Public Interest News Journalists: 16: James Cracknell, Waltham Forest Echo

James Cracknell is a community journalist and editor of Enfield Dispatch and Waltham Forest Echo independent local newspapers.

James, editor of Waltham Forest Echo since 2015, has been working in the local press for twelve years and has broken many big local stories through the paper.

When James moved to Enfield, he raised the issue that after the closure of the boroughs’s weekly local newspaper there is a need for an independent publication there that has news solely covering Enfield.

Because of his approach The Enfield Dispatch started in 2018

Besides writing the main news stories in these newspapers he is also assisting local people and organisations to write an article even if they have no experience in doing that so their voices can be heard by the rest of the community.

“His work both in Enfield and Waltham Forest is highly appreciated. His long time dedication towards local news is exceptional,” read one nomination.

In the past year, stories from James (in Waltham Forest) include an investigation into fire safety in council-owned tower blocks revealing that nearly half of them posed a “substantial” risk to residents; a joint probe alongside environmental investigations website DeSmog exposing the extent of the council’s remaining fossil fuel investments, despite its divestment pledge; plus the redevelopment threats faced by a much-loved community centre.

James, as the editor of Enfield Dispatch, covered stories like a political scandal at Enfield Council, including several code-of-conduct breaches by the authority’s leader, which helped provide a number of big headlines over the past year.

James also had stories about the council’s handling of changes to bin collections, a row over affordability at one of London’s largest housing schemes, and threats to the borough’s Green Belt. He also reported about the allotment secretary criticising thecouncil for ‘neglecting’ sites.

“Both in Enfield and Waltham Forest he reported about how local residents, businesses, charities and civic groups are teamed up to help support victims of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said a nomination.

“James is holding power to account in the local areas he covers. He raised awareness of many issues in the borough. After his investigation into Waltham Forest’s tower blocks and fire safety the impact was that the residents have been aware of the situation and this has enabled them to challenge the authorities to do something about the issue.

“His ongoing coverage of Waltham Forest Council’s poor treatment of children with special educational needs has caused the council consult more widely with parents than they otherwise would have done.

“His articles through the pandemic provided vital information for the local readers and connected the local community, made readers aware where they can get help if it is needed or where they can turn to if they would like to help out.”

See more from the Public Interest News List here

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