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Guido Fawkes: Lobby briefings should be televised

February 8th, 2012 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Journalism

Political blogger Paul Staines has called for parliamentary lobby briefings to be televised – and called the current system “a cartel”.

Giving evidence at the Leveson inquiry this afternoon, Staines, who runs the Guido Fawkes blog, said the current system of accreditation and access for parliamentary journalists was antiquated and “unhealthy” for transparency.

“It’s a cartel,” he told the inquiry.

The authorities in parliament won’t give you access to the parliamentary estate unless you’re on the lobby list. I have to go into parliament as a visitor. It makes it difficult for me to get access to the main players.

I don’t think it’s a very healthy system. Former chairmen of the lobby have said its antiquated.

Staines said the Westminster “lobby terms” – where journalists are briefed anonymously – meant reporters became “complicit in politicians’ lies”.

He added:

Downing Street sources normally means the journalist is in a briefing room, being fed the line. Just put it on TV.

The lobby functions like an obedience school for journalists – play the game and we’ll reward you. If you rock the boat you won’t get access.

During his appearance at at the Leveson inquiry, Staines also repeated a claim he made on his blog that Tina Weaver, editor of the Sunday Mirror, knew about and authorised phone hacking and blagging.

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Daily Mirror publisher faces ‘three to four’ phone-hacking cases, says lawyer

Announcing the launch of an internal review of editorial controls and practices last week, Trinity Mirror, publisher of the Daily Mirror, was keen to stress that the review was not connected to recent phone-hacking allegations levelled against its tabloid.

The publisher issued a statement in response to the claims that the Mirror was implicated in the use of the so-called dark arts, calling them “totally unsubstantiated”.

But allegations concerning the paper have since mounted. Lawyer Mark Lewis, who has represented a number of celebrities in phone-hacking suits against News International, said in yesterday’s Sunday Times that the Mirror is facing “about three or four cases which will start within the next few weeks”.

Another report, in the Independent on Sunday, claims that “top investors” in Trinity Mirror, undoubtedly concerned by the steep share-price drop the company saw last week, “want to know more” and have quizzed chief executive Sly Bailey.

Former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan, who was fired by Bailey in 2004, has come under scrutiny as the spotlight shifts from News International to Trinity Mirror, although he denies any knowledge of criminality at the Mirror during his time there. Conservative MP Louise Mensch was forced to apologise to Morgan in parliament last week, after incorrectly stating he had admitted being aware of phone hacking at the tabloid.

Citing evidence collected by the Information Commissioner’s Operation Motorman report, blogger Guido Fawkes has alleged that Morgan signed off on £442,000-worth of invoices submitted to the paper by a private detective. It is important to note, however, that the use of a private detective does not necessarily involve any criminality.

According to a report in yesterday’s (31 July) Sunday Telegraph, Trinity Mirror is planning to increase its cost-cutting target for the year from £15 million to £25 million, triggering further job losses.

The company is due to publish its annual financial results on 11 August.

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#ijf11: Be accessible, be realistic, Guido Fawkes advises small news outlets

Accessibility and community are key to having an impact as a small online news outlet, political blogger Paul Staines (aka Guido Fawkes) told the International Journalism Festival this morning.

Some of my best stories come from my readers.

If I want to contact the Sunday Times investigations editor, I can maybe ring the switchboard but I probably won’t get through.

I have my phone number and email address on my site. Alright, you won’t get though to me directly, you’ll get an answerphone, but I will get back to you.

And there is the promise of a free T-shirt if I use your information.

Staines cited the recent example of an image of David and Samantha Cameron looking terrifically glum waiting for a Ryanair flight to Malaga.

The image was sent to Staines by a reader, and within an hour he had published it and sold international syndication rights, making enough money to fund the blog for a month.

The blog shared the money with the photographer, he hastened to add.

Another important factor is being realistic, he said, knowing what you can and can’t do.

The Guido Fawkes blog is a two-man operation, and “can’t spend a long time investigating a corporation across five continents”.

The way we approach it is much more tabloid, more hit and run, but we will keep coming back to a subject and wear at it to get results.

We’re not worried about getting scooped as long as we keep at the story.

He put that need for realism in sobering financial terms when he said that he had bid £10,000 – as much as he could – for the MPs expenses disk, but came up against the Telegraph, which bid £100,000.

Since its modest beginnings, started “on a whim” in 2004, the blog has landed “one politician is jail, a few fired, a few resigned”, Staines claimed. “Oh and a few special advisors, I forget about them”.

Not all of them perhaps, The Guido Fawkes blog was responsible for a story about William Hague sharing a room with a young special advisor, who resigned as the story spread like wild fire across the nationals.

Compared with larger, more established news organisations, Staines’ disregard for the need for double checking the facts was another advantage, he said.

Newspapers have to have double sourcing and verification, Whereas I’m more likely to take a flyer and a risk with the lawyers.

For that very reason, another important source of stories for Staines is political journalists who have had stories spiked by their editor for not standing up, but who want to get it out.

That’s great, when that happens, because I get all the credit and they get nothing.

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Who will be the first bloggers to get lobby passes?

So, as Matt Wardman noted on this blog today, bloggers are soon to be allowed into parliament. But who will be the first?

Mark Pack says he hears that passes are “on their way” to the Guy News TV team: “It’s an off-shoot of the Guido Fawkes blog though, unlike the blog, the online TV show becoming legally based in the UK. Even so, given its very irreverent attitude to politics, this is a move that isn’t being met with universal adulation from the existing lobby members.”

Journalism.co.uk dropped a line to Guido himself: “I have not applied for a pass,” is the quick response.

Who’s your money on? Widdecombe show side-kick Iain Dale, or as PR Week’s David Singleton speculates, ConservativeHome’s Jonathan Isaby? Who else?

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Guido Fawkes: Expect more local newspaper attacks on MPs

November 4th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Journalism, Newspapers

Guido Fawkes flags up the Luton & Dunstable Express  ‘Get Moran Out Now’ campaign in MP Margaret Moran’s Luton South constituency. Expect to see more of this type of campaigning ‘across the land,’ he writes.

“As well as the macro-political environment and the visceral anti-political feeling that covers the land and will be celebrated this Thursday [November 5], the nature of the expenses scandal means that local newspaper journalists will find it easy to attack their sitting MPs.”

Full post at this link…

Also see Telegraph.co.uk…

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Jon Bernstein: Sorry Guido, the BBC did for Duncan

Three high-profile political figures mired in controversy, two thrown out of their jobs, one suffering a humiliating demotion – all thanks to internet activists of differing political hues from green to darkest blue.

Hang your heads in shame video-sting victim Alan Duncan, and Smeargate’s Derek Draper and Damian McBride. Take a bow Tim Montgomerie, Guido Fawkes, and Heydon Prowse.

But was it really the web wot done it? I’m not so sure.

Or at least I don’t think the web could have done it without the traditional media, television news and newspapers in particular.

Clearly this is at odds with Guido’s reading of the situation.

Writing on his blog this morning yesterday Paul Staines (for it is he) asks who forced Alan Duncan from his role as shadow leader of the House of Commons.

Not Tory leader David Cameron, that’s for sure. Rather it was the unlikely pairing of Tim Montgomerie and Heydon Prowse, ‘the blogosphere’s shepherd of the Tory grassroots and the angry young man with a video-cam’.

Of Prowse, who filmed Duncan on the terrace talking of ‘rations’ in the wake of the MPs’ expenses scandal, Guido notes:

“Heydon Prowse, who is he? He just destroyed the career of a greasy pole climbing Westminster slitherer. No house-trained political nous, no insight, in fact a little naive. He still did it.”

And Guido is in no doubt what this means in the wider context:

“The news is now disintermediated.”

The same applies, apparently, to the sacking of Damian McBride and Derek Draper, both prime ministerial advisors in their time. McBride and Draper were outed for their parts in a plot to use a pseudo-activist blog to spread rumours about various high-profile Tories.

The emails incriminating the two men found their way to Guido/Staines, and were in turn picked up by the media.

(Ironically, the site was meant to be the left’s answer to right-wing blogosphere attack-dogs, Guido among them.)

This week saw the story take another twist. Would-be smear victim Nadine Dorries MP carried out a threat to sue Draper and McBride and enlisted the help of Guido and fellow blogger Tory Bear to be servers of writs.

No one is doubting the origin of both stories, nor the journalistic craft in exposing the men at the heart of them. But it took the mainstream media to push these events into the public consciousness, into the mainstream.

And it took the attentions of the mainstream media to effect the sackings and demotion.

On the day it broke, the Duncan story led the BBC 10 o’clock News and featured prominently on other channels. In the ensuing 48 hours it spawned dozens of national press stories – the Daily Star went for ‘Dumb and Duncan’, The Mirror for ‘Duncan Donut’, others were more po-faced – as well as leader comments, opinion pieces and letters.

The coverage continued into the weekend and despite Duncan’s very swift apology and Cameron’s initial willingness to draw a line under events (“Alan made a bad mistake. He has acknowledged that, he has apologised and withdrawn the remarks.”) the drip, drip of media focus eventually forced the Tory leader to act.

It was a similar pattern with Smeargate.

Would PM Gordon Brown and Cameron have acted if these had remained just web stories? Not in 2009.

Is the news disintermediated? Not yet. Instead we have a symbiotic – if dysfunctional – relationship between the blogosphere and the traditional media.

The latter fears and dismisses the former in equal measure, but increasingly relies on it to take the temperature of various constituent parts of society and, yes, to source stories. Guido is such a good conduit through which to leak precisely because the media reads him.

The former, meanwhile, is disparaging about the latter (sometimes for good reason) but nonetheless needs it to vindicate its journalistic endeavours.

A final twist to the Alan Duncan story. Heydon Prowse offered Guido first refusal on his secret video recording back in June. Guido turned it down. “D’oh!” he later wrote in a confessional blog post.

Guido always has the good grace to admit when he’s goofed, as he did earlier this year over James Purnell’s fictitious leadership bid.

Will he accept with equally good grace that the mainstream media were a vital ingredient in the sackings and demotion of McBride, Draper and Duncan?

Jon Bernstein is former multimedia editor of Channel 4 News. This is part of a series of regular columns for Journalism.co.uk. You can read his personal blog at jonbernstein.wordpress.com.

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Globe and Mail: ‘The model, the blogger and the web giant’

The Globe and Mail looks at the blogger anonymity case in the US sparking debate across the world.

The blogger unmasked by Google – as the result of a New York court order last week – is now threatening legal action against the company. The Globe and Mail’s Josh Wingrove writes:

“Is calling someone a ‘ho’ on a blog worthy of the anonymity afforded to the writings of the American Founding Fathers 200 years ago?

“That’s the basis of a landmark internet privacy debate sparked this week in connection with a looming civil suit against web giant Google Inc. The company is facing a potential $15-million (U.S.) lawsuit by a once-anonymous blogger, Rosemary Port, after it complied with a New York court order last week and released her name.”

Full story at this link…

  • Related: BBC Radio 4 Today programme featured a discussion this morning with Paul Staines, aka Guido Fawkes, and Dr Vince Miller, a lecturer in sociology at Kent University. Listen again at this link.
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For @GuidoFawkes, Twitter is a fad that will disappear; for @MickFealty, it’s a valuable tool

May 12th, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Events, Social media and blogging

Twitter is a ‘fad that will soon disappear,’ political blogger Paul Staines said yesterday.

Staines, who blogs under the alias Guido Fawkes, told participants at the Voices Online Blogging conference at City University that he has ‘not got the time’ to monitor the 3,000 + followers of @guidofawkes.

“How profound can you be in 140 characters?” he said. “I use Twitter to broadcast, but I go to individual bloggers for information.”

Staines argued that the increasing popularity of the site, boosted by celebrity users such as Stephen Fry and Oprah Winfrey, meant that ‘overload is inevitable’.

However, Mick Fealty (@mickfealty) creator of the Slugger O’Toole blog, agreed that Twitter is a ‘nightmare’ but insisted it remained an ‘important tool’ for journalists.

“I used it on the day of the US elections last November, when I was writing a live blog on the Slugger site,” he explained. “I canvassed for US readers to be mini-bloggers for one day.

He used feeds from people who were watching three or four American television networks, he said. “Within about two minutes I knew what had gone out on ABC, Fox and CNN, and I could give a clear judgement about what was going on.”

Fealty added that the site was an effective tool to generate information about an area where he had ‘no local or native knowledge’.

Twitter’s usefulness was a result of the ‘very smart and intelligent’ contacts he has made using it, he said.

“The value of Twitter is the value of people I follow,” he explained.

Journalism.co.uk reported from the Voices Online Blogging conference 2009. Follow @journalism_live on Twitter for live updates from a wide array of media events.

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Event – Voices Online: Blogging Conference today

Journalism.co.uk is attending the Voices Online: Blogging conference today. Speakers at the event include Mark Jones, global community editor at Reuters; Demotix’s Turi Munthe; political blogger Guido Fawkes a.k.a. Paul Staines; and Andrew Sparrow: senior political correspondent for the Guardian and recent Orwell Prize blogging nominee.

The full agenda for the day is available at this link.

Follow updates on Twitter @journalism_live and via the hashtag #voicesconf.

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Guido Fawkes: ‘This blog is more profitable than both the Guardian and Independent combined’

A link to aid (if somewhat modestly) Guido in his quest to be more read than the ‘commentariat’s mediasaurs’. He writes:

“April saw a total of over 3.6m pageviews from 1,382,879 visits by 347,994 visitors making 2,995,765 pageviews plus 680,207 views via RSS feed readers. Not bad for one guy with a laptop, Blackberry and a penchant for Guinness. With traffic averaging over 100,000 pageviews daily this blog puts traditional political publications like the New Statesman in the shade…”

He also makes a surprising claim with this statement: “Many thanks to you the readers and the advertisers who make this blog more profitable than both the Guardian and Independent combined.”

Full post at this link…

Update 1: An email has arrived from Guido. We asked him to elaborate on his profitability. He had this to say:

“They both lose money. We make money. Secret is to sell adverts.”

Update 2: Journalism.co.uk asked for a little bit more detail about how much money he makes, and how the advertising breaks down. Would he care to share that information?

“No I would not I am afraid. Will tell you this, the website costs circa £200 a month to run.”

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