Thursday 1 July 2010

FBU spokesman fights tabloid fire with fire

The good thing about blogs is the way they give you many different angles on a story, not just from journalists but from those dealing with them or the people they are writing about.
Francis Beckett (pictured) is currently handling media relations for the Fire Brigades Union and on his blog gives his view of an encounter with a tabloid reporter.
Beckett writes: "A smooth-voiced young man from Metro called up tonight and reminded me of the misery of dealing with a young journalist who is scrabbling up the greasy tabloid ladder." 'What's the average pay for a firefighter?' he demanded. Something in his voice told me this wasn't a story about how little the men and women on whom our lives might one day depend are paid.
"So I asked what the story was. The answer, of course, was that the Taxpayers Alliance have issued a press release attacking union leaders who they consider well paid."
Beckett said he had already discussed the story with FBU general secretary Matt Wrack and had agreed there wasn't any hope of a fair hearing and "our best bet, we decided, was to brief full details, and not go on the attack."
The full details would have included that 30% of Wrack's pay goes into a fund which is used for trade union purposes and his pension payments are increased due to the fact that they follow those of fire fighters, whose pension reflects that they may retire at 50.
Beckett says: " I started my briefing. But the young chap from Metro wouldn't listen. He said he wasn't interested. I protested that he ought to be, if he was going to do the story properly and fairly."
"He said: 'If you're telling me that journalistically I ought to have this information, it's a waste of time because I don't need it.' So I gave him Matt Wrack's age (which he did want) and said there was no meaningful figure for the average wage for a firefighter (of interest to him only in the hope that it would make a dramatic contrast with what Matt gets) and he hung up."
The reporter probably thought the conversation ended there. But in the days of blogging it is no longer the reporter who always has the last word.

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