Curly's Corner Shop, the blog!

South Shields premier political blog

Night Jack and Foster

with 10 comments

What was Foster’s motivation in exposing Night Jack?

It is not the job of a journalist to act as a detective or police informer.

“We can’t serve the public interest if our role is confused with that of the police.”

NUJ deputy general secretary Michelle Stanistreet here

Patrick Foster writing in The Times today (he’s the young journalist who “outed” Night Jack), says

“His superiors are now aware of further allegations that he was also using the blog to disclose information gained during his investigations.”

Well done Patrick, ignore the advice of one of your union leaders, simply to track down and name a police blogger, a process which must have consumed some time and money by your newspaper. The content of Night Jack’s blog was so well written and struck a chord with so many that it became a literary threat to some journalists, he won the Orwell Prize this year, yet Foster gets a bee in his bonnet about disclosure of information which presumably only a court reporter ought to disclose.  Let us remember that the content of Night Jack’s blog was quite heavily disguised to the point that it required many hours of journalistic detective work to discover the one or two transgressions that Horton made, and those stories that he wrote would presumably have appeared in his local newspapers penned by journalists in any case, the casual blog reader would have regarded them as almost fictional and certainly would not have been interested in discovering the identity of the blog author. Additionally the advice given by Night Jack for ealing with the police is no different to that dispensed by any decent solicitor.

Lancashire Police Force took such a serious view of Horton’s blogging that they have merely slapped his wrist with a written warning, so exactly what was Foster’s point in exposing his name and having him photographed?

Was Foster trying to provoke a fight between the “new media” and the old, and were his actions some sort of misguided attempt to protect the fortress of expensively trained journalists against a growing trend of citizen writers? Blogosphere reactions have been largely critical of the editorial judgement of The Times in seeking to expose the actions of Det. Con. Horton:

  • The Libertarian Alliance Blog – is very angry and sees this as a plain old vs new fight.
  • The Peoples Republic of Mortimer – Not Orwell himself could have dreamt of such a shitty betrayal of human decency, on the part of both judge and journalist.
  • Heresy Corner –  Important stories about official or commercial incompetence, bad practice – even illegality – will go untold because insiders will no longer feel safe to blog anonymously.
  • Iain Dalevomit inducing article
  • Next Left – newspaper action mean spirited, disproportionate and at odds with championing free speech online
  • Pickled Politics – odd idea that it was in the public interest to know as much as possible about a blogger
  • Chicken Yoghurt – mankini of hypocrisy (an excellent post)
  • Gawker – a ridiculous post supporting the ruling, but then goes on to contradict by saying “Indeed, anonymity is a crucial component of good reporting”
  • The Right Student – For what reason did they do this? I don’t even know. will never buy a copy of The Times again
  • My Doubts – You have thrown away everything that makes you a serious newspaper
  • Old Holborn – threatens to expose Foster

We ought to bear in mind that the issues of anonymity and the motive of pursuing the story should be totally separated, I have no real issue with the judgement, even though it will please journalists most, but I do have a big issue with Patrick Foster’s decision to pursue this story with a determination to expose Night Jack. Just what have the public or News International gained by this story, and why was Foster so interested in a few tales on a crime blog that gained readers at a phenomenal rate? An anonymous commentor on one of the above blogs just accuses Foster of being an attention seeking little twat, and  points to this incident in 2004 when he was suspended from Oxford University for hacking into computers.

There is no mention in The Times this morning about why they ran this story, or what they thought the public interest was, or should be, about the Night Jack blog, I’m sure there are many of us out here would love to know what Foster’s interest in the matter was and what motivated him to go after Horton like a dog at a bone.

The end result of his investigations will remain unclear for now, Horton hangs on to his job, perhaps thinks of resigning as the book deals and film scripts pour in, and Foster sees his own star rise at News International by claiming the scalp of a detective who had a skill with words, whistle blowers may well think twice about writing blogs or blowing whistles, police may think twice about speaking to reporters (particularly if they have a News International ID card, all other journalists who contact bloggers may be viewed with suspicion, and a nasty taste is left in a few mouths.

Some are saying that it has marked a sad day for journalism and reflect upon the many hundreds of unattributed quotes from spin doctors, politicians, civil servants, and aides that fill the pages of our newspapers, if these people were “outed” in the same manner would there be much left to print? Others point to the legal battles being fought by journalists to protect the identities of their sources in major stories, I have a feeling that someone, somewhere has been tickling the needle of Fleet Street’s moral compass with a large magnet, or perhaps they have bought the Downing Street model.

Update

Labour MP Tom Harris wades in with this nice little piece arguing that we sometimes have a right to anonymity:

We all have the right to anonymity in certain circumstances. NightJack didn’t defame anyone, he didn’t compromise any of his investigations. There was no public interest in his true identity being revealed. I would argue the reverse, in fact.

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Written by curly

June 17, 2009 at 12:35 pm

10 Responses

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  1. Heh. Sadly, I get the impression it’s nothing more complicated than Foster being a bit of a tosser who makes himself feel important by embarrassing others. A rather small person, perhaps.

    Alix

    June 17, 2009 at 12:55 pm

  2. I doubt Foster was anything more than a wind-up doll, doing the story that was put in front of him with all the smug self-righteousness all young journalists exhibit when they’re still new enough at the job to believe everything they were taught in training, and inexperienced enough to fail to spot how essential concepts like the public right to know get warped and twisted by their newsdesk. (Trust me, I’ve been there.)

    Andy

    June 17, 2009 at 1:28 pm

  3. […] June, 2009 · 5 Comments UPDATE1:- Curly’s Corner Shop has done a masterful roundup of blogosphere reactions to Patrick Foster’s “outing” of poor old hard-writing Nightjack – whose […]

  4. I think Andy’s got it. Perhaps Foster is more intelligent that this story makes out: he’s been to Oxford for Christ’s sake so he can’t be totally without functional brain cells.

    Perhaps he also was not in a position tor efuse the suggested story – probably pedalled by a news-sub-editor not exactly unfriendly to GramscoFabiaNazis.

    David Davis

    June 17, 2009 at 2:59 pm

  5. “about disclosure of information which presumably only a court reporter ought to disclose.”

    Depends on the time frame – were they before or after the case went to court? If after, that’s fine – if before…

    Personally I think the Times have acted unwisely, but Nightjack must have known that exposure was a risk – as it is for any anonymous blogger (such as me). Although as you say, why Foster was so anxious to do this piece might bear thinking about.

    The Half-Blood Welshman

    June 17, 2009 at 3:08 pm

  6. […] Curly’s corner shop also has good round up […]

  7. please someone give a weblink of Nightjacks cached work, so sorry I din t copy it and now I d upload it. Spent 2 hours trying to find stuff got thishttp://www.bluemoon-mcfc.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=127470 get your complaint in first the great piece about how normal Joe should deal with the woodentops
    come on lets do these bastards down and republish nightjack for all

    vic

    June 18, 2009 at 8:41 am

  8. I read somewhere that the content of Night Jack’s blog was so well written and struck a chord with so many that it became a literary threat to some journalists!

    But I don’t understand how do they get to know that such a blog exists. I mean did it become so popular in such little time that it really mattered for the cops?

    Scam News Alerts

    August 28, 2009 at 1:16 am

  9. […] Night Jack and Foster « Curly’s Corner Shop, the blog!; This website is the electronic version of a document produced by Jack Foster that details his experiences over a 42-year career in law enforcement. […]

  10. Well it seems that Foster hacked into Nightjack’s email system in order to identify him and then invented his ‘investigative efforts having already discovered Nightjack’s identity. Surely he will now have to face a perjury charge, assuming this is all coroborrated.

    Silican

    January 18, 2012 at 11:56 pm


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