Our town on tv

We waited with bated breath for the very latest bulletins every day. But what has been effect of Ipswich being splashed across every front page, every TV screen and every news website?

By Tracey Sparling

HAVE you been fascinated by the way the media scrum have been telling the world about Suffolk's biggest murder inquiry?

Features editor TRACEY SPARLING looks at how the global press has tackled the story.

WE waited with bated breath for the very latest bulletins every day.

We grabbed the computer mouse to scour the internet, the TV remote control to switch channels for the latest newsflash, or waited for The Evening Star to drop through the letterbox with the full, comprehensive, picture.

For weeks the world has been poised for the next instalment of the Suffolk manhunt - be it via newspaper, television, radio or internet broadcast.

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Today, as the investigation continues, with a man having been charged with five counts of murder, how has the worldwide press been dealing with Suffolk's biggest story?

We asked the opinion of Tim Crook, a senior lecturer in media law and ethics at Goldsmiths, University of London, who has been intrigued to see the media descend on his hometown.

He reported on the Yorkshire Ripper case as a journalist for Radio Tees and IRN in 1979 and 1980, several serial killers in the Royal Courts of Justice in the 1980s and 1990s, together with cases of miscarriages of justice, plus major spy and terrorism cases.

He now lives in the Ipswich area and is currently writing two journalism textbooks, in which the ongoing story of the Suffolk killings will feature.

The Evening Star - the local voice

We kicked off what was to become massive coverage, on November 3, with a paragraph about a girl called Tania Nicol going missing from Ipswich.

We printed posters spreading the word about Tania and Gemma Adams when they were both missing.

Other community news carried on as usual.

Editor Nigel Pickover said: “The quality of our journalism - on-line and in print - has been outstanding and that has been what has been pleasing me the most. My job is to be the conductor, and everyone from the press hall, to distribution, to production to photographers, has performed so well in difficult circumstances.”

We kept community coverage going with 13 reporters - an additional vacancy is soon to be filled, alongside covering the killings. There were more than one million hits to www.eveningstar.co.uk , from readers locally and across the world.

Suffolk Police always need the local media to encourage the public to come forward, which resulted in thousands of calls to detectives in the case.

Nigel added that the Star has always known more than the national media, who tried to get to grips with our area and its issues - within minutes of arriving in town.

Tim said the events were showing the trust and confidence which local people hold for their local newspaper.

National papers

Sent packs of reporters to produce pages and pages of coverage, which made front pages for some.

Some outlets national newspapers rushed to name men as suspects, without official confirmation, and there has been the ever-present risk to of contempt of court and risk to fair trial.

Suffolk chief constable Alastair McWhirter wrote to editors in December warning them not to publish material which could hinder the investigation.

Some of the extensive surveillance by journalists during the inquiry, meant police had to take extra measures to seal off the crime scenes.

Tim's believes the local press were much more restrained than national counterparts, to avoid influencing any future court proceedings, which may be held I the local area.

Television

Sky News's 25-strong team in Ipswich told the story with the aid of a helicopter, and big BBC teams swept in to Martlesham, Hintlesham, Copdock and Levington.

Crews from abroad including Germany, Canada and Australia filmed in Ipswich or rang The Evening Star for interviews with staff.

Press conferences held by Suffolk Police were televised live, on an almost daily basis.

Some of the broadcasters' mistakes have left Tim - and many others across Suffolk - gnashing their teeth in frustration.

He said: “Ipswich has been transported to the Fens, become a 'city' and the A14 became the A45 in one map presumably because the news organisation in question had not invested in modern maps! Factual accuracy is what achieves credibility, and understanding with your audience.”

Nigel said:” Some of the national TV crews made mistakes but, I general, I found them to be good, thoughtful, journalists, caught up in the media maelstrom that has enveloped our area.”

Since his days in the newsroom, Tim has seen news crews adapt to many changes.

Now we have 24-hour services, using multiple technologies including digitalisation, the internet and video clips like you see on www.eveningstar.co.uk - not forgetting the rise of the mobile phone to relay stories to the newsdesk.

Tim said news corporations have also become more profit-minded over recent years, and added: “With the demand for profits, the budgets all go towards 'celebrity' presenters especially when it comes to television.

“There also used to be a direct contact with the criminal justice process, which I don't think there is now. When I started as a journalist we used to be able to talk to the criminals, the police officers, the coroners and prosecutors.”

Nigel said: "We are out all the time, making contacts. We still talk to police officers on an individual basis, and only this week we have been out with the street girl community again.

“We are doing everything that we used to do, with the extra demand that we feed the 24-hour website with breaking news. That creates extra pressure on us, but it's a sign of the world it has become.”

Today 90 per cent of journalists have a university degree, but Tim fears they are not as worldly-wise as their predecessors used to be. He added: “Journalists used to be from very diverse backgrounds and have a greater understanding of the world - today most are graduates and the media has become much more middle class.”

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What do you think of how Ipswich has been portrayed recently? Do you trust the media? Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

After covering many serial killer cases including the Yorkshire Ripper, Tim observed several key differences between that case and the ongoing investigation in to the Suffolk killings.

Here's some of them:

· West Yorkshire Police went without help from other forces whereas Suffolk Police was assisted by 35 forces.

· There was no Victim Support or understanding about victim culture in 1980.

· The prostitute victims of the Peter Sutcliffe were morally judged, whereas more people today keep more of an open mind.

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