Dos and don'ts of unsavoury sources

If Mark Watts had a sense of humour, he might, like everyone else,
have detected the jocular tone in the socalled “secret” tape of my
conversation with Benjy the Binman, which he made much of last week.

obsessively taped all his calls, as we all knew. He used to hang around
The Guardian like a fly, trying to get money. When he tried to interest
us in worthless Neil Hamilton libel case documents he had found in the
rubbish, I wanted him to go away.

So I told him that the only
person who would be interested was Hamilton’s opponent, Mr Fayed. It
was all a bit of a joke. [And the High Court, which later went into the
whole incident in great detail, confirmed his documents were worthless].

let’s not get into a fake lather about “perverting the course of
justice”, even if Watts has a book to promote. The real issue is:
should journalists use information from unsavoury sources?

The answer is: “Yes, if it’s true and in the public interest: no, if it’s merely tittle-tattle acquired with a chequebook.”

I don’t see why Watts should call that point of view sanctimonious.

David Leigh Investigations editor The Guardian

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