In the previous few months, media reports on the Chandlers had appeared to go quiet, but it is now known that a super-injunction was obtained by the Chandlers' family earlier this year, restricting reports so as not to affect efforts to release the couple.
But with them both safely out of Somalia the news media came alive with reports of their rescue, broadcasting pictures of the couple at the UK High Commission in Nairobi. The BBC for example, which followed the wishes of the family to keep quiet until the couple were safe, later featured a video interview with them discussing the moment of their rescue.
But while national outlets were able to catch these first reaction comments from the couple and similarly their safe return to the UK yesterday, local news publishers in their home town of Tunbridge Wells, Kent were planning how they would cover the story.
Some publishers had already dedicated specific journalists, and even teams of reporters, to follow the events from the outset. One publisher, Archant KOS Media, is planning extensive coverage on the story this coming weekend, focusing on local comment.
Editor of the Tunbridge Wells on Saturday and Sunday titles, Chris Britcher told Journalism.co.uk about why, as one of the local papers in the Chandlers' community, it has a special duty to consider.
"We kept close tabs on all the latest developments and provided regular updates, while very aware of the sensitivities of the fact we serve the town in which they live, where people know and are friends with them," he said.
"Therefore, we were always very aware of not simply repeating scare stories from the tabloids or generating 'false hope' stories. We were very aware, from the outset, at how the media were being manipulated and were keen to not fall victim to the regular tales of their impending release/death.
"The injunction's main issue, for us, was at the point of the one year anniversary. We examined it carefully and, like the BBC, decided that in this internet age, running anything which could put the couple's safety at any risk would have been irresponsible. Again, we had a special duty as the couple’s local paper not to be the ones who put them at any risk. We may only be local, but our website is well picked up by the likes of Google and has a wide, global, audience. What we run in a local paper in this day and age goes far wider than the limited scope of its physical circulation.
"My only concern has been that our lack of coverage would be seen by our readers – unaware of the injunction – of us not caring, or forgetting of their plight."
As a result of the issues surrounding the couple's ordeal, the paper's approach to reporting had to be much more considered, he added, while also finding new angles of interest to their readers, who are likely to already have consumed the national media coverage.
"While the rest of the nation were able to look on as interested bystanders during this drama and speculate wildly about the couple's fate, we are in a position where the people reading our papers each weekend are those who knew the Chandlers personally. Who were friends with them. And, in one case, were renting their house from them.
"Therefore it was something we had to cover sensitively. These were people who lived in Tunbridge Wells and as such we were able to talk to those that knew them, to get a sense of the people they were. To be honest, the family quite quickly instructed friends and neighbours to not discuss the case, once what I assume were negotiations over a release got under way.
"Clearly, we will be looking at the impact of these people returning from this hugely traumatic incident and how they try and resume their lives. For the nationals, the fact the couple are free and the sensationalism of aspects of their time in captivity will provide acres of copy, in addition to the wider aspects – piracy in Somalia/governmental role in freeing people in this sort of situation. We will be looking and focusing on the worries and concerns of the people living in the community the Chandlers were once part of, and who will now be returning to."
"In a story such as this, the nationals will cover every aspect," he added. "But the readers of our papers will expect something more – they will expect a locally-focused level of coverage which they haven’t read already. Even if the nationals cover views of friends and family, the bigger story, for them, will be the wider implications of their capture and release. We can focus solely on the impact of their return to the local community."
The Kent and Sussex Courier, which is also based in Tunbridge Wells, is busy putting into practice its own plans to cover the news, with a focus on the reaction of the community as well as local campaigning efforts. We spoke to editor Ian Read, who discussed the importance for local publications to focus on the impact to the nearby community over more national angles.
"This story is one of those difficult situations when the nationals are all over it ... so if people want the bigger picture (such as the Somali pirate situation in general or the debate over ransom payments) then they can get that from the nationals," he said. "Our job is to tell people how it has affected people locally, and what the impact will continue to be in Tunbridge Wells."
But it was this community angle that actually presented the paper with some issues in the early stages of the kidnap, he said.
"I've had a team of reporters on this story since the beginning, but the story poses us several problems, most notably that although they lived in Tunbridge Wells, they were not well-known people at all. They had no real links with the town and kept themselves to themselves, so when they were first captured it was enormously difficult to find anyone that knew them.
"We managed to track down neighbours and, from speaking to an expert, produced the exclusive angle that their captivity could last for months, which of course proved to be true, unfortunately."
In terms of continuing to follow the story, Britcher added that they will, much like the rest of the press, be keen to speak to the couple. But will be, as before, respecting the wishes of the family, he said.
"They may well decide that, actually, after a flurry of publicity, they just want to return to their lives, out of the glare of publicity. If they do, we will obviously respect that, perhaps only returning to them for significant anniversaries etc.
"But there is a ferocious appetite out there to discover how this couple managed to survive such an ordeal and we will look to serve both our readers, and the Chandlers, in doing that in a manner everyone is happy with."
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