The foot in mouth curse strikes again

By Conservative Party Conference on Oct 4, 10 04:02 PM in

Alun Thorne writes.....Reporting on the utterances of Mike Whitby can be something of minefield. So eager is he to push his positive messages about Birmingham that his natural ebulliance often gets the better of him and he ends up saying things he shouldn't. Today provided another squeeky bum moment for those tasked with trying to keep him in check.

In Mike's defence, he is not alone is this habit - just last week the council was forced into a swift retreat after claims were made in a cabinet meeting about UK Athletics and its intentions for Birmingham which were at best still under discussion and at worst just plain wrong. Today's small mishap was at a lunch at Hotel du Vin hosted by TheCityUK looking at how financial services in the regions can help drive the economy. Now it should be stated that having come in for some flack in recent weeks from several quarters about giving the council a fair crack of the whip, I announced to the organiser at the beginning of the event that I intended to write a story from the event if all present were in agreement and that should any comments be made that were not to be included then a simple "off the record" before hand would be sufficient for me to scrub from my notebook. All agreed and we proceeded into a lively debate led by the the leader of the council. He then went on to laud (again) an inward investment success of the last few years but added some new facts that I had certainly not heard previously and thought would make quite a tale. However, such was the maginitude of the story that alarm bells were already ringing and by the time I got back to the office there was already a message waiting for me explaining that if I would be so kind, those comments were not for public consumption. As I said, a minefield.


Richard said:

I don't follow. An 'off the record' signal beforehand was agreed and none was given.

You can't make things 'off the record' after the event. Your duty is to your readers and your employer, not to the BCC Press Office or to MW.

Terence Paget said:

Totally agree with you, Richard. Whitby has demonstrated time and time again that his interests are self-acclaim and self-aggrandizement, not Birmingham. For him, Birmingham is just the means to an end.

Alun Thorne said:

Gentlemen, thanks for the comments and I agree with you both to a point. However, there is always a balance to be struck between securing a story and the consequences of one's methods in achieving that end. There is certainly nothing preventing me attempting to stand the story up from a different source which is precisely what I intend to do.

Richard said:

That's fine but your blog would have been enhanced (as would your reply) by an explanation as to why you felt, in this instance, censorship was preferable to openness. As to looking for different sources you are still making use of what is now 'off the record' information so I can't see any ethical difference.

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