Guido Fawkes on Newsnight

You can see Guido Fawkes unsuccessfully take on Michael White on Newsnight here at 31'58”.

Guido digs himself a large hole and then jumps into it. Michael White 'exposed' Paul De Laire Staines as the man behind Guido Fawkes. Tim Ireland did it a while ago pretty comprehensively and there was someone before that. It shows Staines' naivete that he thought he could go up against Paxman and White. After preparing a recorded piece, why on earth did he go on live television? The big selling point behind his blog was the slightly shady, anonymous poster hiding, in the manner of V, behind the name of Fawkes. White was calm and just put Staines down time after time. Identifying him in such a throwaway manner, particularly after Paxman had said at the beginning of the programme that it was very easy to find out his identity, took away his unique selling point – the facelessness.

From his point of view - blogs are taking over from the "mainstream media" - it should have been obvious that he'd have been tripped up. Why does Staines push things like that? My suspicion is that he wanted to be revealed at some point in the future, after breaking a major story, as some sort of hero. Instead, he came across as childish with the hiding in the dark, unprepared to take on 'real' journalists and self-indulgent with not producing any real stories. White kicked the stool out from under Staines at the start of the exchange by partially accepting his argument – sometimes political journalists are too close to politicians, with emphasis on sometimes – which had been laboriously constructed in the previous film.

Staines shot himself in the foot quite spectacularly by naming Nick Robinson as (one of) his source(s) for the hidden email system (which turned out, as White pointed out, to be wrong). Having attacked political journalists for having to stay pally with politicians, he, at a stroke, showed that he was dependent on second-hand news that the BBC would not run with, that he had people he had to remain pally with and revealed one of his sources. Article 7 of the NUJ code of conduct reads

A journalist shall protect confidential sources of information.
Some of the other ideas there might make good reading for Staines.

I wonder if Staines' blog is just a storm in a teacup. Staines has been on Radio Four before as Guido Fawkes, but Newsnight is reaches many more people and, frankly, he blew it. I suspect that people looking at his blog will see it as slightly badly designed and be thinking back to what they saw on Newsnight. My concern is that it will damage all bloggers as we become tarred by the same brush; will people ask why was this charlatan so popular amongst bloggers?

If you follow the link above or here to Tim Ireland's Bloggerheads, you'll see a lot of the objections to Guido Fawkes and a lot of good backup to those objections. One of these is about selective editing of comments by Staines on his blog. Do please read Staines' posts about going on Newsnight and the comments that go with them here, here and here.

I have taken copies of the posts to date as I suspect Paul is licking his wounds and will have to do some ex post facto editing. There is a lot of pro-Staines astroturfing going on.

Paul, you were greedy. The terms Newsnight offered you his own production team, a free hand with the script and five minutes of prime time to do whatever he wanted were too juicy to be turned down. We live and learn.

Update 0217: comments from Schmoo, Chris Paul and Snedds.

xD.

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