Thursday, 9 July 2009

Back on board.

It's been a while....Been away from work on holidays with my mum, dad and brother who all live in Norway. Fully refreshed and ready for action.

All this stuff about the News of the World has really got my back up actually. I really may be being sensitive (it has been known!) but if it is true, the minority really are making things very difficult for everyone else.

Now journalists are not the most popular bunch nor the most trusted, we know that, but I do think that most are misunderstood.

Granted the Mercury does not have the financial clout of the NOTW, in fact we do not pay people for stories (apart from freelancers or agency copy), but we would never consider doing anything like this even if we could afford it. Several times a year people will approach me anonymously from organisations I cover and ask for money for information. I always say we don't do that and invariably they give the information anyway. It is a shame that other journalists will go to such lengths to get a story. It is not necessary. We are different.

The journalists I know and work with all enjoy different parts of the job, covering news, the arts, whatever, but they are driven by being fair and accurate. They realise the responsibilities we have to be accurate when we inform readers and also know we face the public embarrassment of being wrong, which inevitably leads to a correction/apology in the paper.

Take for example my recent story on parking bays being wrongly marked, that the city council said so vehemently was not true and would have you believe was reckless.

It was true and was far from reckless.

A week or so earlier than this another parking story broke about exemptions on a few city streets even though there were no signs advertising them. We spoke to several legal experts to discuss the implications of this, we were told that this meant you can park everywhere, but these national experts who had successfully appealed more than 100,000 tickets said strongly there was no case for this, that it would be wrong to say it. We didn't.

Later it became clear that some city parking bays were illegally marked. I had e-mails and phone calls from the public about this, even people from within the council e-mailed me. This story took me five days to research and write. We took tens of photographs of bays and sent them to independent experts. I spoke to experts on parking in other local authorities, some of whom were good enough to take time late into the evenings to give me guidance and professional views. I personally spent many hours measuring lines, bays, everything you can imagine. When we found what was wrong I went and remeasured and remeasured.

Finally, with all this evidence I went back to the legal experts who had advised us to leave the previous story alone. These same people were unequivocal in their response. These bays are illegal. You have a responsibility to the thousands of people who have parked in them to print what you have found, they said. So that's what we did.

Thank goodness that is out of my system.

1 comment:

  1. I think you're right to be mad with the NOTW.

    This could be another stick to make it even more difficult to bring out stories on those occasions when they are *not* salacious gossip.