Here at the Centre for Community Journalism, we are committed to hyperlocal journalism.
Editor of Your Harlow: ‘Please don’t call for our journalists to be hanged’
By Matt Abbott | 16th Oct 2019
Michael Casey, the editor of the two Essex-based hyperlocals wrote a story about the stabbing of a teenage Muslim in Harlow.
A comment under the Facebook story read: “journalists should be hanged for slander”.
For Michael, it was a step too far. In response he wrote the following editorial on the Your Harlow website:
“On Thursday, we published a story regarding the stabbing of a teenage Muslim in Harlow. One of the comments on our Facebook page objected to the style of reporting and stated: “journalists should be hanged for slander” (sic).
“A couple of weeks before, someone objected to another story and threatened to “F*** you over”.
“These are not anonymised comments. People in their own names are going on to social media and threatening violence.
“Let us keep this simple. Stop it. It is a criminal act and you may find yourself reported to the police.
“Yes, it is part of a growing trend. This reporter has been running online newspapers for over a decade and has seen a spike in aggressive and violent language.
“Newspapers, whether on-line or in print, should be criticised/scrutinised where appropriate. If you dish it out, you should be able to take it. There may be stories that you think are “non-stories” or “misjudge the tone” or simply “poorly written”. You may think that it is just a “Tory-rag” or our editor is just “in it for the money” however, there is a line.
“Journalism is not a popularity contest. If this editor wanted to be popular, he would have got a job at Pet’s Corner.
“No, it is not freedom of speech as there is no such thing. It is a qualified right, checked by laws.
“At this point, we are simply blocking and banning but if it is repeated, we shall report it to the police.”
Around the same time that Michael was writing his editorial, a story broke on Twitter about a man who was allowed on a United Airlines flight with a t-shirt that advocated lynching journalists.
The t-shirt read: Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required.
The t-shirt supports Michael’s claim that aggressive language and abusive behaviour towards journalists has risen sharply in recent years.
The Trump effect, and more recently the use of inflammatory rhetoric in British politics has real-world consequences. Journalists ought to feel safe doing their job.
But if they don’t, it’s worth remembering what Michael says: if you do it, you’ll get reported to the police.
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