Planning environmental injustice – my findings

I’ve spent much of the last year digging into how the UK planning system seems to embed racism and segregation, placing authorised Traveller sites in unhealthy, isolated and hazardous places, separated from settled communities and in areas that in some cases had been identified by local authorities as dangerous.

I want to thank the Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s Ideas and Pioneers Fund for part-funding my research. The funding gave me time to uncover the complex and racialised processes that have resulted in Travellers being placed in places others are not expected to live – near sewage, refuse, industry, motorways – and what is it like to live in those places. This work has stemmed out of years of reporting with and about Britain’s nomadic communities, from my first visit to the then largest Traveller site in Europe, Dale Farm, in 2006, for The Economist right through to when 86 families were evicted in 2011, visiting other flash points such as Meriden, in the West Midlands, as well as more celebratory articles on religion and the arts, and culminating in my book, No Place to Call Home, published by OneWorld, in 2013.

This recent work has now been published in different outlets; thank you to all of them for refusing to ignore what should be as a UK housing scandal, but sadly isn’t.

PUBLICATIONS

First up, thank you to openDemocracy for publishing the kick-off piece, exploring the current planning system: https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/opendemocracyuk/gypsies-and-travellers-face-segregation-by-planning-in-new-housing-developments/

I then started to map segregation, with the next investigation of site location in England published by Byline Times: https://bylinetimes.com/2021/05/24/systemic-racism-within-a-rigged-system-new-investigation-reveals-how-travellers-sites-are-routinely-placed-in-risky-locations/

Then, more recently, just as the government criminalised trespass in the UK, I published three linked articles. First up, my long-read for Al Jazeera, looking at the environmental issues arising from poor location of sites: https://aljazeera.com/features/2022/6/29/rats-for-neighbours-smells-like-death-life-for-uks-travellers.

I also worked with the community news organisation, Travellers Times, focussing on the current issues with the planning system: https://travellerstimes.org.uk/features/dumped-sewage-how-so-many-traveller-sites-ended-hazardous-and-isolated-places.

I then published an investigation with The National Wales, focussing on the dire state of many sites in Wales. https://www.thenational.wales/news/20249600.scandal-authorised-gypsy-roma-traveller-sites-wales/

To round off this reporting phase, I then worked with openDemocracy to look at the location of and facilities on transit sites – where Travellers now are forced to stay if they are travelling for work or leisure, due to the government criminalising trespass. I wrote: “Two-thirds of the 60 short-term ‘transit’ sites in England – and just over half of the country’s 242 permanent sites – are within 100m of one or more…[environmental] hazards. Yet the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, which came into force in England and Wales at the end of June, forces GRT people into these sites by criminalising trespass and strengthening police powers against unauthorised roadside camps. For Travelling communities, this means that their homes and belongings can be seized, and those convicted fined or jailed.”

Thank you to all the residents who talked to me and who were so hospitable and generous with their time, to the local and national organisations who explained issues and supported, including Gate Herts, Leeds Gate, London Gypsies and Travellers, Travelling Ahead and Gypsies and Travellers Wales, as well as national organisations, the Traveller Movement, Friends, Families and Travellers and Moving for Change. Also to academics and experts, including Ryan Powell, Margaret Greenfields, Bill Forrester, Candy Sheridan, Stuart Carruthers, Adrian Jones and Jo Richardson.

RESEARCH FINDINGS

Lastly, here’s a summary of my general research findings. If you cite it, please do credit myself and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

Around a quarter of the 300,000 UK Gypsy Traveller community live on Traveller sites. I examined three planning decisions in depth and around 20 for larger context, using desk-based methods. I also analysed local and national media coverage of site planning and submitted Freedom of Information requests (FOIs) to understand more about the planning history of sites, as well as  Environmental Information Requests (EIRs) to uncover environmental complaints and therefore conditions in and around sites in England, Scotland and Wales. I also carried out interviews with academics, policy makers,  representatives of community-led Traveller organisations and site residents. I visited three sites (one in development) and asked residents in two about environmental conditions in and around the sites and what they knew about the planning and general history of the site where they lived. All sites were local authority authorised and managed.

I also sent both FOIs and EIRs to just under 20 sites in England, Scotland and Wales. 

The planning FOI question was as follows, with specific information about when each site was built and/or refurbished, but otherwise the same for each site. 

I am doing a research project looking at the location of Traveller sites through England, Scotland and Wales and one of the sites I have identified is in xxx – postcode and address provided. 

If the scope of the request is too wide, I am happy to work with you.

The [name of site] was opened in x and refurbished in y [where that was the case]. 

I would like to see any debates or correspondence, either external or internal about the establishment of the site and subsequent works, as well as correspondence with local MPs and local councillors at the time the site was built.

I also sent an Environmental Information Regulation request to just over 20 sites in England, Scotland and Wales. Again, I asked a broadly similar question each time, although if I had specific information about a particular issue nearby, such as sewage, flooding or mine shafts, I did ask for additional information. 

I would like to know whether any residents of the sites have raised environmental concerns about the location of the site in which they live. This could include road noise, being sited near sewage works, flooding, vermin. Also, whether they have raised general environmental concerns or health concerns arising from the environment, including accidents or hospitalisation they believe is linked to the location of the site in which they reside.

I had to ask for internal reviews for a small number of FOIs/EIRs in order to obtain responses. 

This study is particularly timely as the Government has now criminalised roadside living and trespass, as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act. Removing the ability of Travellers to camp roadside turns the spotlight firmly back to the conditions on and availability of official local authority permanent and transit sites.

Main Findings 

Councils – planning and health officials in particular – were well aware that the sites were placed in unpleasant and sometimes hazardous places. Objections – often couched in overtly racist tones – from local residents who did not want Travellers near the houses and neighbourhoods reduced the options available for site placement leaving Traveller communities with little choice but to accept poor locations. Councillors were often concerned with retaining their seat and so bowed to pressure, meaning that sites were placed in areas that would not be considered for bricks and mortar housing. 

  • Traveller sites were placed by council tips and recycling centres; sewage stations; busy road and railway lines; industrial estates; cemeteries and slaughterhouses. 
  • This isn’t just a historic planning legacy, as new sites which have recently been developed show that planning officers are still facing largely the same objections.
  • As a result of such objections, sites that were planned and established long ago, which councils and residents alike agreed are in unpleasant or dangerous places prove difficult to relocate to more suitable locations.
  • Some sites have been slated for closure for years, without a new site having been found, meaning that residents live in a planning limbo, waiting to be moved. 
  • This relocation limbo means that the fabric of the site deteriorates as the council does not want to spend too much money on improving a site that they have – on paper at least – said should be closed. 
  • Due to such delay, this often means that between three to four generations of some families have lived and continue to live on sites that are in dangerous and unpleasant places.
  • My research also found that over time site conditions had worsened as many sites were located in or near industrial areas that had expanded over time. 
  • The study revealed the terrible living conditions on sites that include vermin flies, dust, odour and noise. According to one site resident ‘ The main problem is we are living in an industrial area. And it’s the air quality, the smell, the dust and the sound…the recycling centre is just behind us – and the sound, the noise is a problem…and we also have a big problem with rats’. Another site resident said the conditions were so bad that,  ‘they wouldn’t expect anyone but a Traveller to live here”. 
  • The FOIs and EIRS found the most common complaints from site residents to local authorities were: 
  • Problems with vermin (mainly large rats)
  • Problems with insects (flies, wasps and flying ants)
  • Foul odours from nearby sewage stations/other industrial processes, including slaughterhouses
  • Fly-tipping nearby 
  • Noise from industrial processes – often going into the night or in the early morning
  • Busy traffic
  • Dust in the air from busy traffic/rail/industrial processes
  • Vibration from industrial processes and heavy lorries
  • Site visits and interviews revealed the main difficulties experienced by residents were: 
  • Poor maintenance of buildings onsite
  • Vermin at times over-running sites
  • Mould in utility blocks
  • Accidents due to poor maintenance of hard standing etc, with ‘slabs’ cracking due to perceived vibration from industrial processes
  • Lack of access to green space and play areas

Conclusion

While policy has changed on paper, and rhetoric has to some extent been toned down, the same patterns of segregation by planning exist in many areas. 

This report clearly demonstrates a pattern – past and present – in the planning processes for Gypsy and Traveller sites. 

The unholy trinity of political expediency, a planning system in hock to elected officials and objections by local settled people unites to make it more likely that nomadic community members, often local people themselves, are housed in hazardous or unpleasant places. Sites have been literally dumped by sewage stations, tips, busy roads and railways and this is not an accident. It is a national pattern that demonstrates the racism faced by Britain’s nomadic communities. Nowhere is Cantle’s (2001) idea of ‘parallel lives’ more clear where sites are hidden, isolated and separated from settled communities. The planning system facilitates marginalisation and exclusion over generations. Fifty years after the Caravan Sites Act was passed, sites are still being put in ‘hole and corner’ places, where no other community would be asked to live. 

The research findings suggest a number of changes are needed to ensure that sites are placed in locations that offer the possibility of integration into wider communities and safer environments. This starts with the planning system where racism and local resistance have ensured that sites are on the margins of settled areas and in places where no other groups are expected to live. 

2021 in review

The pandemic dominated journalism this year and last, but I wanted to use this last post of 2021 to give a round-up of the work I’ve been lucky enough to carry out this year, what I’m doing next year – and to thank everyone with whom I’ve worked – whether as a collaborator, an editor or as an interviewee.

I’ve written on subjects ranging from disability, to environmental justice, to the history of forced migration, as well as the plight of Afghan nationals, both here and stuck in Afghanistan, in a rapidly deteriorating situation. I’ve worked increasingly on the rights of Gypsy and Traveller communities, in a year in which the right to live a nomadic life has been put under extreme threat by the Johnson administration – and looked at the effect of hostility on community members. I wrote a long-read about the ten year anniversary since the eviction of Dale Farm, considering its lasting legacy.

I was also lucky enough to be asked to work with the veteran disability rights campaigner, Alicia Wood, in co-creating a new website, Dying to Matter, which aims to memorialise the deaths of those dying in institutional care. Our launch article was my long-read about the death of Danny Tozer. It’s a hard read, and I want to thank Danny’s family for being so generous with their time. I hope it’s a fitting tribute to a much loved son. Do visit the website if you’d like to read more, or post a memorial of a loved family member who died in care. We will start to post them as soon as possible.

Friendship and family has been a real comfort this year. Books too, so I’m including a link to some of the books I’ve reviewed. I enjoyed books by Pat Barker, Nigel Farndale and Meg Keneally, among many others.

I also reviewed three books that, in different ways, explored the rich experience of disability and family – by Jan Grue, Jessica Moxham and Melanie Pearson. All recommended.

Talking of books, I spent much of my spare time this year finishing off my first novel, The Low Road, which tells the story of two young women who were convicted of grand larceny and eventually transported to Botany Bay in the 1820’s. It is based on a true story I uncovered in my Norfolk home town – more news on the book next year. This year I also looked at the history of transportation in a long read for Byline Times, asking why it has largely been forgotten in the UK, whilst it is remembered in Australia.

Turning to next year, I’ll be continuing with my work on environmental justice and looking at how health intersects with planning and housing for my project for the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. You can read more about that work in my previous post from just a month or so ago.

I’ve also teased out some of the intersections between low traffic neighbourhoods, environmental justice and marginalised communities, in an article for the Times – I hope to look at this area of work again, in my wider work on what environmental injustice looks and feels like.

My dad and me, as a very young adopted child

I’ve also returned to my own roots, thinking through my own family history of trans-racial adoption and asking more urgent questions about this government’s handling of children at risk of harm, abuse and neglect, and interrogating whether the profit motive is a fit one for boosting protection within our care system. I looked in detail at concerns around transparency, independence of the ongoing review of care and accountability in my latest article. In other articles for Byline Times I looked at the recent murders of two small children and asked about what good system change would look like.

Lastly, I want to point up an article I wrote for the Guardian in December 2020, just over a year ago. It looked at the effect of hate crime on Gypsy, Roma, Traveller and other related communities, including the high levels of suicide.

I hope that next year will be a happier, easier one for everybody. This year has been hard. Unfortunately it has convinced me even more that we need investigative journalism more than ever, as we live through dark times, with political mismanagement, to say the least.

Environmental racism, location of Traveller sites and human rights – my new investigation

Just a few weeks ago I was told that the Paul Hamlyn Foundation had awarded me a grant, through its Ideas and Pioneers Fund, to look at environmental injustice around the location of Traveller sites. I am hugely grateful to the Foundation for the grant.

Environmental injustice, also known as environmental racism where it applies to ethnic minority communities, is the effect of discrimination on the environment where communities live, which can have devastating mental and physical health effects. There’s an interesting paper in the medical journal, The Lancet, here, explaining it in greater depth. The reason I have widened out the concept to environmental injustice is that it can also apply to other marginalised groups, such as care leavers, women living in refuges and refugees – all of whom can also be housed in temporary or unsatisfactory housing.

The first stage to the work I have done looking at the effect of environmental injustice on nomadic or site-dwelling Gypsy and Traveller community members was to map all public (local authority or socially rented) Traveller sites in England, which I did in May this year, culminating in an investigation for Byline Times.

Typical site mapping for the first stage of the project, showing a site sandwiched between a railway line and busy road

The Paul Hamlyn Foundation planning project

For this new project, I’m hoping to look at sites that chart the history of planning since the passing of the Caravan Sites Act, which was implemented in 1970. This will include some recent sites, as well as some older ones.

I have now mapped Wales and Scotland as well, with similar findings to those in England. I am now starting to identify the sites to visit and research.


I will also do some more work on the health effects – both mental and physical – of living in or near dangerous and unpleasant places like sewage stations, rubbish tips and roads as well. The communities have lower levels of life expectancy, as well as higher levels of certain conditions, including gastro-intestinal, respiratory and disability in general, as well as higher levels of childhood accidents.


I’m involving local and national Gypsy, Roma and Traveller organisations in the work and aim to report parts of the work as I continue with the project. I will be saying a lot more about this going forward but the principle underpinning the work is the disability movement’s mantra, nothing about us, without us.

I hope this research project with the Paul Hamlyn Foundation will show how the planning system – which could be described as a machine – has levers which can embed racist or environmentally unjust practices, leading to health effects on a marginalised community. I hope I can demonstrate what the levers are and what lies behind them – a widespread hostility to Traveller sites, underpinned by both prejudice and a fear about house prices. How best can communities then be empowered to put a spanner in that machine and force better and more transparent practice in the future?

Why are we restraining and secluding so many disabled children?

In March this year (2021) the Equality and Human Rights Commission is expected to release the findings of a long-awaited inquiry into the use of what are called restrictive interventions in schools. Paused due to Covid, it will doubtless show the widespread use of disturbing techniques, including restraint that harms, isolation booths and other forms of enforced isolation. It will also show patchy information about the use of the techniques, as schools are not under any duty to record those interventions – even when they harm a child. I have been investigating the use of these interventions for over a year, talking regularly to campaigners, lawyers and regulators – and have done some freedom of information requests in schools as well – of which more later. This is another shocking example of how we are failing disabled people.

Disabled children are the most likely to experience these interventions. There are many aspects to restrictive interventions that are disturbing, but one particularly harrowing finding is that children as young as three have been subjected to them. The lives of disabled children matter as much as the lives of non-disabled children and the UK has long led the way in calling for the inclusion of disabled children in mainstream education. But factors including underfunding and poor training of teachers in knowing how to support disabled children at moments when they find school difficult may have contributed to frequent separation of children with special needs from their non-disabled class mates. This de facto segregation starts early, and means that disabled children’s experience of education diverges early from other children – even in what appears to be a mainstream setting. This leads to a parallel life for disabled children in which many are traumatised by their experience of education. At transition, when children become young adults, oftentimes they then experience a crisis – and end up in other institutions, such as assessment and treatment units (ATUs). They then get restrained and secluded again. I’ve written about the awful state of our ATUs previously.

That journey of harm starts in school – so what can we do about it? As I said, I submitted FOIs to schools across England before the outbreak of Covid-19 to find out more about monitoring, reporting and incidence. I am not going to release those results in full as they are already out of date. Schools won’t be the same after the end of lockdown. But what was clear from the FOIs was that few schools monitor their use of restrictive interventions, many do not report their use to parents or carers and incidence varies widely across schools. Different practices are also in play, depending on the training that schools receive from external providers. Some children have ended up with horrific injuries, including broken limbs and severe trauma. One child had their vision impaired as a result of restraint. Many end up with mental health impacts that then, as I said, may lead them to moments of crisis later in their lives – so that they end up experiencing similar restrictive interventions in ATUs, secure children homes, prison or mental health settings.

It’s time that a light was shone on the use of these practices in schools – and schools need to monitor them properly, report them in detail to parents and carers and be aware that these are hugely traumatic to experience. Of course teaching staff must also be protected from harm, but there are other ways of managing behaviour that don’t cause physical and mental harm.

Beth Morrison, who has campaigned to highlight the damage done by such techniques in schools, is in many ways responsible for the EHRC kick-starting this inquiry. Disabled children and their parents owe her a debt of thanks for her work. Other key figures include Nick Hobbs and the Children’s Commissioner for Scotland, Bruce Adamson and other parent campaigners including Deirdre Shakespeare and Elly Chapple. All of the parents have fought for the harm done to their children by restraint to be recognised and also for others affected. This has been a parent led campaign to reveal harm and create change – I hope the EHRC will honour their involvement and transform educational practice in this area for the next generation of children.

For me, as a writer and journalist who has investigated human rights abuses for many years, this investigation has opened my eyes into the rights of disabled children. I offered work on this important topic to most mainstream newspapers. Few of them replied and none of them thought it was news-worthy enough to make space for on the news pages. It doesn’t matter who suffered as a result of these interventions – even when Paris Hilton has spoken out about her experience and campaigned to highlight the issue it receives very little focus. It says a lot about how the media thinks of disability – and disabled children in particular – that this subject has received so little media attention.

The new dawn of disability activism – where it started, where it’s going

2020 was grim, right? I hate to say this, but I’m looking forward to the year turning, and that 2021 brings us vaccination (everywhere) and fewer deaths and serious illnesses because of Covid-19.

One of the main communities affected particularly harshly by Covid, in terms of excess deaths, has been disabled people. This year marks the 25th anniversary since the passing of the Disability Discrimination Act, and there’s been a lot of assessment of how much has been won and lost. My publishers, Granta, re-issued a chapter of my book, Scapegoat, which looks at the rise of the movement and you can read it here, free of charge, at Granta Magazine. You can also buy the book on the same link.

I hope that this coming year we’ll see more disability activism, as journalists and activists assess progress so far.

I’m going to be doing more journalism this year, especially on disabled children and women.

Investigative journalism works: the mechanism of impact

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It’s landed, a really thought-provoking report by the film-maker, Christopher Hird, on how journalists can achieve impact with their work, funded by the not-for-profit foundation, Adessium. I edited the report, which is over 100 pages long, and you can read it here.

I also blogged about it for the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which commissioned the report, and my blog is below. I’m reposting it as I think the report raises important points for those interested or involved in public interest journalism.

In Investigative Journalism Works: the Mechanism of Impact, a report for the Bureau, journalist and film-maker Christopher Hird quotes the reporter, Horace Greeley, who said: “The moment a newspaperman tires of his campaign is the moment the public notices it.” The aim of this report, commissioned by the Bureau and funded by the public benefit foundation, Adessium, was to look at how journalism can have an impact in the world and get the public to take notice. This is particularly important for not-for-profit media organisations like ourselves; our mission statement states that our core work is in “exposing the facts, informing the public, holding power to account”.

One of the key messages from Hird’s report, which I edited for the Bureau, was that journalists, if they do have an intended aim with their journalism, need to be patient. It requires long-term commitment from editors too, something demonstrated, in particular, by Harold (later Sir) Evans, with his campaign to secure justice for families affected by Thalidomide, discussed by Hird in Chapter Two of our report.

Some journalists debate whether not we should campaign and have clear aims for the end of every journalism project. Others are more comfortable with campaigning – there’s a spectrum of opinion stretching from what one might term pure reporting (exemplified by channels such as BBC Parliament and newer organisations like WikiTribune) through to campaign-led journalism by specialist outfits such as Global Witness and Greenpeace. One of the key messages of Hird’s report is that campaign-led journalism doesn’t have to be a poorer (and, to some, slightly disreputable) cousin to investigative journalism. If anything, Hird argues, with more not-for-profit journalism funded by philanthropic organisations, the return that they seek, in Hird’s words, is “transformation, rather than transactional”. To that end, one key recommendation of the report is that media organisations (following on from some in TV) consider appointing impact editors/producers, who work alongside journalists to achieve desired change.

Slide-10-Impact of Journalism

 

We also commissioned a YouGov survey of a representative sample of opinion formers, both in the UK and in Brussels, to gauge their views of impact in journalism. There was widespread agreement that investigative journalism can have impact on consumer behaviour, on policy-makers and can also set a broader media agenda. Over three-quarters of those polled believed that investigative journalism was an important pillar of the democratic process. Strikingly, when asked which investigations had most impact, many of those surveyed singled out the Watergate Scandal and Thalidomide, as well as other scandals (a good number of which involved vulnerable people and children in particular). Hird, therefore, has looked at both Watergate and Thalidomide in the report, as well as scrutinising the Bureau’s drone project and Channel 4’s campaign to shine a light on the aftermath of the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka (see picture of slide above).

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Iconic as Watergate is, especially for journalists, Hird argues that the truths of the investigation have been obscured over time. Whilst the reporting was key to Nixon’s resignation, Hird argues, other parts of civil society and the criminal justice system were essential too. “It was not the journalism alone which had the impact. In order for the investigation to gain traction, the legal and political system needed to engage as well..the Watergate story, in its entirety, is a triumph of the checks and balances in the political system.” Reading Hird’s copy, I was also struck by the similarities with the Trump era today; the chapter gave me hope that journalists, working in collaboration with other actors, can hold power to account.

In Chapter Four, Hird turned his attention to a series of films, commissioned by Channel 4, which shone a light on the aftermath of the civil war in Sri Lanka, which ended in defeat for the so-called Tamil Tigers. Callum Macrae, the producer/director for the films, makes a cogent case for how journalists can and should negotiate with campaigners who are also hoping to bear witness to injustice and, in this case, human rights violations. He attacks the use of the word impartial in this context (something with which I would agree, having filmed with the BBC in Rwanda, after the genocide).

Macrae is quoted in the report as saying: “If you are are impartial between the rich and powerful and the poor and vulnerable, then you preserve the status quo. So I think the word ‘impartial’ is all too often used as a kind of device or fig leaf to cover up what is shoddy, complacent and compliant journalism which does not attempt to speak truth to power.”

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In the final chapter, Hird turned his attention to the Bureau’s own drone project, in which we have sought to increase transparency of the covert drone war by the US against targets in four countries – Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen and Afghanistan. Our contention, from the beginning of the project, has been that civilian casualties have been far higher than the US has ever admitted. Just as in Vietnam, they are the collateral damage of a war that may spare the lives of American troops – but not of citizens in those countries, including children. As for impact, Hird notes that it has been significant – the drones programme under President Obama was made more transparent and civilian deaths fell. Other groups have also increased their scrutiny of this hidden war. However, since President Trump took office, deaths have risen sharply and the US led NATO mission in Afghanistan has stopped providing us with strike data. Despite this, our work shows, in Hird’s assessment, “sustained commitment..impact is achieved by the interaction between the journalism and other civil society organisations and the political process.”

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Hird concludes that investigative journalism works and can have an impact. Journalists need to be tenacious and bloody-minded if they want to change government policies, bring down the corrupt and save lives. Until now, Hird says, we haven’t had to identify the mechanisms by which journalism achieves its end. But we do now, because, frankly, impact is, as Hird says, “a measure of success and therefore a route to an important source of funding for public interest journalism”.

But funding alone, in my view, probably isn’t what gets most journalists up in the morning. On a personal level, when I look at the journalism I’ve been proudest to be part of, it’s been about results in the real world. From getting war criminals sent to the Arusha war crimes tribunal, to a Guardian front page splash on Turkey Twizzlers, leading to them being taking off school menus, to campaigning for disability hate crime to have parity with other similar crimes, I’ve always been interested in measurable change for the person on the street, whether they are a genocide survivor in south-east Rwanda, a disabled person or even my own school-age daughter and her peers. (And, of course, with these campaigns reform wasn’t achieved by reporting alone.) I suspect I’m not alone in feeling that journalism matters on a visceral level to many reporters.

But impact in journalism is best achieved, as Hird recommends in this valuable report, when lots of other organisations can work with us to achieve an aim on which we can all agree – mediated, to some extent, by the work of an impact producer, as Hird argues.

Lastly, I was struck by Hird’s emphasis on collaboration, whether it was with fellow journalists or with other key figures – law-makers, academics, charities and whistleblowers. The phrase from the disability movement, “nothing about us, without us” is timely right now. As our new network, Bureau Local does already, to some extent, we need to shift position and, where appropriate, align ourselves alongside what Dan Gillmor has termed the “former audience”, who can participate in what we do, rather than see ourselves as set apart from civil society. Then the impact we seek to achieve will be clearer from the outset – and useful to those who entrust us with their stories.

 

2017 Impact Report

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An image of the Bureau newsroom

I’ve been a little silent recently, as I started a new post as Production Editor at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in July last year and it has been busy.

I’m very pleased to work at the Bureau, as it’s known, with some very talented people.

Towards the end of the year I put together and wrote the Bureau’s Impact report for 2017. It’s a record of sterling journalism in the public interest, following in a long tradition of journalism that seeks to expose wrongdoing and shine a light on poor practice, wherever it takes place.

Here’s the link to the report – it’s an honour to have worked on it for my new employer.

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