Media behaving badly

In her latest column about life on the Marlowe Road Estate, Michelle Edwards reacts to some unwanted media attention

I assume the Channel 4 journalist who recently got in touch with the Echo wanting to speak to me about my investigative pieces on Northwood Tower didn’t catch my column this past April. Had he done so, he’d have known about my irritation at questionable approaches by the media.

I picked up the reporter’s email while lounging in a shop, but before I even had a chance to respond, my mobile rang with an unknown number. As a rule, I don’t answer unknown or private numbers so left the call to go to voicemail. No message was left. Seconds later, a text appeared signed off by the same journalist.

Given that my number hadn’t been shared with him, I was pretty miffed. Just over two hours later, I was forwarded another email containing a message he posted on the Echo Facebook page. It was later established that the journalist acquired my personal details (including my home address) by using a search engine provided by Lexis Nexis, a database that uses the electoral roll in combination with publicly available data.

From the outside looking in, it’s easy to think I should be falling over myself to speak to the media. But my love of working in the media doesn’t extend across it. Channel 4 are the same parasites that drew huge ratings from feeding on the weak, the poor and the vulnerable in Benefits Street – a show looking at the lives of benefits claimants in Birmingham and Stockton-on-Tees.

According to a news report from the broadcaster itself, the first episode of Benefits Street triggered “police investigations, a flood of complaints, and a row over whether the participants were tricked”. An already misinformed public were largely receptive to the anti-social tenant, anti-welfare message put out by Channel 4, which still lingers to this day.

In contrast, ITV and the BBC behaved impeccably when they approached me. Both waited for me to get in touch and politely asked for my mobile after I rang from a blocked number.

My appearance on ITV News London was broadcast on 26th February. I appeared with Anna Minton, author of Big Capital: Who is London For? No-one from the council appeared on the show, preferring instead to hide behind a statement. More on that next month.