Saturday, 15 January 2011

A Week On The Beat

On the beatTHIS WEEK, and for the first time, I was able to devote myself full-time to the Canvey Beat. As it turned-out, I really needed a fortnight; but I decided to hand a piece off to the Echo so I could still begin a photo feature planned for Tuesday.

I spent the seven-days playing local reporter – putting together some island background and making some calls to develop several pieces on the local Canvey Island Independent Party (CIIP) that runs the Canvey Island Town Council.

I had not set myself a difficult task. Most of the questions I found myself asking were answered in my Canvey Enterprise folder – where I store all the emails sent to me along with timelines, background notes, photos, voice files and videos. There had been nothing in that location when I first started the Canvey Beat; but now it takes-up significant disk space.

It was the local Echo that actually directed the week for me, by criticising the Town Council over its management of Canvey Lake; but, as so often with the local rag, it failed to cover the issue in any depth. Their column was just the hook I needed to hang my week’s pieces from – and develop Friday’s political conclusion.

Many people think that journalists spend most of their time asking questions of those that appear in their articles; but that is not true. At least, it is not in my case. I reserve friendly questions for my sources; but actually avoid asking questions of any subject, especially politicians, until I can be pretty sure of what the answer is. In my experience, most people lie – especially politicians - and just reporting what people say is bad journalism. The trick is to undertake in-depth research to ask the questions, and confirm the answers, yourself - before testing your subject in an interview.

I rarely ask questions that I do not already know the answer to – and it seems that the CIIP have now worked that out for themselves.

Despite some heavily critical pieces: not one CIIP councillor – nor a single CIIP activist – used the readers’ forum to oppose anything I had written this week (unlike this time last year, when they were all over the old Canvey Beat Blog’s comment sections).

The CIIP launched an attack upon Echo readers in its comment section – and Tom Jea made a brief appearance there and on the Methane Mud and Memories Blog after I left a comment trying to draw the activists out. But, apart from visiting the Canvey Beat to read its articles, the CIIP had no comment.

This was a surreal week; but one in which Canvey Beat readers bounced back from the Christmas and New Year troughs to catch-up with the Blog’s recent coverage.

Whether CIIP candidates will actually contribute to the live political debates, planned for the Canvey Beat in April, still remains to be seen…

No comments:

Post a Comment