Rob Evans: "Spirit and attitude - main characteristics of what makes a good journalist"

Rob Evans: "Spirit and attitude - main characteristics of what makes a good journalist"

Tips and tricks from The Guardian’s star.

Mr Rob Evans, the award-winning Guardian investigative reporter, has revealed for Media Observatory what makes a good journalist and how to fight for the full implementation of the Freedom of Information Act.

For Rob Evans, journalism is all about wanting to work hard, but also believing in the freedom of the press as part of democracy. “Our role is not actually about propaganda, it is actually about people who are in power and asking them ‘what are you doing, why are you doing it’ and you are then publishing that information so that the citizens of that country can make up their own decision on whether or not they think that person is doing the right or the wrong thing,” says Evans.

There have been many discussions and long lists with main characteristics of what makes a good journalist. However, Rob Evans narrows it down to two: spirit and attitude. “What always strikes me is the journalists’ spirit and how much they want to have their stories published. If you got the right spirit and the right attitude, then you go a long way,” he pointed out.

When equipped with such spirit and attitude, there are many different tools journalists can use. Rob Evans has won many awards for promoting freedom of information, which he sees as one of these tools. “It is very useful to have [Freedom of Information Act] but it is not the end of the story. It is just one thing that we need but the best way we used to use it was along with other information you are getting from other sources,” Evans said.

According to him, it can be a long way until the Freedom of Information Act is fully implemented. He says that often, once Freedom of Information Act is brought it, people in government start to figure out that they do not really like it and try to find ways to undermine it. “At that point you’ve got to have a very big opposition to say ‘no, we want the Act, this is important, we’ve got to keep it.” This was the case in the UK in 2007, two years after the legislation took into force. “Once you’ve got the act, it is not the end of the story but a beginning, you’ve got to use it, you’ve got a have a lot of journalists using it and you’ve got to have journalists prepared to protect it and defend it.”

Mr Evans is also well known of his blog experiment, as part of research and writing process. With a colleague Paul Lewis, he wrote a book, Undercover, about the infiltration of undercover police officers into political groups over the past 40 years. While they were researching for the book, they launched a blog.

The idea was to give people an insight into what they were doing and where they were heading in their investigation. “What we were doing at that stage was twofold— one is to keep the story alive, write about the story, get to point some things out. Secondly, to advertise to say we are interested in this so if you know something about this, come to see us,” Evans explains. They were not afraid that they will reveal things in advance but rather opting for people’s help. And it turned out to be a success. “People knew we were interested in a story as a whole but we said this particular thing and if you know something about it, come to see us. It was very useful,” he added.