Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Hatred, Ridicule & Contempt: The Editor Strikes Back

Black Country Herald editor Bill Holroyd is in the witness box, undergoing cross-examination from Noel Adams QC on behalf of Jonjo Donnelly...

“Please wait there, Mr Holroyd.”

Campbell had finished guiding the editor through his main statement, and the supplementary statement that had been assembled in his name to introduce and explain the press reports on the libel actions that he had seen off at trial in his earlier career. Adams stood up to resume his duties on behalf of Donnelly, and after a few points of minor clarification and historical enquiry he moved on to a line of questioning that had arisen in the course of Tedd’s evidence. Alex had noted that it was unlikely to have been forgotten and hoped that Holroyd was well prepared to meet it.

“Is it correct, Mr Holroyd, that you had a framed quotation on your wall that spoke of embellishing news?”

Holroyd paused, knowing in his own mind that this issue had been almost certain to come up after first seeing the light of day in Tedd’s evidence. He was still left wondering, without any likelihood of an answer, how the manner in which he had decorated his old office had come to the attention of his opponents.

“Yes, I did.”

“And the text of the quotation ran ‘Emphasise the sensational. Elaborate on the facts. Manufacture the news. Use games and contests to sell papers’?”

“That’s correct, as far as I recall.” Holroyd wondered if the issue would be left at that, as Alex had thought it might, in which case he would anticipate a re-examination question from Campbell at the end. But it was not to be. And Holroyd was going to have his moment.

“So these were clearly principles that you set out to follow in your career as a tabloid editor, then?”

“I was only following one principle, actually.”

“And what was that?”

“It was the principle of never antagonising my employer. The owner of the paper brought that back from the Hearst Castle in California and had it framed for my birthday. What you are speaking of is a quotation from a newspaper baron called William Randolph Hearst.”

It was clear to Alex that the editor had struck an unexpected and effective blow. There had been a snigger from the direction of the jury, quickly suppressed with one glance from the judge. Adams waited for silence to prevail again. If he had made a mistake, he did not let it show.

“Let us move on to another feature of your career as a tabloid editor…”

But did Holroyd's success in the first skirmish lead to overall victory in the legal battle? To find out, click here...

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