Journeys into Journalism with MediaWise

22 August 2006 – Former BBC political correspondent Nick Jones will blow the whistle on the secret trade in information to journalists, in the first of a new series of monthly events organised by MediaWise.

Household names like Alastair Campbell, Max Clifford and ‘Benjie the Binman’ are not the only people feeding stories to the press. Nick will reveal how the secret trade in information operates. The author of ‘Trading Information’, ‘Soundbites and Spin Doctors’, ‘Sultans of Spin’ and ‘The Control Freaks’, has just written a new book on the subject, ‘Trading Information: leaks, lies and tip-offs’.

He argues that so much information is now being exchanged or sold to journalists that it has changed the culture of journalism. Ranging from the kiss-and-tell stories arranged by Max Clifford, to telephone numbers or mobile messages supplied by dodgy investigators, the trade was brought sharply into attention by the recent arrest of the News of the World’s Royal Editor Clive Goodman for his alleged involvement in tapping mobile phones belonging to members of the Royal Family. Nick will describe how The Sun and News of the World have long records of buying information from the police.

As well as the purchase of secret and confidential information by the media, there is also a burgeoning trade in stories placed with the media for political or commercial advantage. Both political spin-doctors and publicists supply their stories on an exclusive basis and know that in return they will get the sort of coverage they want.

Spin doctors supply ‘leaks’ to journalists knowing that this feeds their need for exclusive stories; and in return for exclusive access to celebrities, journalists fall over themselves to get the interview and pictures. This, argues Nick, has altered the whole balance of journalism.

Meanwhile, the authorities are doing what they can to stifle genuine whistleblowers. In early October, the trial is due to begin of two men alleged to have leaked a conversation between Blair and Bush, in which US President threatened to bomb Aljazeera TV. The Queen’s Speech in November is also expected to contain an announcement about strengthening the Official Secrets Act.

‘Leaks, lies and tip-offs’ will deliver startling revelations about the way the media works.

Wednesday 13 September 2006, 6.30pm (entrance from 6pm)
Nick Jones in conversation with MediaWise Director Mike Jempson.
On the SS Robin, West India Quay, Hertsmere Road, London E14 4AE (for directions, visit the SS Robin website)

(Bulletin No 124)

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