Monday, 28 September 2009

Digging through the numbers

It's easy for journalists to overlook the number of great news stories to be found hidden in figures: surveys, company reports, government information and, of course, MPs expenses.

Perhaps this explains why it took a Freedom of Information Act (FoI) request from the Travelodge hotel chain to find out the amount of money being spent on hotels by the London Metropolitan Police. Great PR spin for Travelodge and a story that the London Evening Standard picked up, reporting:

"The figures were disclosed in a freedom of information request by the hotel chain. This followed the admission from the chairman of Essex Police Authority, Robert Chambers, that his force could recruit an extra 600 officers if staff used lowbudget accommodation rather than more expensive hotels."

The Press Association demonstrated how to do it well with another FoI story, this time about MPs oustanding food and drink bills at the House of Commons

Some of the best stories still result from a bit of digging and lateral-thinking. Come on, let's have even more well thought-out investigations into companies, government bodies, councils and quangos.