One of the surprises of writing this blog has been the number of contacts I've made. There was a steady trickle of journalists and researchers from the start. Most were planning a TV or radio programme and wanted either information or, most often, contacts. Most of these programmes didn't happen. One independent TV producer wanted employees of A4e, who he would film in silhouette, preserving their anonymity. I tried to explain that people working in the sector wanted above all to keep their jobs, and such whistle-blowers were not likely to be forthcoming. He was adamant that he could do it. He didn't. Another, who travelled quite a distance to talk to me, was well on the way to producing an item for a news programme, but it got overtaken by events.
A researcher talked to me at length, asking almost immediately if I would take part in the programme. I saw this as a test of my confidence in what I was telling her, and said yes. Later, when the programme had been put together, she asked me again to take part. I said I would if it was really necessary but didn't want to. She said that was okay, they had a whistle-blower. The programme was scheduled. But just 3 days before it was due to go out it was pulled. All I could gather was that the whistle-blower had been threatened with legal action and the channel's lawyers had decided it was too risky. Chalk that one up as a victory for A4e.
Another journalist I talked to was looking for information on outsourcing and welfare-to-work in general. I felt like saying that she was getting paid for her work and I wasn't (but I didn't). However, two of the journalist contacts I made were to prove very useful. I remember reading a rant by Andrew Marr, the BBC's favourite Tory interviewer; he hates bloggers because they think they are real journalists but just post spiteful rubbish. What an irony. If Marr was a real journalist he would know how much they've come to depend on bloggers.
There were other contacts too. One was an academic psychologist, working in a university in Wales (that much was true, I checked him out). He was inviting bloggers like me to go and be interviewed by him on why we picked on Emma Harrison when A4e was no different to any other company. He admitted he had no worked up proposal for a study yet. I answered him rather tersely. It puzzled me that an academic would start out with his conclusion already formed and seek to prove it. His reply was odd and I tried hard to explain why A4e was different. He then became quite abusive and I told him that I would ignore any further communications from him. It turned out that he had done some work for A4e. He went onto the Indus Delta site (it was obviously him) to ask for the same information and to complain about me. Gratifyingly, he was ignored.
Then there was the young man, a student I think, who wanted my opinion on a series of short films he and his friends were making - to be shown on the London underground! - loosely based on A4e. I watched half of one film and was completely turned off by the obscenity-filled conversation. He was a bit embarrassed when I told him so; they were improvised, he said. I didn't watch any more, after pointing out a couple of factual errors. But I wish him well.
I should add that I have made some interesting email contacts among my regular readers as well.