An FOI to surprise even the most hardened journalist

I was in a meeting yesterday and the subject of whether a journalist should, just by being a journalist, expected to deal with things they might find offensive.

The context was this: If we ask a journalist to moderate comments left on a website or blog, should the journalist be surprised if they have to deal with offensive material?

To me, it feels like just another part of the job – a job which can also include being sent on a death knock (you can’t guarantee the response you’ll get) or going to court (you have no idea what material might be presented during a hearing).

Likewise, who knows what might appear in your email inbox. At one newspaper I worked on, we certainly hadn’t had ‘what to do if the newsdesk secretary thinks she has opened an envelope with anthrax in it’ training session at the height of the post 9/11 terror alerts. Fortunately, they turned out to be crushed-up love hearts sweets which a smitten teenager had sent to his girlfriend in the advertising derpartment without reckoning in the impact of passing through the postal system.

Anyway, the reason for bringing all of this up is because it reminded me of an FOI request David MacLean, the political correspondent at the Leicester Mercury, spotted posted on his blog before Christmas.

I think it’s safe to say that while journalists can always expect the unexpected, there can’t be many FOI officers who expect this sort of FOI request. (Note, if you’re likely to be offended by the word gloryhole I suggest you don’t click on the link).

But at least the FOI officer delivered an answer.


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