Hopeless. A distracted journo and a mayor with a dodgy history – in the clear

I was tweeting tonight.  Nothing unusual about that on a Sunday – or any other day that ends in a ‘y’.

Anyway, somebody popped onto my timeline with the following: 25 05 14 - bartlett3It’s safe ground, for a journo or anyone else to have a pop at the BNP, which he went on to do more forcefully later on, and we’re fully behind him on that.

But by now, it’s a bit passe, old hat, tried and tested, going over well-trodden ground…  and above all safe.

I’m sat there thinking, “This man should have more than an inside story on who precisely the power holding rogues are.   What’s he running frit of ?”

Wouldn’t it be more incisive if he was questioning those corrupt individuals and parties who are holding and abusing power right here, right now?”  i.e. doing his job properly, setting an example to his staff, researching carefully, finding torrents of scandal and abuse, writing it all up, clearing it with his courageous superiors and reporting back to the public who buy the newspapers.

I suppose that’d be a bit more challenging than just steering clear of all corruption, collecting the salary, enjoying the perks, taking orders from above and bending to the will of a board of executives who must be obeyed.

But this is no low level part-time scribbler.  He works for TrinityMirror as Deputy Head of Content – see here and here and here.

So with that kind of nonsense going on, which has now become de rigueur not just in Liverpool but the length and breadth of this ‘democracy’, it’s highly unlikely he’ll jeopardise his position and risk upsetting the applecart in favour of free, fair and fearless reporting.

But how quaint – do older readers remember those ante-Murdochian journalistic values?  What happened to them?  Apologies for reminding you that they DID once exist right across the nation.  But how quickly they disappeared.

I tweeted back on the subject of perspective, hopeful of a response…

25 05 14 - bartlett4

Nothing came back.  But no matter.  I was a little uncouth, and didn’t ask him a question anyway.

But soon, he was off again…

25 05 14 - bartlett5

Now it was the turn of the LibDems and the Greens to harken to what the Liverpool Echo’s DB had been told.

I chimed in a little brusquely, again wondering, “Where’s the perspective here”…?

25 05 14 - bartlett6

The response…

25 05 14 - bartlett7

Sorry David, but no you didn’t.  See your first tweet at the top – 41,797 – you gave me the number of votes cast on Thursday just gone, in the European election – and definitely not the size of the St Helen’s electorate.

Unless ALL those entitled to vote in St Helens voted?  A 100% turnout?  Was that it?

OK, we only get 140 characters per tweet, but sadly, David’s tweets didn’t provide any perspective on how many had voted from the total electorate – i.e. those qualified and entitled to vote.  Instead of wrongly concluding we we’re getting the full picture – we would then have something approaching the reality of the situation…

Which is that the majority of the electorate would not be voting because they don’t perceive that it will change anything.  The unseen, unspoken elephant in the room that lazy journalism feeds into, protects and enables.

But sloppiness won the day, and people will have jumped to the wrong conclusions – again.  Guaranteed.

If he’s wanting to inform and educate the masses, why only give half the picture?  As an aside, I pointed out the definition of ‘electorate’ to him:

25 05 14 - bartlett8

The response?  He went all quiet on me.

Not that David’s sudden, self-imposed quietude is what bothers me about our shrinkingly reticent UK media.  It’s the global, rabbit in the headlights, petrified kind of silence that many of them seem to have adopted because they’re too shit scared to argue with their editor / proprietor, or blow the whistle on abuse or impropriety, or complain when they’re not allowed to investigate scandal properly, or pack their bags and leave, or protest when they’re prevented from doing a proper job in the service of their paying readers. *(see John Brace’s comment below…)

On June 2nd, Councillor Steve Foulkes, the former portfolio holder for social services at Wirral Council will be in the Floral Pavilion, New Brighton, being invested as mayor.  Here is just one of his ‘achievements’ from a roll-call of many more:

2014-03-22 12.08.15

Despite sterling work from the Wirral Globe in the past, no newspaper has independently got onto this travesty of a mayor making ceremony.   It’s been left to the excellent and incorruptible Wirral Leaks blog to keep the public in the know.

I’m assuming the bent status quo that existed before whistleblower Martin Morton was forced out of the council for blowing the whistle against the crooked managers and councillors behind an 8 year long plundering of £736,756.97 from the bank accounts of many of the council’s vulnerable learning disabled tenants…

…has been fully restored.

As far as newspapers and press coverage  go, I’ve gone out on a limb, and don’t know the field I’m complaining about well enough to put up a detailed, compelling and comprehensive argument – that’s obvious.  I’m an ex-leading radio operator, ex-school security patrolman, ex-digger of roads, ex-jointer of cables, ex-designer of street lighting layouts – forced out twice – turned blogger and campaigner.

A person with the in-house knowledge could come on here and potentially destroy my case.  I’m sure of that.

But this is what I’m also sure of.  I’m a punter who used to buy and read newspapers daily, doesn’t any longer, and won’t ever again.

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About Wirral In It Together

Campaigner for open government. Wants senior public servants to be honest and courageous. It IS possible!
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4 Responses to Hopeless. A distracted journo and a mayor with a dodgy history – in the clear

  1. John Brace says:

    “about our shrinkingly reticent UK media. It’s the rabbit in the headlights, petrified kind of silence that many of them seem to have adopted because they’re too shit scared to argue with their editor / proprietor, or blow the whistle on abuse or impropriety, or complain when they’re not allowed to investigate scandal properly, or pack their bags and leave, or protest when they’re prevented from doing a proper job in the service of their paying readers.”

    That doesn’t apply to all of us in “the media”. However writing about Wirral Council politics is a niche market, I earn more for less hours writing about stuff that has nothing to do with politics. As I am “the editor/proprietor” if there’s something I want to pass by someone before clicking publish, I read it to my wife.

    As to investigating scandal properly, see above comment about covering Wirral Council politics being a niche market. Doing “public interest” journalism isn’t very well paid compared to more commercial stuff. Blowing the whistle on abuse or impropriety is something all journalists have a problem with doing but why you ask?

    It’s because we’re trained to “double source” that sort of controversial story involving abuse or impropriety because it’s not good for anyone’s career/reputation to have to print a correction/clarification or even worse be sued for libel.

    The problem however with such stories is you have one source (a whistleblower), you try to “double source” it but hit a “conspiracy of silence”. Your only recourse then is to ask the press office for their take on the story and inevitably you’ll be given a spun quote or if there’s a lot of pressure on them a limited hangout. Bear in mind the last time I heard statistics quoted there were four people working in public relations/PR/press offices compared to every one in the media.

    Then there’s the issue of expenses. I’ll give you two examples. It’s in the public interest for the public to know who funds politicians election campaigns and political parties (whether private donors, political parties, individuals or organisations) and how it’s spent. Councillors in these elections have until some date in June 2014 to submit their election expenses. Once they do I can inspect them for free, but have to pay I think it’s 40p per a page if I want photocopies to scan in and put on my blog. So say I just wanted to publish one candidates election expenses return (which could be 20 pages long) that would be 20*£0.40 = £8 for the photocopies.

    As you know yourself from making FOI requests, there’s an exemption for material to do with legal cases. However the Civil Procedure Rules allow you to get copies from the court of judgements in public and statements of case (you can have more if you have the permission of parties to the case). I was curious to find out what Wirral Council’s statement of case was over the Fernbank Farm possession order and have a copy of the two judgements in the case. Civil Procedure Rule 5.4C allows a non party to a case to request such documents.

    Birkenhead County Court asked a District Judge who said yes I could have them. However for what is four to six pages (two judgements at 1 A4 side each plus perhaps two to four pages as a statement of case) they want £10 for photocopying before supplying the documents.

    So as you can see, “public interest” journalism costs money! I have yet to check whether Birkenhead County Court quoting £10 is above the prescribed fee but I will. Hopefully the above gives a few insights into how unless you have deep pockets the kind of public interest journalism you describe would likely not be done by most newspapers as it’s time consuming and expensive! The journalist involved would have to get an ok from their boss to expenses incurred.

    This is why the media love quoting from reports instead. For example the Anna Klonowski Associates report cost the taxpayer a six-figure sum (plus whatever her legal advisers asked for). The media then felt free to report on the publication of the report and quote from it without having to spend the hours interviewing people involved.

    Maybe the above examples don’t sound like much money but say for instance I wanted to publish (for Wirral) each winning candidate’s election expenses (twenty-three individuals) and their second placed rivals (a further twenty three). Say each return was an average of 15 pages, that would be 46*15*40p= £276! It would also take about 12 hours to scan in! Maybe you could use crowdfunding or a small grant to fund it but otherwise it would be uneconomic as the advertising from such a story would not cover the expenditure.

    A similar argument can be made about filming public meetings. The cost of equipment (tripod say £30, camera £25, memory card £35, batteries and charger say another £10) is far more than the revenue from advertising on such videos. If you’re talking about professional filming then you’re looking at equipment costing £500-£1000.

    These type of public interest projects just aren’t commercial and are generally only done when taxpayer funded or grant funded. I have thought of crowdfunding things such as publishing election expenses or large contracts (eg the BAM Nuttall contract) but haven’t investigated it fully yet.

    • Thanks John for that inside knowledge. Very enlightening to hear.

      What I find troubling also is the fact that executives at TrinityMirror are offering gifts to the Wirral Council leader, he’s accepting and we’re left wondering what the kickbacks are, how many officials are involved and are they abusing public money? When we ask for information, we’re told there’s a legal exemption preventing disclosure.

      It’s all becoming very incestuous and corrosive to democracy. The Murdoch effect on newspapers and media was catastrophic

      • John Brace says:

        If you aren’t getting a straight answer out of Wirral Council with regards to the donation, there’s nothing to stop you making enquiries to Trinity Mirror as to the reason/s behind the gift/s.

  2. joeddj says:

    once again excellent writing and so very true – it seems to me the journalists ”bend the knee” to those in the corridors of power ……

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