By Gabriel Princewill-
The Editor of Lynn News exhibited a reprehensible level of bad manners after rudely dropping the phone on a female reporter probing the conduct of one of his journalists
Mark Leslie became agitated after one of our female reporters called him to inquire why one of his staff who was the subject of a complaint by an aggrieved residence , whose property was erroneously published in his publication as representing a property where weapons were found after being searched by police.
A woman had complained that Lynn News had wrongly published a picture of her property alongside a story about weapons found in a house searched by police.
Lynn News was absolved of wrongdoing by Ipso, after the complaint by Maura Yates was examined, and the defence of the publication was considered.
The press regulator absolved Mr Leslie’s reporter on the grounds that he had been misled by a police officer who pointed out the wrong address to him. The search was actually taking place at a neighbouring property.
Our female staff, one of a team that keeps an eye on press stories which includes highlighting incidences that call for accountability, contacted Lynn News to scrutinise the case further.
The question being considered was whether the Lynn News reporter should have confirmed the address by knocking on the address in question to request a reaction from the occupants, thereby confirming the accuracy of the story.
The ruling of Ipso on the matter was reasonable, but our reporter was exploring whether there were any other steps that could have been taken by the reporter to avoid the error.
She wanted to find out whether the reporter at Lynn News had done all that was necessary to ensure accurate reporting as required by Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
The complainant, Ms Yates, said the story which reported a police search of a house in which numerous weapons were found, was inaccurate because it contained a photo of her house.
However, mr. Leslie lost his temper when politely approached by our reporter, and hurriedly told her Ipso had dealt with the matter, then dropped the phone on her rudely. It upset her, and some of her female colleagues who insisted on the Norfolk editor being held to account for his conduct.
The lady Victoria Mckewon said: ”I was very offended, he was very rude. I was polite in my inquiry, and just wanted to find out if his reporter had done his best to be accurate in his reporting. I understand he felt Ipso had already dealt with the matter, but that doesn’t stop another media outlet looking into it.
He must think only he has the God given right to investigate people , and probably now sees how it feels when people are contacted by reporters to investigate a story. People don’t always like it, but it does not mean they should be rude about it. He should know that better. I felt he treated me like that because he was dealing with a woman”,
Another team member Sammie Jones said: ”This was a typical case of a man thinking that because he is an editor he can talk to anybody how he likes, especially a woman, Who obviously felt he was better than her, and never would have imagined that he had provided us with a relevant story.
His actions revealed a lack of empathy , consideration, and arrogance”.
Mr Leslie was subsequently contacted and asked to apologise to the lady, but no such apology was forthcoming. It was decided the story be told.
As editor of a newspaper, Mr.Leslie has a duty to honour the profession he represents. Reacting angrily to a woman pursuing the same objectives of free speech and accountability in public interest did not reflect well on him. Mr Leslie should be training his employees to show restraint when the subjects of their investigation react angrily when approached.
If an editor of a news outlet reacts so sensitively to an inquiry about his reporter, not even him, what can he expect from members of the public approached by his writers about a story they find unfavourable? The inquiry telephone call was at an inquiry stage when he was called, no conclusion had been arrived at
Mr Leslie of effectively behaving like others whom he should be criticising for similar conduct.
A source spoken to at the Lynn News told this publication: ” I am surprised to hear this. Mark is normally very nice, and usually has no problem taking down disputed article online. I can tell you he is an absolute gentleman”.
Professionalism and leadership skills is absolutely important in every organisation. It requires civil interaction with members of the public., and setting admirable standards for emulation.
The lady was consoled by informing her that Mr Leslie may have had an off day and felt frustrated by her inquiry. Nevertheless, a man of his standing ought to refrain from such impulsive behaviour.
The Lynn News published an apology for the inaccurate photograph published. The error serves as a reminder for media outlets to take due care in publishing accurate stories.
Mr Leslie was contacted for comment.