A welcome window of clarity on the issue of whether bloggers can record public council meetings today: Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has weighed in to say that public meetings should be open to bloggers and that they should “routinely allow online filming of public discussions as part of increasing their transparency”
Pickles’ guidance – and the accompanying letter sent to all councils – provides useful material to show uncooperative councils.
The letter calls on councils to give “credible community or ‘hyper-local’ bloggers and online broadcasters the same routine access to council meetings as the traditional accredited media have”
It also reassures councils that “giving greater access will not contradict data protection law requirements”. This is a key part, as data protection is often used as an excuse to prevent filming. The Help Me Investigate investigation revealed a worrying ignorance regarding data protection laws by councils even in formal internal reports. Other areas, including privacy, copyright, defamation and “procedural matters” are covered in this blog post rounding up some of the investigation’s findings.
“After responses to the debate about council “newspapers” prompted so many comments … about local papers dumbing down and failing to cover civic issues at the expense of celebrity trivia, I suggested on this blog carrying out some sort of a survey to see whether that was truly the case.
“This alleged withdrawal of bread-and-butter reporting hasn’t been my experience of working on regional papers in northern England and Scotland, but, maybe times have changed or other regions have different stories to tell?”
Sarah’s investigation began on her blog with the Darlington & Stockton Times (of 7 eligible pages, the equivalent of 2 are concerned with local council stories) before I suggested she use Help Me Investigate to crowdsource the research.
I talk to a lot of people who work in council communications departments. They’re all conscious that the regional press is in trouble. If they’ve not recently lost a local paper they’ve certainly seen local journalists lose their jobs.
They consistently tell me one thing: “Because there are fewer reporters it’s easier to get coverage. Those who are left are really grateful for the stuff we give them. More and more they run it verbatim”. Continue reading →
As part of a group response to the government‘sinquiry into the future of local and regional media,Paul Bradshaw looks at the role of local authorities in regional journalism. Blog comments will be submitted to the inquiry as well as the blog posts.
The question of what public sector bodies should be allowed to publish, how that affects local journalism, the local economy, and local democracy, is one of the most difficult to resolve – not least because it involves so many interconnected elements.
The first problem is that any discussion runs the risk of conflating a number of separate but interlinked elements:
local councils and local democracy are not the same thing;
local newspapers and local journalism are also two different things.
Whatever model emerges must recognise that papers are not the only places where public discussion takes place, and print journalists are not the only people holding power to account.