Ruling shows traditional methods are often best

The first rule of journalism has to be look after your contacts. Make sure you get a name and number for every person you speak to on the phone and out and about, and meticulously keep those details because you never know when you might need them.

As much as cuttings, contacts are a journalist’s lifeblood – so this week’s High Court ruling in the case of Penwell Publishing versus Junior Isles was particularly worrying.

The highly complex and lengthy judgment broadly states that contacts lists – or databases, to use official jargon – compiled on work computers are the property of your employer.

Journalism has never been the most stable of jobs. With people often changing employers every few years, the thought of abandoning hard-earned contacts lists each time you move on is an alarming one.

The moral of the story seems to be that some old-fashioned journalistic skills won’t die out. Just as shorthand will always be better than a tape recorder, it seems electronic databases are no substitute for an old-fashioned contacts book which can shoved in your pocket if it looks like you are going to be shoved out of door.



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