other competition issues on a corporate level that have arisen recently.
Doran says the Irish News is an independent family-run newspaper. It does not have a formal corporate governance policy and relies on the PCC code. The PCC has never ruled on a complaint about the paper during Doran’s tenure.
He says he takes the PCC very seriously, takes on board its points and defends the paper’s corner. There have been some matters that the PCC has gone through in forensic detail some involving individuals, some involving public bodies but it has been able to defend itself.
Doran recalls how the Irish News was sued by a restaurant who didn’t like a review by its critic.
The paper lost in the lower court and the restaurant was awarded £25,000 leaving all newspapers in a “perilous position” says, Doran, not just with regard to critical restaurant reviews, but book and film coverage.
It challenged the decision at the high court and it won at the court of appeal but it did not get its costs, says Doran.
The Yorkshire Post’s Charlton says he he has been an editor for 24 years but says the group runs an annual training course for people in his role.
McGeoghan says it is essential that the tone is set from the top – all reporters are obliged to abide by the PCC code as part of their employment contracts.
She says the ethical approach dates back to 1921 when the paper was owned by Guardian Media when CP Scott wrote his famous leader that “papers should be run with honesty, integrity, fairness, courage and a sense of responsibility to the reader we serve”. That, she says, has never been truer than it is today.
The editors are asked about publishing controversial and public interest stories that aren’t verified by two sources.
Pickover says he wouldn’t publish a story unless he knew the source. Charlton says his approach is the same. McGeoghan says two sources are “a minimum”. If she needed to know the name of the source she would be given it.
McGeoghan has told the inquiry of a computer system the Manchester Evening News runs that helps the paper to avoid making legal mistakes.
The MEN also has a database of court orders, court advisories, reader issues and Press Association advisories that is used to test every story.
When the story goes on the page it cannot be printed unless has been cross-checked for any issues and contentious words, says McGeoghan.
The software was written in-house about 10 years ago.
Barr returns to the issue of subterfuge. McGeoghan says the press is all now trying to define what subterfuge is – does it include going out to buy something to test it?
She says it is a good idea to document the process around decisions to use subterfuge.
Pickover says he hasn’t used subterfuge; nor has Doran but he wouldn’t rule it out.
Doran says that in his part of the world, where there are paramilitaries and one journalist has been shot dead, subterfuge might be necessary. If one of his journalists found themselves in a tight corner he would be happy to use subterfuge to get him out.
Pickover says he is proud to be the paper’s readers’ editor as well as editor and readers welcome it when the paper apologises for mistakes.
“We don’t always get it right. We’ve all got to learn the power of being sorry,” he says.
Barr raises the issue of conscience clauses in journalists’ contracts. Charlton and McGeoghan say they don’t think they are necessary.
Barr asks if they all agree that editors would have to apply the same protection to staff who came to them complaining of unethical behaviour or wrongdoing within their organisation as they do to whistleblowers elsewhere.
Corrections and clarifications are put on page 2 on the MEN; page 5 of the Yorkshire Post; page 2 of the Evening Star (but corrections have been on page 1); page 2 or page 5 of the Irish News.
Asked about if the Irish News competes with the London tabloids, Doran says the Daily Mirror for example has a northern Ireland edition, so there is a degree of rivalry. The other main London papers would have limited readership in northern Ireland and it would be difficult to consider them as “head-on competition”.
The Evening Star has found itself in competition with the tabloids recently on the story of the Ipswich prostitute serial murderer. Pickover says he didn’t “interface with the tabloids” because he was ahead of them all the time.
The tabloids arrive in great numbers to do their investigations … In terms of their interaction with us, they would call us, ask us for the latest leads, desperate to beat each other …
Also had the arrival of mass TV and radio stations. I spent a lot of time on TV and radio stations at the time.
Pickover says he was very careful about naming names in relation to the hunt to find the killer. He says the Evening Star worked very closely with Suffolk constabulary.
Barr asks whether he got any off-the-record briefings from the police in light of the claim by Mirror editor Richard Wallace that the Bristol police had given the wrong guidance in the hunt for Joanna Yeates’s killer.
Pickover says the two cases are very different. The paper was concerned for the safety of sex workers and it was very careful not to name names.
McGeoghan says there has been a backlash against newspapers following the phone-hacking scandal.
I have lost count of the times I’ve been asked how to hack a phone or what the going rate for paying police is. I am very concerned that [they think] we are all using the same methods and doing something shady.
Pickover says he was very worried at the time but there was no backlash.
In my community there wasn’t one phone call, there wasn’t one letter attacking us.
Doran says it’s clearly a problem for the image and the reputation of all newspapers, but there are 85 regional dailies and several hundred regional weeklies; the problems were confined to a few titles in London.
Barr returns to the topic of off-the-record conversations with police. McGeoghan says the Manchester Evening News believes they are an important part of what they do. “It’s all about information that leads hopefully to the solving of the crime.”
Pickover says he deals with senior police officers on an almost daily basis. He says he worked closely and successfully with them last summer when there was a threat that rioting would break out in Ipswich.
Doran says at the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland there was a state-of-the-art police press operation but that has been diminished.
Barr asks about the relationship between the press and politicians. McGeoghan says:
The role of the MEN is to fight for Manchester whoever is in power and that is what we do.
Charlton says the Yorkshire Post is one of the few regional papers to have a dedicated reporter at Westminster. He says he gives voice to regional interests and lobbyists:
It’s not just a whinge, it follows the demise of the regional development agency and it got together with some prominent business people and council and provided 60 ideas for the government to implement and kickstart the economy and narrow the north/south divide. I would think every MP in the region has been in touch with me over that.
He adds the Yorkshire Post is a very strong business paper and MPs and government ministers will seek meetings when they are in the area.
The Ipswich Evening Star’s Pickover says on his relations with politicians:
I wouldn’t go walking with them on Boxing Day necessarily but it’s a healthy relationship.
I find the relationship very helpful, I can find out what’s going on in Westminster, they can find out what;’s going on [locally].
He has three MPs in his region and all three have columns.
Doran says there are 18 MPs in his region “and none of them are going to be our columnists if I can help it”.
The four editors are asked about their views on the PCC and the future.
To have an adjudication against you is a badge of shame … if we have a constant stream of corrections and apologies on something that breaks the PCC code, that breaks that contract of trust [with the readers].
She adds the paper has two or three complaints “on the go” at the moment.
Pickover says he has had a very satisfactory relationship with the PCC but accepts it needs reforms because of the national issues thrown up in the past year.
Doran says in his experience the PCC is “an exemplary body”, and it has “a very good track record”.
Charlton says the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail are the Yorkshire Post’s closest competitors, so the paper has not clashed with London-based tabloids and their practices.
McGeoghan says: “I certainly think the experience gained over years on regional newspapers … should be used in some way. It may that we end up with a two pronged [body] – a standards arm and a complaints side.”
Pickover says since the Ipswich Evening Star adopted its ombudsman approach seven years ago, he has noticed complaints dwindle.
The Leveson inquiry has now closed until Monday when broadcasters will be taking the stand.
The inquiry has now published the second witness statement of Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of Guardian News & Media.
Here are both his statements:
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