We ask the question in response to a blog post from the other side of the equation on the site We Love Local Government, which has published its plans for a ‘Lazy Journalist Index’, rating those journalists who, from a local government communications’ perspective, are “drains on the public purse”.
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…]
Both the Guardian and Herald carry pieces today marking five years since the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act became law.
The Herald reflects on the impact of the Scottish Act, while the Guardian recalls some memorable stories uncovered through use of the legislation.
But, as the Guardian suggests, there are still problems for journalists using the act:
[J]ournalists have also criticised the act as a bureaucratic waste of time and money, with requesters complaining that important information is all too often redacted or withheld by authorities who are keenly aware of the news value of the material they hold (…) Some believe Whitehall and government ministers are getting bolder in manipulating the delays in order to scupper an already weakened FOI law. “It will take a huge scandal to get up steam for a reformed ‘strong’ law,” warns one reporter. “In the meantime, ministers are busy weakening it even further.”
On the other hand, are journalists bringing the act into disrepute through the stories they choose to use it for?
Catching up from news last week that the UK government has plans to extend the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to cover four new bodies: the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), the Financial Services Ombudsman, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) and Academy schools.
The UK’s Campaign for FOI has described the proposals as narrow in scope – for example, contractors providing a service on behalf of a public agency will be covered, but only if that service ‘is a function of the authority’.