Accuracy is not an aspiration for journalists and law bloggers. It is a requirement when reporting or commenting on serious issues.

Accuracy is not an aspiration for journalists and law bloggers.  It is a requirement when reporting or commenting on serious issues.

It was surprising, therefore, to read Alex Aldridge’s post in Legal Cheek  where he again singled out Ashley Connick for scrutiny in a post about training contracts…

Aldridge writes: “To date, the only example I know of a student landing a job through their blog is Ashley Connick, a GDL student who, after failing in previous application rounds, built a re-vamped CV around his online writing activities – and netted a TC at a magic circle law firm. Surely, though, at a time when law firms are anxious to improve their engagement with blogging and tweeting – and bring in recruits with expertise in this area – there’ll be more Connick-style successes in the future.”

Quite apart from the fact that is unlikely a magic circle firm would offer a training contract on the basis of blogging or tweeting, Alex Aldridge appears to have got his facts wrong – and despite requests from several tweeters, including me, he has not adjusted his blog post in the light of Ashley Connick’s robust denial of this on his own blog: Getting a Training Contract by Blogging: Mission Impossible.

Ashley Connick makes the point forcibly: “And as for the journalist in question: stop writing this nonsense. You have been told countless times by numerous people, and I am telling you again. Your words are false. Your ‘spin’ is incorrect. You clearly do not understand trainee recruitment. I am flattered that you think that my blog is worthy of a training contract, but you are the only one who believes this to be the case. I am not even the best exponent of this particular medium. When you write ridiculous paragraphs like this one (the one I quote above)…”

Alex Aldridge is a journalist.  He writes for The Guardian and others.  A recent piece confirms this ‘status’: Barrister fees spiral ever up as the economy trundles ever down.

I covered the initial singling out of Ashley Connick in September with a blog post:  Postcard from The Staterooms: #Aldridgegate edition….Have you been *Aldridged*? and some other b*ll*cks and was fairly critical of Aldridge’s beheaviour.  I even found a suitable quotation:

Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;
Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike.

“Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot” by Alexander Pope (1688–1744)

My question, this time, is straightforward – and addressed to Alex Aldridge - points put to Aldridge in a tweet yesterday, to which I have not had a reply:  Are you contesting the accuracy of Ashley Connick’s recollection of his discussions with you and his robust denial?  A second question: If not, then would it not be fair to adjust your post to reflect Connick’s denial?

It is, of course, unlikely that Ashley Connick will follow up with a “Chilling letter from Schillings”

And.. on the subject of accuracy – The Lord Chief Justice has told us that we may tweet away to our hearts content in court.  Well… not quite.  Journalists are allowed to tweet – but others must ask permission of the judge, an application which may be made through the court staff.

The Lord Chief Justice states in his guidance : “It is presumed that a representative of the media or a legal commentator using live, text-based communications from court does not pose a danger of interference to the proper administration of justice in the individual case. This is because the most obvious purpose of permitting the use of live, text-based communications would be to enable the media to produce fair and accurate reports of the proceedings. As such, a representative of the media or a legal commentator who wishes to use live, text-based communications from court may do so without making an application to the court.”

‘Legal commentators’ are included. Would this cover experienced lawbloggers – many of whom are practising lawyers?  On a reasonable construction this would seem to be the case.  The rationale behind the Lord Chief Justice ‘guidance’ is sensible as Joshua Rozenberg pointed out in The Guardian today – that journalists and legal commentators are more likely to know the rules for contempt of court and get their tweeting right.

9 thoughts on “Accuracy is not an aspiration for journalists and law bloggers. It is a requirement when reporting or commenting on serious issues.

  1. I think the two strands of this blog are connected.

    One of the benefits a journalist has over a blogger, tweeter, or independent ‘legal commentator’ is that of editorial control. Yes, bloggers often celebrate their freedom from the ‘system’ and bemoan the restrictions placed on journalists by the perceived editorial agenda of the publication they write for, but one thing the editorial system does offer is a second opinion.

    A good editor will question the writer and force them to rethink any points which may be problematic. This ‘safety net’ is what places *most* journalists above *most* independent writers when looking at who can be relied upon for accurate reporting.

    The case in point in is demonstrated in this blog. Alex Aldridge is a journalist, and he writes for the Guardian; hence in the eyes of the layperson, he is credible as a journalist. Yet freed from the editorial shackles of the Guardian, he is free to write articles such as the one about Ashley Connick quoted above, which contain inaccuracies any decent editor would have called into question.

  2. Any legal reporting, by whatever medium, should in my view be underpinned by three core qualities:

    1. Accuracy

    2. Precision in expression

    3. Consistence in presentation

    Without these it isn’t legal reportage, it’s fluff.

  3. Agreed Carrefax, but who is the judge of these criteria? When tweeting from court, a journalist will in the first instance answer to their publisher. An independent blogger/tweeter/commentator answers to no-one. They can publish as they wish. And my point is that in many cases, these two scenarios are one and the same.

    David Allen Green tweeted today to raise the question of whether this issue applies to Joshua Rozenberg or Nick Cohen posting to their own websites – I think the case of Aldridge above is particularly pertinent in this regard.

  4. For a lot of bloggers, accuracy comes a miserable second to sensationalist, headline grabbing blog posts.

    It’s all about the google juice, sadly.

    Thankfully, we’re not all like that. :-

  5. there is no special blogging rule book or code. If this were back in the day, I’d be printing off little pamphlets and handing them out on the village square or painting or any other form of expression of my angst.

    Law bloggers of course should hold themselves to a higher standard. Certainly, they are judged by a higher standard.

    All it takes is one f-up – just one, and one’s credibility is blown.

    I’m fine with that – as that is exactly what happens in practice.

    We’ve seen a few people with feet of clay recently.

    That’s a part of life – and the double-edged sword of blogging.

  6. Alex Aldridge often writes inaccurate stuff for the Guardian. I don’t understand why they keep asking him to write things; he always gets slated below the line by the more informed commenters.

  7. Accuracy is key. In particular lawyers should ensure the accuracy of their publications are all of a high standard, as they tend to be held at a higher regard. Sadly, not all bloggers are as accurate as necessary and consequently their credibility is weakened.

  8. Surely if it is not accurate, it should not be published? It jeopardises the credibility of the commentated and the commentator. It’s just not worth the risk if you know deep down the content is not accurate.
    Katie Leaver, LondonlovesJobs

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