Posted tagged ‘newspapers’

In defence of the Pravda

April 7, 2011

Are Council publications really that evil?

As regular readers will know, the WLLG team are made up of a number of individuals from all over local government, with a number of differing roles, ideas and opinions.  Often we have similar outlooks on things, and certainly find the same things baffling, but just like a healthy marriage we don’t always agree on everything.

An article we posted looking at the problems with council run newspapers is one such area.  Recently the good people of the Guardian ran a piece from us about these problems, and a mighty fine piece it was too.  It argued that the money that it drew in from other services was excessive, and that it gave lazy comms officers an easy route to say they effectively communicate with their residents.

Now, I’m not going to argue with the latter point; I’ve encountered too many people who think effective comms = press release to think this was an exaggeration.  Effective comms is so much more than that, it’s crazy how easily staff can fall into that trap.

However, a well produced Council newspaper or magazine can be a hugely positive tool as well.  It is proven to be an effective way of getting information from the Council to local people; whether they choose to read it or not is up to them, but it at least means they have the opportunity to do so.  I know I have a good read through my regular council’s publication, skimming through it to see what might catch my eye, and have found out some very useful information as a result.

There is also the issue of balance to consider.  A regular criticism of freesheets is that they provide little in the way of journalistic balance, presenting a majority of positive news and rarely if ever criticise the Council or its partners.  My question is; so what?

If you want to hear council bashing then there are plenty of places to do so, in fact most commercial local papers are full of criticism of anything and everything the council does.  Often they also contain pieces penned by opposition councillors, attacking the political leaders and their decisions whilst other contributors criticise specific services or senior officers.  When was the last time you saw an article in one of these members of the free press who said “do you know what, the council is doing a bloody good job under really difficult circumstances, we should all cut them a little slack”? (more…)

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Pravda in the council

January 31, 2011

Council free sheets have more colourful pictures!

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles is not a particularly subtle communicator. Last year, when announcing that he wanted to see an end to practice of local councils producing and distributing their own local newspapers he described his argument as follows:

Councils should spend less time and money on weekly town hall Pravdas that end up in the bin, and focus more on front-line services like providing regular rubbish collections. The previous Government’s weakening of the rules on town hall publicity not only wasted taxpayers’ money and added to the wave of junk mail, but has undermined a free press.

This week the DCLG Select Committee in the House of Commons rejected Mr Pickles’ proposals and stated that he needed more evidence that the actions of local councils was undermining local newspapers before he could regulate them.

In many ways this was a victory for localism over the centralising tendency of the DCLG when something irritates them and should be welcomed.

However, in many ways the debate over council newspapers is like that over free speech. Just because councils have the right to do something does not mean they should abuse that right.

Council run newspapers are, in my experience, a dreadful thing and here is why: (more…)