19 November 2009 7:32 PM

Oliver Kamm and Nightjack

Oliver Kamm is unhappy at my criticism this week of The Times' decision to 'out' Nightjack.

New readers can see my original post HERE and Kamm's response HERE.

Now as it happens, I like Kamm's blog (as I do his doppelkammer John Rentoul) and so I was among the first to read his counterblast.

But The Times' man is just plain wrong about this one. And it's clear he hadn't really read much Nightjack.

He argues that Richard Horton (the copper behind Nightjack) breached the "ethos of confidentiality and political neutrality" required of a public servant.

First, there is absolutely no evidence that anything Nightjack wrote breached anyone's confidentiality. He was very careful not to identify the people he was writing about, not least (d'oh!) because that would give away his own identity.

Second, he didn't breach any political neutrality guidelines - he mainly offered his opinion on public policy. I would challenge anyone to say whether they thought he was a Tory, Lib Dem or Labour (or UKIP) voter from anything he wrote.

Third, Kamm says he sought to protect his own anonymity purely for "his own convenience". Not exactly. He wanted to protect a body of work that in a small way offered an insight into the life of a police officer.

Fourth, what iota of public interest was actually served in 'out' Nightjack? None. It was a trivial desire to expose for exposures sake. I know newspapers instinctively loathe injunctions (so do I), but cool heads would have realised fighting this was not worth the candle.

Fifth, on Kamm's Law, every civil servant, every public servant who has leaked anything to a newspaper would be ripe for exposure (and thankfully they still exist) those same newspapers. Bizarre.

Yet what really struck me was the glaring, internal contradiction in Kamm's piece.

He says:

"The first I knew of NightJack's legal case was when I read about it in this newspaper. To this day, I have spoken to literally nobody at The Times about the case, and am giving a personal and disinterested view."

So he admits he knows nothing about the details of exactly how Nightjack was exposed by The Times reporter.

But then Kamm goes on to state as fact that the "reporter had discovered the identity of the police blogger (Richard Horton), through public sources and not by subterfuge or any invasion of privacy". All I will say on that subject is: Hmmm.

Finally, he claims that "Waugh retails uncritically the complaint of the freemasonry of bloggers, who assume that the constraints that we journalists observe ought not to apply to them".

I am not part of any freemasonry and am certainly not uncritical of the blogosphere. One of the points of my post was a plea for more civility, after all. I also believe that all bloggers should adhere to the laws of libel and some other constraints we hacks have to deal with. Yet I would also point out where bloggers frequently outscore the MSM - on attributiton of their sources in links - and interactivity with their readers.

I'll keep on reading the Kamm blog. But will never accept The Times' actions on this one. Maybe our difference of opinion stems from this simple fact: I'm a reporter (who relies on protecting sources) and he's not.

UPDATE: Graeme Archer over at ConHome wrote an excellent piece in the wake of the Times' actions. Read it HERE.


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Pam Nash

The outing of Nightjack is a pus-filled wound, that will never heal, on the face of The Times.

I believe, and no-one will convince me otherwise, that they outed Nightjack for no other reason than 'they could'. Almost trying to prove that the MSM are big and strong and will crush Little Brother (bloggers) if Little Brother starts to grow-up. More balanced hacks can see that the 2 mediums can work in a complementary way - but, of course, the Times is best seen as an extension of the characteristics of it's owner, the Antipodean bully Rupert Murdoch.

Bring on the day when Rupe hides behind his paywall and starts charging for content; his organisation has no understanding of new media habits and will wither and die. The Times have already put sneaky measures in place by ensuring that, every time you click through to a story via The Times RSS news feed, you are taking to an advert page first. Solution? Do as I did and delete the RSS.

Frugal Dougal

Hear hear on the last sentence. That one goes for bloggers as well, as you have demonstrated.

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