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When’s A Journalist Not A Journalist?

07 Aug

Well the answer to my rather tongue-in-cheek question, is, according to wag food when a journalist writes a blog. Wag are totally ignoring the fact that I have been editing and publishing Welsh Country magazine (WCM) for nearly ten years. But why are wag food trying to brush WCM aside?

Welsh Country is the only national magazine in Wales. WCM is the only title to dedicate pages and pages to Welsh food and drink every issue and support its Best Of Welsh & Border producers (BOW) to the hilt. We started in our early days with a Buy Local – Stay Local campaign. We’ve worked tirelessly way before others tried to get on the local food band wagon, but local food is our passion and we’ve stuck with it with great results.

So back to journalism. Wag recently told me: Given your extensive ongoing correspondence with us, principally via our Press Office, and your active involvement as a stakeholder in the recent consultation on our new Food and Drink Action Plan, we have reviewed our communications with you to ensure we are offering the most appropriate level of service. Which has been followed by wag stating: it’s now wag’s intention to treat me as part of the blogging community rather than as a journalist (in the commonly understood sense of the term). 

So in one wag breath, I’m a stakeholder because of my active involvement in the Food Action Plan, but then not invited to the launch. It seems in wag’s world, I’m an active stakeholder when it suits wag but now just a blogger because that too is what wag have decided.

Under the new food regime I was told I could no longer ask questions of the wag food department, I’d to use the press office. Now I’ve been told by wag I cannot ask questions of the press office because I’m taking up too much of their time! To prove their point I’ve now had three Freedom Of Information questions returned unanswered because my requests have been deemed ‘vexatious’

Under Section 14(1) of the Freedom Of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) and they are refused on that basis. Section 14(1) states: Section 1(1) does not oblige a public authority to comply with a request for information if the request is vexatious. “Section 14(1) is designed to protect public authorities by allowing them to refuse any requests which have the potential to cause a disproportionate or unjustified level of disruption, irritation or distress”

Although wag inform me that ‘vexatious’ is not defined within the FOIA, they then kindly drew my attention to the Information Commissioner vs. Devon County Council & Dransfield [20120 UKUT 440 (AAC), (28 January 2013).

Then I’m told: Over the course of the FOI requests received from you dating back to April 2011, it has become increasingly clear that you are seeking information in order to cause disruption to Welsh Government, or perhaps in an attempt to force a change in our advertising policy. It is clear from our records that your campaign of FOI requests followed the Welsh Government’s decision in 2010 not to advertise in your magazine.

It’s total nonsense to charge me with trying to change wag’s advertising policy. Wag know without a doubt that they  can and they will advertise in whatever media they wish. Me change their mind? That’s nearly funny. I’m just stating on welshfoodbites how things are in the food industry as I see it and also from feedback from our BOW producers. Welshfoodbites wasn’t there when we were working with wag food, because apart from advertising with us we were allowed to talk with ‘them’. In fact I organised a meeting with the then Rural Minister Elin Jones and the then Head Of Food. The meeting was for our BOW producers and undertaken at our cost and arranged by WCM.  At that stage I also had regular meetings with Elin Jones to update and bring to her attention issues that had been raised with WCM. If wag food can understand that, they will then comprehend that there was no need for any FOIs then, because WCM could talk to the food department and the Minister – it’s called communication and I lost count of the number of times I’ve suggested wag food should try communicating.  We were supporting wag food because they were supporting WCM – it was that simple.

The editorial policy of Welsh Country magazine (WCM) is that WCM promises to support our advertisers, apart from their advertisement. Wag when they were working with us, they knew this, but that is now forgotten. Our additional support includes editorial in the magazine, space permitting, news and press releases put up on welshcountry.co.uk, no limit there of course, plus nowadays social media too. That is backed up with our assurance that if we can help with any queries that producers do not wish to put to wag food themselves in case of repercussions, then I’ll do my best to help. If that means FOIs, then they will be sent through and published on welshfoodbites. FOI questions were asked because I and others required answers, it’s sad that wag cannot take that on board.

The Welsh Government says it’s transparent, but that’s not my experience, instead it seems like more government lip-service. To be accused of wasting wag’s time is somewhat funny as they then took the time and trouble to send me a full, detailed list of all the FOIs I have asked. Now why would such a busy government go to that trouble? Would wag not have the sense to understand that I have kept every single item of correspondence, including FOIs that I have sent through? I’m sure it makes sense to civil servants but it certainly doesn’t to me. I’ve also been challenged by wag saying that:

When you receive answers to your questions you have frequently issued supplementary questions immediately.

I hope that only a few of you might think it inconsiderate of me in having the audacity to go back to the FOI to ask further questions. But sure many will realise that my job as a journalist is to ask questions and to continue to do so until they are answered in full. How brief would Jeremy Paxman’s TV programme have been if he’d only been allowed to ask a politician just one or two questions!!!

I am then told that the: FOI Act is being used by you as a means to overcome the perceived problem of Welsh Government Press Office not corresponding with you in the manner that you deem appropriate, even though you have stated that none of our responses will end up in your magazine.  There seems to be some expectation on your part that Welsh Government’s communication with you should be over and above that when we engage with regular media outlets.

Wrong again wag. It was you that told me I could only ask questions through the press office. Whenever the press office then chose to answer my questions was down to them – I was working to their timescale. I have stated FOIs will no appear in WCM, that’s correct. Though as far as I’m aware no FOI questioner has to state what will happen to the response they get. I’m sure that not many of our WCM readers would have been impressed if I’d published some of the FOI answers. A magazine should be interesting reading, it’s not a newspaper. The purpose of our 10 food pages is to encourage our readers to support Welsh food and drink, not to highlight what I perceive as issues in the food department. Do wag food really want that published? I have never asked or expected wag communication over and above other media outlets. Actually I’m quite pleased to get questions answered. Readers might not be aware that the FOI Act requires that FOI questions must be answered within 20 working days so at least I know when I send one through the timescale that it will take.

I haven’t a personal grudge with wag food. This isn’t about personalities this is about helping our producers and promoting Welsh food and drink. I am though in constant contact with our Best Of Welsh & Border producers and some have grave concerns about the food department, they want to make sure that there isn’t a total disregard for the value of taxpayers’ money, whether that comes from Wales or Europe. Micro producers want to have a voice, in that department and in wag itself. Perhaps I should apologise for helping our producers. Perhaps I should apologise for caring passionately about Welsh food and drink, but perhaps not…………

Your requests therefore seek information for which there appears to be little or no public interest; demonstrate unreasonable persistence and intransigence;

I cannot understand this at all. Wag seeming to prefer having lots of the ‘same’ FOIs go through – that apparently that would show public interest. Well guys that could easily be arranged – but once again you are missing the point – people involved in our food industry want it to succeed, of course they do, they want wag food to work with them, they want wag food to actually understand the problems that they are facing on a daily basis. They want to be able to trust the food department. If they did trust wag food, would they come to me with their food issues? No they wouldn’t, they go straight to the decision makers. Why would the public send any FOIs through about Welsh food and drink? Are they really that interested enough to go to the hassle of doing an FOI? Surely not.     

I was told on 3rd June: Accordingly, if you require information from us in the future, or you wish to contribute comments as to how we might improve our services, please could I ask you to write directly to our public mailbox at:

FreedomOfInformationOfficer@wales.gsi.gov.uk

Sending all queries to this mailbox will help ensure that they can be dealt with promptly and be routed swiftly to the most appropriate part of Welsh Government.  In the event that you write to officials directly, we will ask that they simply forward your emails to that central address, thereby allowing us to address the points you raise in correspondence both efficiently and effectively.

Well obeying further wag orders, I did just that, the very same day and guess what? I’m still waiting for my response!! So that’s wag’s version of dealing promptly, efficiently and effectively. Could you run a business like that? No of course not, but aren’t they lucky they don’t have too?

Sure this part will raise a smile with some of you: our Department certainly does want to hear from producers, consumers and others connected with the food sector. We encourage feedback and welcome constructive opinion so that we can improve our services to benefit Welsh businesses and consumers alike.

More wag lip-service? Welcome constructive opinion? Again that’s not my experience, but then I’m an editor, publisher and blogger so my constructive opinion is seemingly not required and certainly not respected. Maybe yours will be!

Of course the letter from wag was very long and I’ve only copied out parts in case you got too bored. But before this letter was received, Ian noticed that on one Monday, viewing figures were exceptionally high, and I mean exceptionally high on welshfoodbites. It makes sense now as wag were obviously all over welshfoodbites like a rash, copying out so many sections to send back to me. I can only assume that made them feel better and didn’t waste too much of their time.

Obviously some of you will have little interest in this post, but for those who been quizzing me about FOIs and wag food, wanting to know what is going on with them, now you know, they are not talking to me. I’m not even receiving wag food press releases. If I want to see those I’ve to view them on their website! But it’s easier to say through welshfoodbites  that this is the situation we are now in. Having said that, please do email any queries through and I’ll talk to people about them that will listen to me……..

 
 

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  1. bow

    August 8, 2014 at 8:31 am

    You’re a journalist and a food hero in my book too – your award says that. I’m feeling bad after reading this because I was one who asked you to do an foi for me. I’d no idea this lot would now use that to continue bullying you for speaking up and speaking the truth. They say they want constructive opinion, what rot. That’s how you’ve always behaved, trying to help whether it’s producers, festivals or markets, there to help that’s you and the team. You’ve been honest and constructive since you started the magazine and do they like you doing that? No they don’t. As you say, more lip service, that’s all we get from politicians and civil servants.
    I’m disgusted reading through this. You are fighting for for bow producers and always have done. The old regime didn’t like you giving constructive opinion and the new regime doesn’t like it either.
    I missed your meeting years ago with Ms Jones but heard that it was well worth it. You’d no reason to do that meeting but wag couldn’t be bothered.
    From the start of the magazine, producers warned you wag would not like it, they’ve always bullied us, just I did not expect them to bully you, what are they trying to achieve? Isn’t it easier to work with you rather than this ridiculous waste of time?
    This makes no sense to me. They should have been listening and learning from you and working together. You are going over the same problems every year. I don’t think arrogant people can listen and learn, it’s not in their make-up, they believe they are right, even when they are wrong. Bullying is wrong and this on going bullying. You are like a whistle blower and this is how you are treated.
    No-one would put their time and hard work into food that you and the team do if you didn’t care about Welsh food. There’d be no point.

    Don’t shoot the messenger wag, she’s trying to help you but you can’t see it.

    You’ve tried for years and hit the wag brick wall – it’s time we had a union.

     
  2. producer

    August 8, 2014 at 9:45 am

    You’re not a journalist is utter tosh. What’s nearer the truth is that they are not doing a good job with food, but still expect us to pay them. We’ve not got a fair deal, but seems we live in a dictatorship. Wag have never wanted our opinions, whether we are having a rant or they are constructive. It’s just more wag words.
    I’ve never heard such childish nonsense.
    Without this site we’d have no idea at all what is happening in food, but with a department such as we’ve got, never talking to us this site is important.
    If you weren’t valued in Welsh food we’d not have put you forward for Countryside Alliance. Bet wag food didn’t send their congratulations

     
  3. cheeseman

    August 8, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    It’s tough to beat bullies and certainly government ones
    I hate this has happened, it fills me with disgust
    We disliked the old lot but now the new regime doesn’t get that all you have been doing for years is trying to help, trying to make our lives easier. How can that be wrong? It wouldn’t be necessary if this department understood our industry from the big boys to the micro producers.

     
  4. Producer

    August 11, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    I cannot believe or understand any of this.
    I can’t believe how lucky we are that Wales has a top quality magazine that is so pro Welsh food and drink, so supportive of producers and festivals. The positive message they are sending out is just what Wales needs. Any other country or county would be suitably impressed with what these guys do, but not the Welsh government. What planet are they on? They need a reality check, it’s unbelievable, totally unbelievable their attitude and arrogance knows no bounds.
    Why wag continue to keep knocking these guys is ridiculous and senseless to us on the outside.
    I’m at a loss, I so am.

     
  5. Producer 2

    August 11, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    This is not funny.
    Not a journalist, who are you lot trying to fool? not us in the industry I can vouch for that.
    And just who do you think you are?
    In case you are interested, which is not likely, bullies aren’t usually bothered about anyone else, I and many producers don’t believe the wag food team are civil or our servants, so where does that leave us?
    Grow up for goodness sake and work out the benefits of working together to help welsh food and drink. This is our industry but you continue to ruin it.

     
  6. JamMam

    August 11, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    Waste no more time and effort on this rude lot, I agree with other comments left and the one that said let’s get a union going. They can’t ignore that.
    I’m appalled by all this.
    What they are doing to you is trying to shoot the messenger because they are too stupid to know and understand how we feel about them.
    A friend and fellow producer was at RWAS in food hall and was shocked that boss of new regime didn’t go around all stands and introduce himself to everyone, why not Kath? Were they not worthy enough to be introduced?

     
  7. Striker

    August 13, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    Food department scores another own goal and a red card for rudeness. Not a journalist well as has been said your team are not civil or our servants.
    I don’t know how you dare try and shoot the messenger, because many times that is what Kath is doing, trying to sort out problems for us.
    I’ve no confidence in this department to contact them myself. They don’t talk to us about anything and don’t encourage us to approach them. Who’s in that department for starters? Who does what?
    Prime example, new head of food who did not do a tour of all stands in food hall, introducing himself. Kath did. Ian did. I’m told as well that new head of food didn’t visit the farmers’ market either. Kath did. Ian did. Seems the new guy is too good for the likes of us. No change there for us and no hope for us either.
    Now which two people are more in touch with producers? Which two people do we trust?
    But it doesn’t matter to wag food they can carry on being rude, no-one matters but them.
    I would like a union.

     
  8. Best of welsh

    August 13, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    Wag can bully and rant and rave all they wish but they will not destroy or damage the high esteem in which you and your team are held in the Welsh world of food. In fact the longer this goes on the more childish I feel they are.
    You’ve been awarded a Rural Hero Award by us producers but we wouldn’t award wag the time of day.
    I’m appalled reading this.

     
  9. Food producer

    August 14, 2014 at 8:29 am

    Because wag has decided in its wisdom that it doesn’t want to support food producers by supporting welsh country magazine does not mean that Kath is not an editor and a journalist. That cannot and does not make sense in the real world that we trade in. That’s rubbish. Who are a bunch of civil servants to decide your job role and function? But they enjoy their power and enjoy bullying which I think they are doing. It’s cowardly and so much for the new regime that you’d high hopes for.
    I’m smiling when I have to agree with other comment. In my limited experience with food dept I’ve not found them to be my servants and not civil either, quite the opposite. Pity we don’t elect them.

     
  10. food producer

    August 15, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    Civil servants should not bully there role is to help and assist
    I told my kids that bullying is used by cowards

     
  11. BOW producer

    August 15, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Hope the new minister is aware that this journalist is being treated in such a rude and shabby manner
    it’s an utter disgrace and agree with other comments left rudeness and arrogance sum them up.

     
  12. producer

    August 18, 2014 at 10:00 am

    I’ve never heard such tosh, twaddle, total and utter rot, even from the food department who are experts in such matters.
    Their rudeness and arrogance it totally and utterly mind blowing.
    The new lot have been in place for over 12 months and who was is said couldn’t get worse? Kath I think you were one of those!
    I’m staggered reading this you deserve better than being treated like this
    I’m not clued up on PR really but it’s hard to understand why they can’t, or wont work with the only food magazine Wales has, maybe my common sense is the problem.

     
  13. Foodie2

    August 18, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    Other journalists write blogs. I know that many jounalists initiate FOI in the course of their work, after all this is supposed to be a “transparent” government, so by saying that they will not see you as a journalist is just perverse. They also publish the results of the FOI so I see no reason why they have tied your hands like this.

    Follow up questions are expected and this is made clear on their website. Asking awkward questions is what the FOI is all about! I would take this up with the FOI commissioner.

    WAG are missing the point, as usual. You are pointing out the obvious for us smaller producers, but we are just an inconvenience to WAG. Maybe if we all downed tools and started claiming the dole, they would take notice!

    There is a way round this of course. BOW producers take it in turns to ask for a FOI….

     
  14. Cheeseman

    August 18, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    I agree with foodie 2 – thank goodness I don’t work for the food department I’d be ashamed to admit that to anyone.
    All fois are published on wag’s website. This is just their pathetic attempt to make Kath’s life even more difficult as they carry on bullying her.
    She’s a journalist doing her job, helping their best of welsh food producers but they wish to shoot the messenger, rather than get their damaged and ineffective department in order.
    They’re sad, faceless cowards.
    Their producers should accept that Kath helping them has caused this latest temper tantrum from wag, but that doesn’t excuse wags’ on going bullying. If wag didn’t also bully producers they’d be brave enough to talk to wag themselves, but wag aren’t bright enough to accept that this is what’s happened.

    Thanks goodness we got her a hero award this year, because my goodness she deserves it. Brave lady.
    I’m ashamed of this department, who would have expected them to stoop this low.

     
  15. producer

    August 19, 2014 at 9:00 am

    This lot of civil servants couldn’t run a bath, let alone a department and thankfully not a business.
    This makes dreadful reading.
    The picture is clear. They are big bully boys and they are cowards.
    Is it any wonder the majority of us are too scared to talk to this lot? New regime, we got more of the same though possibly worse than it was.
    I too thought wag food couldn’t get any worse, but it sure has over the last year. Kath and her team carry on taking the flack because they still stick up for us.
    If wag food did even a reasonable job there would be little to complain about but you are doing a rubbish job, making the same errors, wasting more money and too arrogant to listen to what we know is still wrong.

     
  16. beer boy

    August 19, 2014 at 10:16 am

    I cannot grasp that a lady who writes in a magazine, edits a magazine and then publishes a magazine is deemed by wag not to be a journalist. How can they come up with this? Who are they to decided what Kath’s job title is? It would be perfectly obvious to anyone, apart from civil servants. It’s senseless, totally senseless and totally stupid.
    But if we are talking job titles, when’s a civil servant ever civil?
    When are civil servants ever our servants? I.E working FOR us our futures uppermost in their minds?
    Those are very relevant questions to this news piece.

    If wag food had the support of the food producers, I’m not sure that this brilliant website would ever have been needed. But needed it is, because wag food aren’t doing the job we are paying them for.
    How much longer does this situation have to carry on for before they wake up from their deep slumber – sleeping beauty they sure are not, but this is just pathetic.
    Bullies in the playground sums up wag.

     
  17. BOW producer

    August 19, 2014 at 11:49 am

    I understand that you have to approve all comments that go up on this site so I’ll try and curb my language and my feelings. Total horror and utter disgust that you are being treated by this load of idiots for what reason? Helping us? It seems that’s verging on a hanging offence in their book.
    We are all saying similar things that this arrogance and rudeness is not fair or justified. The management of this department is poor and their inability to understand their on going failures year after year mystifies me and other BOW people.
    Not a journalist – wag talk utter rubbish.
    This is a disgraceful situation.

     
  18. BOW producer 2

    August 19, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    Makes you think about the quality of civil servants here in Wales when you read things like this
    not a journalist Kath well you always have been to me and our company and I thank you for it.
    wag childish enough to shoot the messenger it’s so sad.
    A union would be a great idea as it’s impossible to deal with civil servants without any common sense.

     
  19. Furious Producer

    August 21, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    I’m furious, livid with wag’s behaviour and attitude.
    How dare they decree you are not a journalist?
    You are now paying for waking the sleeping giant known as wag, but you’ve been told so often by producers that this is how wag would treat you, we did warn you and wag of course are true to their pathetic form. You’ve had the courage to say when wag have got things wrong. You’ve backed producers throughout our many problems with wag food and this is how they treat you, shoot the messenger.
    I’ve read through the comments that have been left and we all seem to agree, which is very unusual for producers I know, we’re saying wag are arrogant, rude and to me offensive too.
    This government cares nothing about us when they should be working for us and with us and your team too.
    Wag should not be allowed to penalise people like this. I don’t get that they can chastise a journalist for speaking the truth.
    Wag need a reality check.
    The truth hurts, it always has and always will, but intelligent people learn from their errors when they are pointed out to them but not this lot. Their response is to bully, their behaviour is disgraceful and very unfair.

     
  20. Bow producer

    August 22, 2014 at 8:23 am

    This is a tough price to pay for being passionate about Welsh produce and for backing the producers that are working with you. You’ve said many times over the years that wag food never communicate, not just to producers but to you as a journalist, yes in my book, and in many others, that’s what you are a top journalist and the only one that I know of that’s any interest at all in Welsh food.
    Being of a suspicious nature I wonder what wag food may have to hide and what’s their problem with you asking questions. The are not running a private business but a using tax payers money, nothing should be hidden from tax payers or journalists. Secrets have a way of coming out even in government but you being bullied by them is a farce, a total disgrace.

     
  21. producer

    August 22, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    A fellow trader told me about this last Saturday and I’ve just thought to check it out for myself.
    I’m shocked. I cannot see why wag believe they have any right to behave like this to someone who for years has backed our food industry to the hilt. Why that’s a problem for a food department makes no sense to anyone who’s not a civil servant. Civil servant is a joke though. Civil? Servants? LOL.
    This behaviour is despicable.
    Wag’s accused on this site as being arrogant and bullying, both tactics they’ve used for years, that’s why the food department is so badly thought of.
    Why Kath had high hopes of the new regime, I can’t work out. Seems she was more than willing to give them a fair chance to change that department. After backing the new lot, she’s now been treated as a scapegoat from what I see as a bunch of cowardly civil servants.
    I despair of this department. I’d leave Wales if I was younger

     
  22. producer

    August 27, 2014 at 8:20 am

    This new story is horrific.
    I cannot believe what I’ve read and no way can I understand what game wag are playing apart from using their bullying tactics.
    What a pity we cannot vote in and out civil servants. And what a pity wag food haven’t got the support and backing from producers that you and the guys have at Welsh Country.
    In my experience, I’m not sure this department is fit for purpose. Although I get why Kath initially backed the new regime, she shouldn’t have and now it’s backfired on her and it’s unjustified.
    What band of bullies they are……..

     
  23. Bully Boys

    August 27, 2014 at 8:47 am

    Wag are nothing short of bully boys.
    Don’t question us because if you do we’ll punish you.
    It’s not a fair and open government here in Wales. Since when was it out-of-order for a journalist to ask questions? Oh that’s right it isn’t. So our next move is to tell Kath she’s NOT a journalist, that gets us out of that one.
    Bullies are cowards and that is how wag have always behaved. Rule by fear.
    I’m shocked to see such childish behaviour in a government department, their attitude is better suited to a playgroup.

     
  24. PRODUCER

    August 27, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    I have had to read this a couple of times and I’m in a state of utter disbelief.
    Who does this government and the food department think they are? Because Kath has dared to ask them questions and if she didn’t agree with their answers, ask a further ones. Whoops wag don’t like that, so they decide she’s is no longer a journalist.
    Welsh Country magazine – OUR ONLY FOOD MAGAZINE IN WALES – is not written by Kath, so she’s isn’t a journalist in wag’s opinion.
    Wag couldn’t be more wrong or look more stupid and childish.
    The food department has a very good reputation for bullying and now it looks like the new people in there are carrying that on.
    It’s a disgrace and also very sad.
    Pity wag are not equipped to work together instead of bullying to get their own way.
    Food producers need a union to stop wag food behaving like bullies.

     
  25. cheeseman

    September 1, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    You couldn’t make this up. I’ve had to re-read this because I cannot understand what wag think they will achieve with this route. You’ll get more producers against you, that goes without having to say anything.
    It’s stupid. The only Welsh magazine geared up to local food and you wish to antagonise them because they don’t agree with much of what you do. BOO HOO, poor you. A grown up business would have the sense to listen but wag food just carry on bullying. Pity Kath doesn’t publish in Welsh Country the stupid things you do and the money you waste. £500k to ppd and nearly a million to fork 2 fork – all money wasted apart from ticking your boxes.
    I’ve no idea what wag food think are trying to achieve with this latest news.
    Penalising a journalist for asking questions? Please do grow up.
    Bullying to get their own way?
    You lot are as mad as hatters and as childish as any playgroup.
    Bullies are cowards and hiding behind the government really makes this worse.