Gagged student reporter from Hemel launches online news site

Sarah Gregory Preston Messenger
Sarah Gregory Preston Messenger

A journalism undergraduate has set up an independent news website following rows over student newspaper reporters being gagged.

Sarah Jayne Gregory, 23, from Micklefield Road, Hemel Hempstead, studies international journalism at The University of Central Lancashire and is one of a team of reporters who quit student paper Pluto and launched the Preston Messenger.

The walkout came after all student journalists for university’s radio, television and newspaper were asked by the student body to sign a contract that banned them from speaking to outsiders without permission.

It followed a row over a story in Pluto about uni education officer Joey Guy being suspended for writing offensive tweets about missing five-year-old April Jones.

The story was taken out of the hands of the paper’s editor and moved to a less prominent place in the paper, and all mention of the tweets was removed.

Sarah said: “I resigned as news editor and four other people quit, leaving the media officer doing the paper on her own and now the online version has shut down.

“We were being gagged by the student union, who were protecting themselves.

“I feel obliged as a training journalist to produce uncensored news in the interest of the students and not the university.”

The Preston Messenger website was designed by Will Barsby of Hemel Hempstead-based company Digital Distribution and it attracted 1,000 hits in a few hours when it went live.

Pluto states it had 1,000 hits a week on its website and has a readership of 6,000 for its fortnightly newspaper.

Sarah said: “We have had good feedback from students. We are not doing this to shut down Pluto.

“We want to run reports that hold the university to account. “We are not being libelous or breaking the law by doing investigative journalism for the students.”