You may remember that Evening Standard journalist Ellen Widdup is the one that managed to get a front page byline with her “Spy cameras in tins of beans” story last Tuesday (see previous posting). Now she has written to me asking me to delete that posting.
When I got her e-mail yesterday the immortal words of Dad’s Army’s Corporal Jones sprang to mind. The second and penultimate paragraphs are very funny. The middle three are the rambling self-justification. Here is what she said:
I am writing to you regarding to your blog entry (posted below):
The reason for my correspondance (sic) is that I resent your implication that I cannot do my job and the slur on my professionalism. Clearly you are entitled to voice your opionion (sic) on the content of the Evening Standard article but I do not believe this should extend to slating my abilities as a reporter.
You do not know the background to how I came across this story so perhaps it would be an idea to fill you in so you can make a more educated comment on the content of the piece. The story was originally in the Mail on Sunday (prior to its appearance in the Standard) and the paper quoted directly from your own council magazine which read “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.” It also said that a council spokeswoman (from your press office at Ealing) had confirmed that “envirocriminal” extended to people who fail to put their bin out on the right day.
I needed to confirm the facts of this story before we ran anything so I telephoned your press office and spoke to an officer* about the content of the Mail on Sunday piece and asked for clarification on the word “envirocriminal” and for more information on what the council had proposed. She said she would get back to me. I then called her on another two ocassions (sic) and each time she failed to respond to my questions or meet my deadlines.
I was therefore forced to find an alternative method of confirming or denying the substance of the Mail on Sunday article. I tried to call Will Brooks but there was no response so I went through the list of councillors sitting on the Transport and Environment Committee until one of them answered my phone calls. That happened to be Virenda (sic) Sharma. Mr Sharma confirmed the story was true and gave me all the background information I needed to write the story. I had no reason to doubt that what he was telling me was true. I may also point out at this point that, at no stage, has Mr Sharma, complained that he has been misquoted or denied what he told me on that day. With this knowledge, I hope you can no[w] (sic) vent your anger elsewhere. Perhaps you would like to criticise your own incompetant (sic) press office who fail to respond to press queries of an urgent nature? Or perhaps you should speak to Mr Sharma because clearly he has a different understanding of the meeting than you do?
Either way I ask you to remove this entry to your blog immediately. It constitutes a slanderous attack on my abilities as a reporter and if it is not removed, you will be hearing from my lawyers.
Please confirm you have received this email. I look forward to hearing from you.
I will be taking her statements apart later but I thought that some of the people who wasted a lot of time last week trying to damp down her inaccurate and silly story might enjoy her making a fool of herself. More later.
*Note I edited out the name of an officer here as I don’t want to involve one of Ealing’s employees in my spat with a journalist.