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FOIA Centre co-ordinator Mark Watts was today named as a candidate in the election to be the new editor of the Journalist magazine.
Members of the national union of journalists (NUJ), which publishes the magazine, will elect the editor to succeed Tim Gopsill, who is retiring after holding the post for 21 years.
Watts said: “I am standing on the basis of making several fundamental changes to the magazine, increasing its frequency; breaking more exclusive stories about the media industry; and launching a proper website.
“My plan is for the Journalist to be agenda-setting, as distinct from reviewing events. But I do want to maintain the strong features that Tim has already been running in the magazine.”
On the FOIA Centre’s future, Watts said: “What-ever the outcome of the election, clients of the FOIA Centre can be assured that it will continue to perform its vital service on their behalf to unlock information from public bodies. Clients can contact their usual FOIA consultant at the FOIA Centre to discuss any on-going or future work in the same way as previously.”
Watts is one of Britain’s foremost experts in the freedom of information act (FOIA) and other open-access laws, co-founding the FOIA Centre in 2001.
He is the only one of eight candidates shortlisted by the NUJ’s national executive council for the Journalist editorship with a strong background in investigative journalism, having spent many years working on several newspapers and television current-affairs programmes such as World in Action.
In his election address for his bid to be elected as editor of the Journalist, Watts writes: “I strongly believe in independent journalism, and that must apply to what is published in the Journalist. I would ensure that it keeps independent of the NUJ ‘leadership’ and serves journalists who belong to the NUJ.
“I believe that, like me, most NUJ members are less interested in the machinations of union politics than the enormous issues facing us, such as the devastation wreaked on our trade by savage cuts to resources by media groups, or the state’s attempts to stifle journalism, or the future direction of different parts of our industry. These are tumultuous times for journalism, and I want the Journalist to help journalists steer through them.”
In response to a short questionnaire put by the Journalist editorial board, Watts writes: “I plan regular ‘freelance showcases’ for reporters/writers, photographers, broadcast journalists, and to keep ‘Our Union Heroes’. The ‘showcases’ would give an overview of the featured journalists and their work. I would also run regular ‘showcases’ of investigative journalism from any sector.”
NUJ members wanting to provide feedback on Watts’s election campaign can contact him by sending an e-mail to the FOIA Centre enquiries desk with, “FAO Mark Watts”, in the subject line.
The other seven candidates shortlisted by the NUJ were named today as: Timothy Arnold, who is understood to be a freelance with broadcasting experience; Christine Buckley, former industrial editor of The Times; Michael William Cross, a freelance who writes for The Guardian; Frank Morgan, Daily Record sub-editor; Richard Simcox, “NUJ Left” candidate who edits another union magazine; Stephen David Tilley, Trinity Mirror content editor; and Steven Usher, Daily Star father-of-chapel.
Ballot papers in the election for the Journalist editorship were being mailed to NUJ members in early October, with the closing date for receipt of votes on November 6. The result is due to be announced later that day.
We at the FOIA Centre wish Tim all the best as he stands down from the ‘Journalist’ editorship, and we hope that he will still write for the magazine after he retires.