Freedom Of The Press and Responsibility

The Liverpool Daily Post and Echo group has recently announced that it is moving its printing presses to Oldham and that - in line with a number of media organizations - making journalists and staff redundant.

Hopefully, its investigative journalism integrity will not be in question. Take this story today:

Good start. Festive pun, albeit a lame one which the average four year old child would remember from last year's Christmas cracker. Story by Michelle Fiddler. No puns available here.
  • A FATHER Christmas today told how he was sacked from a city centre grotto after details of his teenage criminal record came to light.
Well, that's good then. We wouldn't want our children sitting on a criminal's knee.
  • Christopher Power had been working at the Liverpool One grotto for two weeks when he received a telephone call to say he was being axed from the £8-an-hour job
So far, so good. Bang to rights. Won't someone think of the children. Tell us more.
  • The call came 48 hours after the ECHO contacted Liverpool One and Mr Power’s employers Great Grottos.
Oh, so it was The Echo wot done him! Bravo! Do not pass go; do not collect £8 per hour.
  • Mr Power, 40, said his criminal record, which dated back more than 20 years, related to minor offences when a juvenile.

    He declared his convictions before getting the job, even though under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 he was not legally obliged to do so.

Mr Power is a jobbing actor and has managed to turn his life around. He has also written a book about this. He spoke to local radio today about this and told the interviewer that he intended to take matters further.

The Liverpool One management and sub-contractors have not been clear over who made the actal decision, and on what basis.
  • A Liverpool One spokeswoman said: “Liverpool One contracted a professional company to employ staff for the grotto.

    “They received two calls – one in person – last Wednesday to alert them to the fact that one of the Santa Claus workers had a criminal record.

    “Based on this information a request was then made to Great Grottos that if this was the case it was preferable for the man not to continue in this role rather than cause further public concern.”

The Echo claim that the company was contacted by someone (other than themselves) and the decision was then made. However, I'm troubled by the Echo's part in this.

They state at the end of the article that,
  • The ECHO contacted Mr Power’s employers – as a matter of public interest – after being informed he had a criminal record.

    After speaking to a Liverpool One representative we were satisfied the criminal record dated back to Mr Power’s teenage years and the convictions were “spent”.

    We therefore made the decision not to pursue the story.

Fine. But my concern over this is that the Echo could have contacted Mr. Power first and allowed him to explain the situation. It may well be that the decision would have been made in any case because of the other tip-off the company received. Did the Echo know of this? The article does not make it clear.

Mr Power has his photo in the Echo so may have been happy to use the opportunity to set the record straight as the matter was likely to be in the public domain. Whether he should be happy with the role and behaviour of the newspaper is another matter.