The Lazy Journalists Tackle Christmas (and other times of joy)
It seems like a lifetime ago that I sat at my computer and drafted a post entitled: ‘The Freedom of Lazy Journalism Act.’
The post provocatively claimed that whilst the FOI act is in general a good thing:
The real problem is that many of the requests we receive are not from concerned citizens but from seriously lazy and, dare I say, incompetent journalists.
These so-called ‘journalists’ waste hours of council time (ironically often searching for examples of council staff wasting their time) and never are they actually searching for information or investigating a story.
Instead, they pre-write their stories and then use the FoI Act to trawl for a fact or two that will justify their prejudices or exaggerations.
Now, in hindsight I admit that perhaps I went a little too far (and the post received a bumper crop of comment and criticism) but last week I went out for my bi-annual drink with a few friends who work in FoI and other similarly related fields.
During our catch up I casually asked about how business was going and was told that FoIs were through the roof.
As one of my friends pointed out (and I paraphrase): The citizenry are really learning how to make use of FoIs’ and councils need to get better at pre-empting the requests by putting more information out there in easier to understand formats.
Good advice I thought and so I casually asked about the other FoIs; those from people who I had previously described as the ‘so-called’ journalists. The mood of the room darkened a touch and my colleagues recounted their tales of members of our national (and in some councils local) press who make the life of the average FoI officer a right pain.
Amongst this month’s perpetrators are apparently a wide range of journalists with an axe to grind about Christmas, New year, bonfire night and any other time when people might call fun.
Amongst the list of joy-killing FoIs are:
- Information about spend for Christmas decorations and lights
- Schools that will and will not be holding a nativity play this year
- Information about spend on firework and bonfire displays (including New Years Eve)
- Information about insurance claims involving snow and ice
- Information about licences issued for dangerous wild animals (I just thought this one was funny)
Now, I’m not going to repeat my previous rant, as I now realise I was wrong. The Act is not at fault and nor is it causing lazy journalists to exist. That was hyperbole which was mistaken.
Neither am I going to draw wide conclusions from the actions of a small group of people but let me just say this to the small number seemingly obsessed by other people’s enjoyment of life:
‘HAVE YOU NOTHING BETTER TO DO???’
Every council budget is being squeezed and services cut; the Eurozone is about to collapse, the economy is struggling, we have a housing crisis and an unemployment crisis. Local authorities are making any number of controversial decisions every day and staff are losing their jobs and the best you can do is ask about nativity plays and Christmas lights?!?
Are you kidding me?
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