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Spectator editor questions Newsnight’s RTS scoop of the year nomination: ‘It was no scoop’

By William Turvill

The editor of the Spectator has questioned Newsnight's shortlisting for scoop of the year in the RTS journalism awards for its Kids Company coverage.

Fraser Nelson (pictured, Reuters) has highlighted the role of freelance journalist Miles Goslett for writing the "first critical article ever published about Kids Company" nearly a year ago.

The Spectator article "The trouble with the Kids' Company" was published in February 2015. Newsnight's Kids Company investigation was aired five months later.

He told Press Gazette: "Newsnight ran a very good follow up, perhaps an award-winning follow up. But it was no scoop. That honour belongs to Miles alone."

Nelson has also revealed that a "senior journalist" told him his newspaper would not have commissioned Goslett's story because it was in "thrall" of the charity's chief executive, Camila Batmanghelidjh.

He said: "Miles Goslett had not just the first word but the last word on the Kids Company story: the full horror of Batmanghelidjh's egomania, the way that servants had asked to stop funding only to be overruled by Downing St. At the time, it was not just minsters who were in her thrall: the press was too. 

"This was the first critical article ever published about Kids Company – Batmanghelidjh called me up, wild with fury, pointing out how the rest of the press loved Kids Company and only ever wrote in glowing terms about her (The Observer ran a puff piece that weekend)."

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He added: "Miles (pictured, right) was out in the cold; no one followed up his story for months, even though all of the details were there. Miles had exposed a modern-day untouchable, and too much of the press pretended that it hadn't happened.

"I took a call from one senior journalist to congratulate Miles on his scoop, saying his newspaper would never have commissioned such an investigation because it, too, was in her thrall. 

"It took us weeks to get the story ready: Miles worked with Mary Wakefield, our commissioning editor, to make sure it was bomb proof. Camilla still sent her lawyers on to us, without even alleging factual inaccuracy. We had apparently violated the Reverence of Kids Company Act, a unwritten law which all too many people in power (and even in Fleet St) obeyed. It took Miles Goslett to smash it."

On the RTS shortlisting, Nelson said: "Newsnight ran a very good follow up, perhaps an award-winning follow up. But it was no scoop. That honour belongs to Miles alone.

"His single minded determination to reveal the awful truth about a woman who had become a secular Saint – too fashionable to criticise – embloldened the whistleblowers and made Newsnight's follow up possible.

"It's a wonderful example of the importance of the freelance journalist, on whom our industry depends, but seldom honours. It would be nice if, just this once, the journalist who broke the story got the credit."

Ian Katz, the editor of Newsnight, responded by telling Press Gazette: "Journalists denigrating the work of their colleagues rarely makes an edifying spectacle.

"Miles Goslett did brilliant work exposing some of Kids Company’s weaknesses, which is why we featured him in our first report, but Chris Cook and Alan White broke a series of important stories about the charity and, most significantly, the way ministers repeatedly decided to shower it with government funds in the face of mounting evidence that they were being misused.

"I think most neutral observers would agree that any one of four or five of their stories over a period of six months deserved to be called a scoop; taken together they unquestionably did."

Similar criticisms were aired last year when Newsnight and Buzzfeed were jointly nominated for Investigation of the Year at the British Journalism Awards for the Kids Company coverage.

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