Tuesday, December 7, 2010...6:15 pm

When FOI requests are no substitute for real journalism

Jump to Comments

Here’s a great post on FleetStreetBlues about a Guardian story on the lack of ethnic minority representation at Oxford and Cambridge universities.

Alongside the reported difficulty of black and minority ethnic students to gain admission to Oxford and Cambridge, the Guardian reported: “The FOI data also shows that of more than 1,500 academic and lab staff at Cambridge, none are black.”

Really? The admirable team at FleetStreetBlues set to work to carry out a thorough investigation. One Google search session later and the dogged hacks unearthed details of a high-profile black academic.

This is interesting stuff. David Higgerson has been waving the flag of Freedom of Information journalism for a while, and it’s absolutely true that FOI requests have brought to light many valuable stories.

But, like any information, the duty of the journalist is to question what is served up to them, not simply to report it blindly. Regurgitating FOI results as news without examining the material is as remiss as printing a company press release or government statement without putting them under some kind of scrutiny.

And given that “scrutiny” these days can be as simple as a Google search, it’s a bit weak for a national newspaper not to do anything.

Still, that’s what bloggers are for, I suppose…

Leave a Reply