FOI champion laments decline of local journalism

The career of Heather Brooke is a young researcher’s dream. It was she who started to uncover the MPs’ expenses scandal just by keeping digging, Watergate-style. I’ve just heard her on Radio 4’s Start the Week ( up shortly on iPlayer) discussing her new book The Silent State, giving a sharp and witty account of her great quest and going much further. Despite FOI, the State is still adept at stalling information requests, while it demands ever more information from the citizen. Another big problem is the growth of snow jobs by the huge state PR industry which is helping to kill off local journalism. Are you impressed with the Stormont PR effort? Here in England, local councils’ Pravda-type freesheets are thankfully on the wane, hit by recession. Three cheers for Boris for scrapping the Londoner. But this has done little to halt the decline of the local press. One disturbing fact from Heather. The Press Association news agency employ only 4 court reporters to cover all England. Whole swathes of public life are going unscrutinised . Bloggers who tend to be part time are no substitute. Btw Start the Week with Phillip Pullman and Archbishop Williams comes from Lambeth Palace next Monday in their second media encounter – backing up my point.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London