Ted Jeory: More journalists should probe local govt

Ted Jeory was recently shortlisted for the Paul Foot Award for his blog trialbyjeory.wordpress.com, which investigates allegations of corruption in the London borough of Tower Hamlets. He left the East London Advertiser in 2008 and currently works as home affairs editor for the Sunday Express.

Why did you decide to start the blog?

Before starting the blog, I had a column with the same name in the East London Advertiser covering the council.

When I left the East London  Advertiser in 2008 to go to the Sunday Express, it basically left a void.

People living in the area missed the column and so did some of the local MPs.

I still lived in the area and lots of things were going on that year, so I decided to start the blog.

In 2010 blogs were still more of a niche tool for discussion and it has worked very well as a medium for me.  

I developed a wider readership and it made sourcing stories easier through links and you can publish  documents to make them accessible to the public.

How did it feel to be nominated for the Paul Foot Award?

From my point of view, where I got to and the nomination is quite unbelievable, and I really hope that it gives encouragement to other local journalists to put in the time to do great journalism and not just hang up their notepad at the end of the day.

Journalism is a trade that doesn’t pay particularly well; it is something you do out of passion and the award shows that if you put in a little bit more, you get out more.

Who reads your blog?

A lot of local politicians read it, locals, a lot of councillors and quite a few other journalists as well. Some Cabinet ministers even follow it, which is nice to know.

How did your story on corruption in Tower Hamlets come about?

I had to give a few specific examples to enter for the award but the blog should be seen in its entirety. As for the investigations into the wrongdoings of local government, I approach the stories just like any journalist really: looking out for something unusual, looking at the council cabinet papers and getting tip-offs.

I also often dig into various data files published by the council or I issue Freedom of Information Act requests.

The accountancy skills I gained in my previous career are extremely useful for this

What motivates you to write on the blog in your spare time?

I don’t make any money off the blog and it has to be free to maintain its independence. I think that journalism is a really valuable skill and I will apply it whenever I can.

Do you think that blogs could act as a substitute to some aspects local journalism?

I think so and in some cases they already do. The decline in local journalism is really dreadful because if there is less of it, there will be less scrutiny and more corruption in local government.

Local government could just get away with wasting public if no one is there to hold them to account.

Some of the stuff I exposed, like the Speaker who claimed £120 for a taxi is really important.

If the blog and stories in the Tower Hamlet could help then this is really good. I wish more top journalists would do what I do and probe local government.

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