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MP challenged over 72-hour media response-time after missing weekly’s deadline

An MP has defended his self-imposed policy of giving himself up to 72 hours to respond to media enquiries.

The Solihull Observer has challenged Solihull MP Julian Knight after he failed to respond to its request for a comment ahead of a print deadline.

Mr Knight declined to respond before publication for the Observer’s front page story last week, pictured, on the Solihull schools’ funding ‘crisis’, concerning an open letter sent to him by 15 concerned headteachers.

He did eventually send a comment to the newspaper after deadline, prompting the Observer to ask Mr Knight how he could justify such a policy “given the pace of 21st Century media – especially with his taxpayer-funded support staff”.

Cov Knight

Four days later, he replied: “Constituents always come first, and my office makes full use of social media to keep local residents informed. Thousands of people stay up-to-date with my work via Facebook and my regular e-newsletter.

“All my press releases are posted directly on my website too, and people are always welcome to follow me on Twitter.

“Unfortunately my work as a member of the Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Select committee, on top of my responsibilities as a Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Government’s Treasury team, mean that I am not always available to provide an immediate response to specific media enquiries.

“Our promise to respond within 72 hours, which has been in operation since November without any complaints, ensures that I am able to offer reliable and even-handed treatment to all such requests, and offers both sides the certainty of a full and accurate response.”

Mr Knight, a former journalist who worked for the BBC and The Independent among other titles, has been criticised by political opponents over the policy.

Solihull Green councillor Max McLoughlin posted on Twitter: “I admit that I struggle to respond to some requests within 72 hours. Nobody is perfect. I try my best. The big difference, I’m working on my own. I have no staff.

“Julian Knight MP has staffing costs in the region of £100,000. I know Brexit is important. But so are school cuts.”

Tricia Bliss, Shirley Labour branch secretary, added: “He keeps banging on about his career in journalism, so I don’t believe for a second that he has no appreciation of the need for timely responses to meet publishing deadlines.”

Observer editor Les Reid told HTFP: “We have asked why Julian Knight MP, paid by the public purse, thinks it’s acceptable in the age of 21st century media to have a ‘media policy’ of ‘responding to specific media requests within 72 hours’.

“I appreciate he’s relatively new to politics and daily journalism, but I’ve never known anything like it and my career as a daily political journalist began in the 1990s, before the internet.

“Mr Knight can hardly blame Parliament’s pre-occupation with Brexit for his latest failure to respond in a timely manner – for a front page about school headteachers writing to him about the schools funding ‘crisis’.

“His neighbouring Conservative Meriden MP Caroline Spelman – who has been a more central figure in the Brexit debate – responded within two hours and pledged to take the schools’ concerns to chancellor Philip Hammond.”


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  • March 25, 2019 at 10:57 am

    It takes a lot for me to have sympathy with a Tory MP but this story does that. There is no law or rule which says an MP has to reply within a certain time period. If he chooses not to, so what, just say so in the paper. Saying things like ‘don’t understand 21st century journalism’ and ‘not been doing this for very long’ makes the editor, not the MP, look daft and self-important (citing your career in quotes also helps).

    Put it another way, if you ask a member of the public what’s more important to them – their MP representing them on Brexit and doing their job as an MP in the House of Commons, or replying to the local free weekly paper in a timely manner to keep the editor happy, I wouldn’t expect you’d find much support for the editor.

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  • March 25, 2019 at 4:51 pm

    MPs are increasingly ignoring their local newspapers and instead employing media teams to run their own FB pages and producing expensive newsletters. There needs to be scrutiny and there needs to be accountability and in a lot of constituencies, the only people providing these things are local journalists. There’s no excuse for taking 72 hours to respond to a simple enquiry. It takes five minutes to phone the reporter or email something across if time is tight. It suits MPs to sidestep their local papers though, doesn’t it, so no wonder they’re slow to respond.

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  • March 25, 2019 at 5:47 pm

    Sounds pompous for a humble weekly free newspaper, the lowest form of newspaper life after all. He replied eventually after all. It is hard for we hacks to accept that in the real world to some people there are more important things in life than newspaper deadlines. Life goes on.

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  • March 26, 2019 at 11:14 am

    A few journalists here who seem to think it’s okay for a local MP to wait three days before responding to a very important local story. Anyway, I don’t think the paper should be too concerned. A succession of similar stories that end by saying. “Solihull MP was too busy to responds to his voters’ concerns” should soon change his mind.

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  • March 26, 2019 at 12:27 pm

    His policy is a to respond WITHIN 72 hours – not suggesting it will take him 72 hours to respond. Presumably there are times when he responds well within that time-limit. It seems like a reasonable policy. I’m in agreement with Tippex, that it takes a lot to have sympathy for a Tory MP…

    Wonder whether this request was submitted by email, or whether the journalist phoned his mobile and spoke to him.

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  • March 26, 2019 at 10:43 pm

    Some of these comments are too bizarre to have come from journalists. Seems this story has touched a raw nerve with this MP and his supporters! 72 hours or “within” 72 hours isn’t good enough for any newspaper and website. He’s been out of the game too long, clearly. Anyway, ironic for paperboy to comment on pomposity when in the same breath looking down on local journalism that does its bit for democracy – certainly more for democracy than MPs of JK’s ilk when it comes to their interactions with the media.

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