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.