Opinion: Sad to see Norfolk in the headlines for the wrong reasons

Winchester Tower's entrance covered in heart-shaped messages of support. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Winchester Tower's entrance covered in heart-shaped messages of support. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

Editor David Powles looks at how Norfolk has been hitting the headlines for some of the wrong reasons in the past fortnight.

Winchester Tower's entrance covered in heart-shaped messages of support. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Winchester Tower's entrance covered in heart-shaped messages of support. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

It's been a fortnight in which Norfolk has been in the national news - and sadly for the wrong reasons.

And whilst both of the stories I'm referring to eminated from my team, as someone with a deep love for the county it gave me no real pleasure to publish them or to see our fine county's name associated with the views they contained.

Although widely different in their subject matter, both presented a decision as editor over whether we actually ran them in the first place and then to what extent and how our treatment would be framed.

I was at a conference in Birmingham when one of our editors forwarded the now infamous email in which a press officer talks about them 'getting away' with bad publicity over his organisation's failings in the death of an elderly woman.

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While the email was clearly meant for private consumption, we felt it warranted an article because of the public interest in the questions it raised over how that trust handles serious cases like this and whether their priority was to learn lessons or simply avoid bad publicity.

I believe the person involved did something all media organisations need to be wary of - forgetting there are real people at the heart of issues like this, real life, real tragedy and real upset. Whatever happens to the individual involved, I hope the mental health trust and all public bodies use this case as a prompt to assess whether they have the right balance between trying to hide bad publicity and genuinely learning from mistakes when they do happen.

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Whilst that particular scandal may not have negatively impacted the rest of the country's views on our county and its people, I fear the terrible message left at Winchester Tower will have done.

As a news team we didn't debate whether to run the story at all, there is a clear public interest and it's the subject of a police investigation, but there was discussion as to whether some of its contents should have been covered up.

Rightly or wrongly, I believe sometimes the news we run will contain uncomfortable truths for us to face and it's only by getting the full story that we can frame an opinion frm events such as these, learn from them, respond to them and maybe even change our own behaviour accordingly.

What has been much more heartening is the aftermath to this particular story in which the warmth and welcoming nature of the majority of Norfolk's people has come to the fore.

Much of Norwich's history has been framed by the welcoming of outsiders to these shores and I desperately hope most right-minded people have worked out the poster was one individual's opinions and not necessarily reflective of the majority.

I can only hope that in the next few weeks we have some more positive news to be able to share with you the reader.

* New for this year is The Big EDP Interview podcast, in which some of Norfolk's finest sit down for an in-depth chat with yours truly. First up was well-known comedian and comedy writer Karl Minns (best known for The Nimmo Twins) who spoke for 40 minutes with both brutal honesty about his life and the industry he works in, as well as the warm humour you'd expect from such an engaging person. Next up is Norfolk police chief inspector Simon Bailey, followed by TV presenter Jake Humphrey. You can hear more at www.podfollow.com/bigedp

* My personal challenge for 2020 to run the London Marathon and raise cash for the new Priscilla Bacon Hospice has stepped up a notch and now involves pounding the streets in the wee small hours before the sun has risen. On Friday, February 21 I hope to raise some funds with a night for those who enjoy a bit of 90s music, with Mark Morriss, the lead singer of The Bluetones sappearing in a special gig at Open Norwich. If it sounds up your street, it's only a tenner and you can check out https://opennorwich.org.uk/whats-on/gigs-events/common-people-charity-night/

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