Tom Murdoch

Who? Tom Murdoch, partner, Stone King.

Why is he in the news? Murdoch helped Surrey paper the Guildford Dragon become the UK’s first charitable public interest news provider.

Thoughts on the case: ‘The UK faces a general election at a time when there is widespread “market failure” in conventional news provision. Millions have little or no quality local news coverage at all. Objective investigative journalism is desperately underfunded and we face an online tsunami of fake news, rumour and disinformation. So it is exciting that this is a developing area in charity law. Recognition that the Guildford Dragon’s provision of reliable, objective, fact-checked public interest news is charitable offers new funding and ownership models – and ultimately holds out hope for sustainability, even growth, for the sector. The Dragon decision is the latest in a line of important developments. “Public interest news” purposes were first recognised by the Charity Commission with the Public Interest News Foundation and the Charitable Journalism Project – the commission finding that support for public interest news can be charitable. Similar purposes have been adopted by charity Full Fact – confirming that putting fact-checked, public interest information in the public domain can be charitable.’

Dealing with the media: ‘It’s been strange talking to the media about something that potentially affects it. Some instinctively get that this is a big deal. A healthy democracy and vibrant news sector are interdependent; you don’t get one without the other; we don’t always get the information that we need. At the same time, many journalists’ livelihoods are threatened. It’s been important to explain that only some forms of news – reliably objective, fact-checked with no political agenda – are suitable. Many (perfectly valid) forms of journalism are not. Some seem either preoccupied by old paradigms, media barons, political bias and so on, or dazzled by social media.’

Why become a lawyer? ‘My mum, in short. She represented children in court proceedings and – with separated parents myself – I could see that lawyers did a job for those that need to be heard.’

Career high: ‘This work around public interest news. At the same time, we’re not there yet. The vital role of public interest news really needs to be made safe – charitable status to be cemented in legislation, for example, or failing that, an authoritative decision of the courts.’

Career low: ‘The government’s failure with Lord Leveson’s inquiry into the press. He did a sterling job in difficult circumstances and for his findings not to be fully implemented – and for part two of the review not even to be completed – is a terrible outcome for us all.’