Archive for July, 2008
And crabbing, and musselling, and might even try to catch a squid or two.
Unlikely to be blogging in the meantime.
Anyone too frazzled to pick up a newspaper for fear of reading about yet more stabbings could turn instead to their local council’s regular news magazine.
Forget ‘broken Britain’ or knife-ridden hell holes, your local council magazine is more likely to paint a rosy picture of new swimming pools being opened, railway station renovations, and post offices saved.
Take ‘My Merton’, a bi-monthly ‘news and information’ magazine produced by Merton Council’s communications team. Inside the latest issue:
- ‘Cracking Crime’ describes how the ‘Tackling Gangs programme was a finalist in the national problem solving police awards’, that neighbourhood watch has been expanded to nearly one in every two households, and that the 25 ‘most prolific burglars’ in Merton are being ‘closely monitored and worked with under the Prolific and Priority Offender scheme.
- Unlike in an independent newspaper, the leader of the Council, David Williams, is given ample space to explain what the council is doing, and is quoted frequently throughout the magazine. No awkward questions about council over-spend, or escalating violence after last orders, or delays on track renovations.
- Rather My Merton reports that ‘The last year has been a successful one for Merton’, with upgrades for leisure centres, community ‘forums flourishing’ and new sports halls getting the go-ahead.
There is even room for a pop at the mainstream press. ‘Young people are often portrayed negatively in the media’ the magazine writes on p.8, ‘but as these two projects show, the reality is often quite different’.
It’s easy to dismiss this as ‘well they would say that wouldn’t they’ and write it off as just another council freesheet but, as Stephen Glover noted in The Independent this week, the number of state funded news outlets is growing fast. “Council publications in Lambeth, Hackney, Waltham Forest and Havering have gone from being monthly to fortnightly, and Hammersmith and Fulham is planning to follow suit. Greenwich will soon have a weekly title. No doubt more and more councils inside and outside London will be turning themselves into publishers.”
Nor are they typed up on tatty bits of A4. My Merton is a glossy full-colour magazine that looks better than many weekend supplements. In addition to council news it has an interview with Gwyneth Strong who is appearing at the New Wimbledon Theatre, some local history, even a ‘What’s On’. My Merton is, according to the magazine, ‘recognised as one of the best council publications in the country’ and has won awards for its design and content.
Indeed, one could make a strong argument that this is how we’ll receive most of our news about the local council in future. Fewer and fewer local papers send a correspondent to council meetings. Most now opt to be sent a press release instead. And, given the dire financial condition of two of the UK’s biggest local newspaper owners, Trinity Mirror and Johnston Press, local government reporting (rarely a big crowd puller) is likely to dwindle further.
But woe betide the health of democratic accountability if we have to rely on free Council magazines for information about and scrutiny of local government.
“Crone, regarded as the sharpest brief in the newspaper industry, wields the ultimate power of veto over what goes into the Murdoch tabloids. It is Crone who can assess better than anyone the risk / reward in running a calumnious celebrity story. At least eight editors have come and gone under Crone’s 20-year watch, and in that time there has been a substantial toll of personal misery, damage and fear engendered by the papers” (p.58).
Burden goes on to quote an unnamed former News of the World journalist:
“What you have to imagine is that in the hell’s kitchen that is the News of the World newsroom, where a horde of little devils rake muck, lie, invent anything they think will titillate and tempt a less than diligent public into hating, sneering at or despising someone else, prefereably someone they once admired because they were in Corrie or played for Man U or won Big Brother, or used to be married to a prince, and sometimes just unfortunate members of the public who were in the wrong place… there, behind a string of editors, stands Crone, the legal ringmeister always on hand to tell them just how far they can go, and what it will cost them if they do transgress, so they can balance that against additional sales” (from Peter Burden, News of the World?).
Question is, has Tom Crone judged the risk / reward right in the Mosley case? There’s certainly been lots of reward so far in terms of titillating stories and exclusive video footage. But will this be the story that creates a standard UK precedent from Article 8 of the Human Rights Act – giving people a legal right to privacy? If so it could do the News of the World far more damage in the long term than the sale of a few hundred thousand more papers this last couple of months. The failure of the primary defence witness to turn up in court yesterday can’t have bolstered Crone’s confidence.
Responding to popular demand… we’ve added a couple more bits of information to www.journalisted.com.
We at Journalisted get lots and lots of emails asking us for the contact details of journalists. In response we do our best to explain that we don’t keep contact details, and only publish email addresses on the site if they’re published below the journalist’s articles.
Still, this seemed a little lame. So we’ve added a bit more information that we hope will be more helpful. If someone writes regularly for a particular national news outlet then we make a guess at their email based on the standard email format for that organisation (e.g. email@example.com) – making sure people know it’s a guess of course. Oh, and if that doesn’t work then we’ve stuck up the telephone number of the news organisation too. For example, see Rob Adams at the Herald – http://www.journalisted.com/rob-adams.
If you happen to be a journalist and this email is wrong, you’re more than welcome to send us the right one and we’ll replace it (firstname.lastname@example.org).
And, as ever, please send us any ideas or thoughts you have as to how we can make the site better and more useful. Further updates coming soon…