I’ve always been fascinated by leaks to the media and, as a journalist who is occasionally the recipient of information that somebody wants made public that others perhaps don’t, I’m trained to begin by questioning the motivation.
For any information I receive, I give considerable thought to who the source is and, more importantly, who does the information being made public benefit or harm? It also has to pass the public interest and general newsworthiness test, before I invariably go in search for a second or third source.
The biggest ‘leak’ this week in the U.K. was a draft of the Labour Party manifesto, which has arguably had the positive effect of keeping Labour in the news for more than 48 hours and with the focus being mostly on policy. Of course the media loves nothing but talking about itself, so (and quite rightly in this instance) there has also been quite a bit of coverage about who the leaker may have been and what they hoped to achieve.
Four main theories have been put forward:
1) It was somebody on the right wing of the party who wanted to undermine leader Jeremy Corbyn
2) It was somebody in Jeremy Corbyn’s team who wanted it to look like somebody on the right wing of the party was trying to undermine Jeremy Corbyn
3) It was a member of Jeremy Corbyn’s PR team who had the quite brilliant strategy to generate an extra wave of coverage before the manifesto is unveiled officially next week
4) It was a stakeholder trying to influence the final draft of the manifesto by making it embarrassing to role back on a particular policy
My own take is that whilst number three is tempting, no PR would want to lose control of such an important press opportunity. If I had to guess, I’d gun for it being number one, even if the success on that front has been mixed.
To make sure you’re keeping up, ask yourself who may have leaked Deliveroo’s new driver contract, which, according to the report on Sky News
, looks like it is significantly friendlier to riders and may finally skirt on the right side of recent regulatory and political scrutiny. I suspect, given that it reflects well on Deliveroo, you will have drawn the same conclusion as me
With regards to the tech industry, I’d argue that information being sometimes leaked, whatever the motivation, is actually a good thing.
At its best, it can bring much-needed transparency to what is still an alarmingly opaque industry, and at its most trivial it can bring a little light relief to those of us who work in tech.
But most of all it’s a sign that the ecosystem here in the U.K. and Europe has matured and is thriving. That includes the technology press, who, when we are on top of our game,
provide important checks and balances. As one VC reminded me the other day, the media are an essential ingredient of any industry’s ecosystem.
When I first joined TechCrunch back in 2009
– aside from the fact that my sources in startup land were very limited – the ecosystem was so tiny that people were much more afraid to speak out, either off the record or on it. That, to the benefit of all of us, is no longer always the case.