Thursday, 18 June 2009

Times' defence of outing police blogger NightJack is swamped by hostile postings

Daniel Finkelstein of The Times has defended the paper over its outing of police blogger NightJack but reaction to his piece at Comment Central has been a barrage of hostile postings.
Finkelstein argues: "When a public servant decides to reveal the confidences of their colleagues and details of their work, especially on police cases, then their identity becomes a legitimate matter of interest. And other journalists might reasonably investigate the matter.
"What, say, if it turned out that NightJack wasn't actually a detective at all? Or that he was Sir Ian Blair? Are we really saying that his identity isn't a public matter?
"Yes, it is true that journalists may try and keep their sources secret. But not only is being a source rather different from publishing yourself, other journalists frequently speculate on the identity of sources. Or investigate the matter. Ask Deep Throat."
Here is a sample of the hostile reactions:

"I struggle to see how the discovery of the author (and later court ruling) was in the public interest, and not simply a 'scoop' for the newspaper. For me personally, this shows how out of touch The Times is with the ethos of web publishing. One less reader from here on out."
Posted by: Kevin

"I am extremely disappointed by your attitude to this, Danny. I realise you're supposed to toe the party line, but the Times' behaviour on this stinks, it really does. Legally I've no problem with the decision. Of course such information shouldn't be protected. But if you can't see that for the Times to drag itself through the gutter in this News of the World-type manner is bad for responsible journalism and the public interest, then you have become morally corrupted by your work. And that's a real shame."
Posted by: Heresiarch

"I don't think any blogger has a "right" to anonymity, and the journalist involved was perfectly entitled to try find out who the writer was. However, what I would take issue is publishing the result once he knew. Had he found it to be fake, or written by Iain Blair, then fair enough. Good scoop. But it wasn't. The "public interest" has not been served. The reverse, in fact, as the blog has been taken down."
Posted by: Peter Briffa

"NightJack relied on anonymity in order to provide what was acclaimed to be a very insightful and useful blog. The Times has stripped him of his ability to do so while providing nothing of interest to the public - he isn't Sir Ian Blair, is he? You've defended the Times' right to act as they did but, wisely, not their reasons, which I continue to consider pretty indefensible."
Posted by: Chris Clark

"I have no objection to the Times finding out his real identity - and thus establishing his bona fides - but revealing it is a different matter. How does it serve the public interest to reveal his identity? Now, not only have you lost a valuable source, but a valuable group of sources: which blogger is going to trust the Times again?"
Posted by: Quentin

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