Heather Brooke on how British journalists avoid accountability by not naming sources

British journalism was under attack from two fronts this week. Satoshi Kanazawa, evolutionary psychologist at the London school of Economics accused the UK press of making things up. And on Charlie Brooker’s satirical TV show Newswipe Heather Brooke, investigative journalist and freedom of information campaigner, lambasts UK journalists for not always attributing official sources and therefore avoiding accountability. [Update: watch the video and read Brooke’s comment to understand the difference between protecting confidential sources and not naming official spokespeople…]

4 thoughts on “Heather Brooke on how British journalists avoid accountability by not naming sources

  1. Pingback: Heather Brooke can just sod off back to America and take her “accountability” with her | Contently Managed - Digital PR, Social Media, Traditional PR Solutions and Strategy

  2. Heather Brooke

    Dear reactionary non-thinking blogposter:
    “An ad hominem argument, also known as argumentum ad hominem (Latin: “argument toward the person” or “argument against the person”) is an argument which links the validity of a premise to an irrelevant characteristic or belief of the person advocating the premise.

    If I was born in Pakistan would you make the same claim? Think not.

    To actually address my point would be nice. Something I’d hope journalists would want to do to gain public respect for their profession.

    The point I’m making in this piece is not that sources should never be granted anonymity but that there is absolutely NO GOOD REASON to grant anonymity to official spokespeople as, by definition, they are paid by the public to speak to us.

  3. localhack

    I’ve had first hand of trying to insist press officers either give their own name or find someone to quote in two different patches, and the response was very interesting.

    In the first, I worked for by far the biggest paper in the region – the smaller locals were very weak, and the BBC based hundreds of miles away, so whatever we said pretty much went. The news editor brought in this policy, fired on by a conversation a reporter had with some top brass which ended with “Oh, you want to quote me by name? I’ll have to check that everything I told you was actually right first!”.

    Within a couple of weeks, everyone had agreed to be quoted by name, even police press officers giving details of cases involving dangerous criminals. they knew if they didn’t, we would just run “unable to comment” or make a big deal about the fact the spokesperson was unnamed.

    At my next paper, I persuaded the editor to try the same thing. The difference was that here we were one of dozens of London weeklies, one of which was a strong rival in our patch.

    Everyone, without fail, laughed at us and refused to do it. They had nothing to lose, as there were so many other channels to get their message out by – and the chances of them joining us were remote if our policy meant we were missing out on stories. We had no choice but to abandon the policy after a week.

  4. Jarvis Mason

    I truely believe in what Heather Brooke has done, is doing and hopefully will continue to do in the future, I also strongly believe that knowing how corrupt our supposed leaders and underlings are is vital to getting rid of the culture of “what the public dosn’t know dosn’t hurt them, but information helps to stop the regigme of do as I say not as I do which 90% of politicians adopt after 6 months being elected because of the whips preasure to tow the line and if they don’t they will no longer be “politicians” which means you will follow all lines or you will loose out finacially and profesionally but “YOU WILL NOT SCREW US” (untill we get another mole.) I am now 66 years young and for the last 40 years I have not believed a word that 99% of politicians have said (why don’t they understand! that we know when they are LYING by default)and only How much they can make out of the business (and that is what it is to them) is what politicians really think about, can anyone tell me why “they” believe they deserve more respect and pay with expenses than they already get? but then again those with more will always vote for those who think they should get more as always more begats more. I think it’s about time that WE as plebs thought more about scocialism and not profit to try and save the planet from absolute destruction. I could go on but i’m not sure it’s worth it.

    Cheers Jim

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