For any journalist to get a message from an organisation he or she is writing about saying they monitoring what is written about them for defamation, is an endorsement.
It usually means the journalist is getting things right and the organisation has poor media relations advice. And now it has happened to Suffolk “citizen blogger” James Hargrave. He has been writing extensively about Free Schools, some of which he opposes.
Today he publishes what he describes as a “curious response” from Graham Watson, director of the Seckford Foundation which is behind several Free School proposals:
Dear Mr Hargrave
We do not know Margaret Read or what, if any, interest group she represents. She may be, like you, someone who has no locus standi beyond having an interest in the subject of free schools. Please note that we do not intend to engage in any further correspondence with you but will continue to monitor your blog in case you publish any defamatory comments in the future.
Should we be approved to pre opening stage you will have an opportunity to raise any points you wish as part of any public consultation process.
Margaret Mead’s email address seems to have been terminated and a search is now on for her through twitter. To understand this you will need to read Hargave’s blog pot today: Stoke by Nayland Free School: A ‘kick up the backside’ coasting neighbouring schools with inexcusable poor performance.
On the educational merits and demerits of Free Schools I don’t have an informed view. But I have been following the campaigning journalism of James Hargrave on his blog as he slowly unpicks details which have been hidden from public view.
I have been following his sustained series of stories as he slowly unpicks details which have been hidden from public view.
As a journalist I do have a view on this. Making public information that someone wants to hide is journalism. One of the definitions of news is, something that someone does not want printed or broadcast.
As we have seen the Guardian’s phone hacking stories, it is determined and sustained investigative reporting that gets results that are very much in the public interest. As stones are turned-over there are always surprises.
This week Hargrave is starting a series of posts about what he has learned from 1,400 pages of papers released to him by Suffolk County Council as the result of Freedom on Information request.
We learn today from him about the Ixworth Free School proposal where proposers talked to education secretary Michael Gove but did not share everything with the local education authority.
This fills in a gap in out understanding and, as Hargrave comments:
Sadly the politicians involved appear to prefer to make all these decisions in private and we only get to find out about them after through freedom of information requests after the event…
Representative democracy seems to be falling into the gap between Whitehall which is directly financing more and more schools and a county hall that is increasingly powerless. Finding the evidence is what journalism should be about.
While national newspapers and broadcasters still have the resources for sustained investigative reporting, in the provinces the job is increasingly falling on bloggers, like Hargrave.
Later: The continuing investigative work of bloggers in Barnet is impressive. Mr Mustard reveals today that a council employee who took early retirement in 2008 is still employed as a consultant with the money paid into his limited company.