Comment By Tony Walley updated by Mike Rawlins
Comment by - Tony Walley
As you know this site has come in for a fair bit of praise recently at national levels.
This coming weekend we have been invited to a conference to discuss how to advance new media technology.
A week later we have been invited to take part in another high profile conference with some serious hitters and we will give you the details as soon as we can.
I know certain people may accuse us of ‘banging our drum’, and to a point that is fair. You see we know that there is a real prejudice against this site and the type of media we present and to be honest it’s all something of a pain and is most certainly frustrating!
Don’t get me wrong here, this site has a healthy relationship with our local paper the Sentinel and it’s editor Mike Sassi [in my humble opinion he has saved it from closing]. We have a lot of respect for their reporters, who do a great job in what is at the moment, a difficult industry. Newspaper sales are falling and titles are dropping out of existence. I don’t think this will happen to the Sentinel though as many people [me included] still buy and support our local paper and long may that continue.
I get asked the question ‘are you trying to replace the printed press?’ often and the answer is straightforward and honest, – no we are not. We see ourselves as an alternative, a kind of citizen news source. People these days access the news on their terms and want to take part in online discussions and voice their opinions and I feel that sites like these are ideal for that.
We would welcome a better relationship with the communications department at Stoke-on-Trent City Council but fear it will not happen. We get regular feedback that this site is not popular with the head of communications and that he rolls out the old chestnut about us being un-regulated press.
We always strive to write our articles within the guidelines of the Press Complaints CommissionsÃ‚ ‘Editors’ Code of Practice’ and the funny thing is the PCC and the code, bangs on about being self regulatory. I think we regulate ourselves extremely well, that is to say that Matt Taylor does as he has the remit of keeping us on the good side of being naughty. Matt has a journalism degree and a press card and yet it is likely that if he went to a press conference organised by the communications department at SOTCC he would be refused entrance because he would be representing us – pathetic!
The editors code of practice does not cover user content [i.e your comments] yet this is what we get criticised for the most.
Today we have printed an article about Staffordshire County Council streaming their council debate live on the Internet this coming Thursday. Their press department is a lot more inclusive too, as is Newcastle-under-Lyme’s.
Here in Stoke we are lucky if we turn up to a full council meeting where all the microphones in the chamber are in working order!
Why is our local council and in particular the communications department so out of touch and behind the times? Why, in a time when the government wants more community engagement, must we rely on a comprehensive report on this site and an article in our local paper to see whats going on in our city and within our council chamber?
As Pits’n’Pots moves forward and the new site is ready for release [coming soon guys!] we will have the technology to stream live audio over the Internet and possibly video too. We would love to see the council embracing this initiative and to work with us as a partner to get the council debates out to a wider audience. We would also provide a listen/watch again option for people who can not watch or listen live.
Yes it would cost the council some money but nowhere near what it would cost to bring in a film company to do the job for them.
Could I see the council going for this idea? The councillors yes, they would welcome it. The communications department? No definitely not – no way! They have set their stall out on this issue that is for sure.
The sad point in all of these issues is that we as a site could quite easily make the small step to being the online media outlet for the city of Stoke-on-Trent. An alternative news source [which is what we do now], a community radio station with massive local content managed by local people and a video news/feature option too.
We involved in this site have a clear vision of where we want to be, we could use some help, advice and support from our local authority but I can’t see it appearing on our horizon can you?
Our local authority are not allowed to discriminate against anyone, yet the management of our communications department may discriminate against who the hell they like and for no good reason.
While this is allowed to continue this city will witness all those around us to flourish and embrace new media with it’s technology, while we all stand still and watch all that is new, pass us by.
Update 29 September
I thought it prudent to update this post rather than detract from the good news the the City Council has chosen a newÃ‚ ChiefÃ‚ Executive. Ã‚ Once again the Press & Communications department have shown their true colours and not published a press release about John van de Laarschot. Granted the full council need to ratify the decision but non the less the news is out there that Stoke-on-Trent City Council have found a new Chief Executive. Ã‚ How did the news get out there? Ã‚ Our sources inside the Civic Centre have told us that the Sentinel were given a private briefing on this story this afternoon.
So once again an officer of the council is allowed to discriminate against us as a news outlet.
Has it stopped us? No, will these childish outdated views about ‘new media’ and in particular our site stop us from providing andÃ‚ alternativeÃ‚ source for council news? No, we will continue to do this in spite of the Press & Communications department.