Journalists don’t normally reveal their conversations with special advisers to ministers, no matter how grumpy they are about a forthcoming story. So it is significant that the Telegraph has chosen to disclose a warning from Maria Miller’s adviser Joanna Hindley about the minister’s connection to press regulation when reporters were preparing a story on her expenses claims. This is the key passage:
When a reporter approached Mrs Miller’s office last Thursday, her special adviser, Joanna Hindley, pointed out that the Editor of The Telegraph was involved in meetings with the Prime Minister and the Culture Secretary over implementing the recommendations made by Lord Justice Leveson.
“Maria has obviously been having quite a lot of editors’ meetings around Leveson at the moment. So I am just going to kind of flag up that connection for you to think about,” said Miss Hindley.
Miss Hindley also said the reporter should discuss the issue with “people a little higher up your organisation”.
Miss Hindley immediately contacted The Telegraph’s head of public affairs to raise concerns about the story. The news group decided to delay publication in order to ensure the facts were correct.
Miller is not one of the supporters of statutory regulation for the press, although her stance is that the editors must have an opportunity to set up their own regulatory system with the threat of statute hanging over them if self-regulation fails. But these sorts of threats to prevent genuine public interest reporting, rather than a story that inhabits any grey areas, won’t help the argument that the state should be involved in calling the press to heel.