Here is my response to Ellen Widdup’s e-mail.
Widdup reckons that:
- I have implied she cannot do her job.
- I have questioned her professionalism.
- I have slated her abilities as a reporter.
She is right although maybe I would say she hasn’t done a very good job rather than she cannot do it! I called her story “ridiculous”. I reported that one of her statements was “utter garbage”. I questioned the standard of journalism and fact checking by all papers that covered the story. I referred to Widdup as a “so-called journalist”.
I am entitled to call her story ridiculous because it is very far from the truth as I shall demonstrate.
In her story she claimed: “Cameras will be installed around the borough before the change in collections from weekly to fortnightly.” In Ealing we had 10,274 people go to the trouble to complete a consultation questionnaire which asked people about 2 weekly collections. The response was so negative that on 12th February the council issued a press release that quoted council leader Jason Stacey as saying:
It is essential that when you run consultations that you listen to what people tell you. As a result, I am happy to confirm here that there will be no move to a fortnightly collection and we will add plastics to our household recycling service later in the year.
Widdup’s statement was utter garbage and she could have got her facts straight with a cursory look at recent Ealing press releases.
The germ of this story was the following quote from last month’s Around Ealing:
To catch vandals and envirocriminals, cameras disguised as anything from tin cans to house bricks will instantly email images to the council’s CCTV control centre.
The quote came from an article on page 9 that dealt exclusively with crime. To link this with domestic waste collection is to simply defy the truth.
The following statements from the Standard article were just plain wrong:
“Council war on residents who put out rubbish on wrong day”
“A London council is to use hidden cameras to catch residents who leave rubbish out on wrong day.”
The article mis-represents envirocriminals defining them as “those who leave out black bags when they should not or allow the contents of their bins to spill out on the pavement.”
Widdup was clearly impatient with the Ealing comms people last week. I am told that she was given a statement by them that stuck to the facts. These facts did not make much of a story so she kept chipping away in the hope that she could magic one out of thin air. Apparently she feels that Ealing Council is obliged to meet her deadlines and that if it tries to scotch her story by keeping schtumm then she is exonerated from her responsibility to check facts. She is not.
Widdup confirms that she did not talk to Will Brooks, portfolio holder for Environment and Transport. It is funny how she was able to quote him as saying: “anyone who broke the rules on collection would be considered to be a fly-tipper”. As far as I am aware Councillor Brooks has never said or written any such thing. Indeed he called the Standard’s news editor to clarify this so-called quote and they refused to take his call. Brooks has e-mailed the Standard twice and failed to get a response. I challenge the Standard to explain the provenance of this quote.
Widdup shows her ignorance of modern local government by misnaming Ealing’s Transport and Environment Scrutiny Panel a committee. If she had picked up on this subtle distinction she might have noticed that Councillor Vivendra Sharma is an opposition councillor and so perhaps not best placed to be a source for the purposes of fact checking. She claims that Sharma corroborated her story. In fact his quote does not. It is clear that he is merely commenting on the story that he has been given. He is quoted as saying:
I predict a lot of complaints about this method of catching litter louts. It is possible that many will question the motives of using CCTV and feel it is an infringement of privacy. Everyone realises that fly-tipping is an issue which needs dealing with and that putting your rubbish out early or leaving bags split open can encourage a rat problem, but I think there may be better ways of approaching it.
Judge for yourself.
Before I sign off I will just give Widdup a short lesson in defamation. Slander usually refers to a verbal defamation and libel is refers to written defamation. Nothing is defamation if it is true unless the facts are organised to give a misleading impression. I stand by what I say. It is true.