Lest the print media get too carried away by the ‘success’ of the Daily Telegraph’s revelations about MPs’ expenses, it’s worth recalling where all this stuff started. Charlie Beckett has a thoughtful post about this. Excerpt:
The independent MySociety website They Work For You has been providing non-partisan data on what MPs are doing for years, run by volunteers. Earlier, this year it created a Facebook campaign site to force the government to reveal the details of MPs’ expenses. The story had originally been set running by freelance journalist Heather Brooke who had tried to get details of MP’s expenses through the new Freedom Of Information powers created a few years ago by this Labour Government. Among the northern Continental states you are familiar with the concept of open government but this is a novelty in the UK. The system resisted Brooke’s requests and, indeed, MPs were on the verge of ruling against transparency on the details of their claims. The MySociety initiative played a critical part in reversing this policy of secrecy by revealing this manouvere which had been largely ignored by the mainstream media. Now the Daily Telegraph has paid for the CD-Rom which gave them all the details anyway. The story has exploded from a small but significant online campaign to a massive media story that threatens to bring down this government and has undermined faith in the whole parliamentary political system. That, my friends, is what I call Networked Journalism.