NEWSPAPERS: Editors past and present slam TV drama’s portrayal of local journalists

By David Sharman in Hold the Front Page

Mark LangfordEditors and journalists past and present have hit out at a television drama’s portrayal of local newspapers.

Regional press figures past and present have criticised BBC crime drama Shetland over the storyline, in which a local paper printed hacked crime scene pictures of a murder victim.

The plot has been described as an example of “how people are given a completely misleading impression of local journalism” and has also been branded “utterly ridiculous”.

Former East Anglian Daily Times journalist Mark Langford took to Twitter to share his frustration at the storyline, branding it “utter fantasy”

Mark, pictured, wrote: “So the writers of #Shetland seriously think a local newspaper would print hacked crime scene pictures of a murder victim ‘as it’s in the public interest’, to quote the editor in his subsequent police interview? Jesus wept.”

He added: “Any editor using pictures of that sort and obtained under the circumstances of the Shetland plotline would get the book thrown at them legally and professionally.”

Other journalists who criticised the plot include Iliffe Media editorial director Ian Carter.

He wrote: “I know it’s a TV drama and there are more important things to get angry about, but this is yet another example of how people are given a completely misleading impression of local journalism.”

Esther Beadle and Simon O’Neill, former assistant news editor and editor respectively at the Oxford Mail, also had their say.

Esther wrote: “I literally switched off after this. Was utterly ridiculous.”

Simon added: “Why do TV writers always do this?”

It is not the first time TV drama writers have come in for criticism from the industry.

In 2018, HTFP reported how regional journalists had urged Coronation Street writers to “do their research” after negative portrayals of reporters in a number of episodes.

One scene in the soap saw a mob of local journalists harass the friends of a murder victim on the street, while the fictional Weatherfield Gazette was also criticised for its design and a potential issue around Contempt of Court.

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