Monday, 13 June 2011

Thanet District Council’s new war on the prominent Thanet Blogs


I have just received an email from the council saying that they won’t be sending me, or any other prominent bloggers, any more of their press releases and presumably no more of their accompanying photographs either.

Apparently they are only going to send press releases to the mainstream media, they also say that I can no longer ask the press department questions on behalf of my readership and any questions I have should be addressed to their freedom of information department.

From past experience this would mean that the average time they take to answer a question would be a month, with the maximum time about a year.  

Particularly interesting as I notice from the counter thingy on the sidebar that the last 30 days viewings for this blog have exceeded the 20,000 mark.

The more cynical may think that the council offering considerable income to the mainstream, through advertising has something to do, with this.

I will add to this when I have asked the council’s press department about it.   

28 comments:

  1. You'd think that since we live in an age where most local newspapers are run on a skeleton crew, with statistics suggesting that nationally the number of journalists is on the wane and that the newspaper industry is in decline, that most press departments would concede that it's only fair that citizen journalism steps in to fill the void, wouldn't you?

    I would argue it's hardly a hindrance to add bloggers to mailing lists. Perhaps it's to do with a worry over how it'll impact on their reputation if a blogger makes a negative post - but then again, how exactly is the local mainstream media offering them any assurances of positive publicity either? How can they be sure a press release sent to the Gazette won't backfire on them in some way, for instance? I don't think they can.

    Let's face it, journalists never shy away from from dishing out criticism and making negative headlines about local government if they think it'll sell, so the suggestion that it's better to favour 'mainstream media' over bloggers is very peculiar, to say the least.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I can see an FOI coming on regarding who is responsible for this decision. Maybe we should all send in FOI'S ...................... nah CANT BE ASKED TDC would not tell us the truth

    ReplyDelete
  3. 1. I go with Don's idea - flood them with FoI requests and see how long before they give in.
    2. I thought that the new administration wanted to be more transparent - I'm sure I remember Bubbly Bob saying something of the kind. Obviously there's transparent and there's TDC tranmsparent; not the same thing at all
    3. Luke. Sorry, IoTG rarely, if ever, criticises local government, unless it senses a bandwagon rolling (Clock Tower traffic lights for example). Rebecca is so blue that she compensates by being neutral to the point of vacuousness.
    4. Presumably the Lord High Everything Else (aka the Flying Doctor) could offer an explanation

    ReplyDelete
  4. Shows you must be doing something right to make them take defensive actions. They hate people knowing what they are up to.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ogmios, these are politicians you're talking about. Their motto "say one thing, do another"

    ReplyDelete
  6. It's understandable. How can the local press get a scoop if the Council doesn't hand it to them on a plate? "Get off their *rs*s and go find the story" I hear you say. Sadly, that's not the way the local press works any more.

    On the other hand, perhaps it's just the fact that the local press slavishly publish whatever the Council tells them without question. Old cynics like you keep asking awkward questions.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I think what they are trying to do here is ignore the thousands of people who read the local blogs, my stance is that if I ask a question on behalf of the people who read this blog it should be treated differently to if I complained about my neighbours garden shed.

    I have several recent questions in pending which the council are sitting on and am considering publishing all of the related emails and the council’s internal confidential documents about the issues.

    After all they can’t have it both ways either I behave like responsible media or I produce the partial rantings an individual that no one reads.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Its some indication of either how stupid or biased Thanet Council is, the reason behind this ( so they claim )is saving money, they will continue to send their emails to the "mainstream" media it cost not a penny extra to send one or a thousand emails.

    If that is true reason we're dealing with stupid if its to slow down mainstream media from bloggers then it is simply corrupt censorship

    ReplyDelete
  9. I am totally baffled. It would appear that TDC will only publish where they are paying for advertising; ie mainstream media. If this is an economy measure then surely it's better to publish where they can do so for free.
    Undoubtedly no conspiracy here, just the usual TDC incompetence. Wonder when the new Chief Exec is going to get round to cleaning this lot of useless officers out and getting some people in who know what they are doing.

    ReplyDelete
  10. The knowledge that you have 20,000 plus views a month coupled with fact that you occasionally have the temerity to criticise and interrogate TDC has intimidated them. No doubt TDC feel that you are sometimes beastly to them and so they do not want to play with you any more. So there!

    On the other hand it is probably just plain old fashioned and ubiquitous local government incompetence.

    ReplyDelete
  11. John
    Spot on. Elections over, nothing has changed. Same sad little bureaucrats, thinking that they are important
    Public servants my a**e. They wouldn't know service if it bit them on the bum.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Ogmios,

    You often hear accusations that local government is corrupt. In some cases this is true; but it is rare. Mostly they are just incompetent.

    As a consequence of which many seek refuge behind their perceived rank. No longer the Town Clerk but a CEO no less: they even have a Cabinet now, just like No.10

    Many local government officers and councillors throughout the country are intent on showing us who is the boss, namely them. In these circumstances it is our duty to disabuse them.

    But to be fair TDC is far from being the worst. As far as I can tell they do not employ anyone on non-jobs and they do not come sniffing around our bins. In the main TDC does well, in my experience.

    But we must be vigilant, keep an eye out for martinets and challenge them at all times whether they like it or not.

    If they do not like what Michael says then it is their duty to challenge him with a polite and reasoned reply. Running away and hiding will not gain our respect nor confidence.

    ReplyDelete
  13. John
    Again, spot on. There is probably a Law of Political Service that says that once you come to power you regard yourself as far more important than those you serve. I don't think the present lot are particularly dodgy, although that may not have been the case in the not so distant past. They're just not up to the job in all respects.
    That said, the two most ascerbic local bloggers went off air under suspicious circumstances. I'll accept that Bertie Biggles was probably health related, but what about ECR? http://thanetstrife.blogspot.com/2008/04/fly-on-wall.html might go some way towards the answer.

    ReplyDelete
  14. John and Ogmios the council in effect said. We are writing to you to tell you that you are not worth writing to and to ask you not to reply to us. As a diplomat and a deity you both pesumably have often wished to say this to people. I think the difference here is that this is what the council actualy deciced to do, apperently as the result of a meeting, so this is the result of a melding of council minds.

    I am rather wondering what infuences could have inspired this action perhaps the answer is one of those quantum things.

    ReplyDelete
  15. And the flying doctor says.......

    ReplyDelete
  16. Michael,

    Can all of the council press releases be extracted from the tdc website, rendering this is a non issue?

    ReplyDelete
  17. 21.32 the problem here is that TDCIT take anything from a few hours to over a week to publish them, sometimes when the press release is about an event it doesn’t actually appear until after the event.

    Sometimes their press releases have errors in them that I return to them for correction, on the whole I thought I was doing them a favour, both in publishing them promptly and reading them.

    All in all I think that there is some mischief behind this one, obviously it doesn’t cost any more in time or money to send them out to all the people they have always done, it’s also rough on some of the press officers who produce good copy, as some of the people who received this email were council officers from other areas who compile websites containing the best local authority press writing.

    ReplyDelete
  18. the result of having a bean counter as chief exec, bean counters know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.
    Michael keep up your excellent work

    ReplyDelete
  19. How much of a difference is there in material supplied by an emailed press release and a Twitter press release?

    ReplyDelete
  20. Michael, you say, possibly tongue in cheek, "Sometimes their press releases have errors in them that I return to them for correction, on the whole I thought I was doing them a favour"

    Michael, no wonder they do not want to play with you any more. No martinet would enjoy this.

    You ask me what I would have done, indeed have done, in similar. circumstances. I would have corrected any errors and then thanked you for "bringing this matter to my attention" and asked you, "please do not hesitate to contact me if you think I can be of further assistance."

    We were always taught never, never to say to a member of the public that we thought they were wasting wasting our time. After all it is not a crime to waste a civil servant's time. I can honestly say that I always gave a courteous and reasoned reply. Every member of the public has a right to be heard by government, and should be treated with politeness and courtesy at all times. [Even if they are a bloody nuisance]

    There were a few who wrote in time and time again simply to hurl insults. In these circumstances Our usual reply was, "I acknowledge receipt of your letter of ..... the contents of which have been noted." This usually put and end to it.

    Then there were the 'nutters'. All harmless in my experience. There were those who believed that they were the rightful heir to the British Throne and expected me to hand it over to them. I would assure them that I would speak to her Majesty about it the next time I had tea with her. This usually satisfied them. My personal favourite was a young chap who was insistent on selling HMG a rain machine. After several visits I passed him on to my German colleague [a friend] and to say that I had sent him. All of us managed to find time for these people. We endeavoured to treat them well. There but for the Grace of God go I.

    I'm guilty of reminiscing here, Sorry Michael, but you did ask me.

    ReplyDelete
  21. 22.39 - Anon, I believe e-mailed press releases contain attached images, occasionally, whereas the press releases on the TDC website rarely (if ever) use said images.

    Since Michael was on the mailing list, he uploaded a picture of the artist's impression of Arlington House to the Thanet Press Releases blog when the Tesco story broke. Thanks to Michael, the public can now easily access that image online, but if he's removed from the mailing list, the only people able to see (and use) such images in future will be the local press.

    The This Is Kent website also uploaded the same Arlington House picture, but it was tiny in comparison to the one Michael uploaded, and you can't enlarge it, so it's easy to surmise that if bloggers aren't on TDC's press mailing list then a lot of those images will be out of reach to the wider public.

    ReplyDelete
  22. As a regular peruser, rather than contributor, of blogs, I would have to say you had it coming, Michael. Indeed, I am surprised it has taken them so long.

    Perhaps if you confined your activities to publishing press releases you would have been OK, but time and again on your other site you have used that, what one might describe as priviliged information, to offer your own critical interpretation, frequently politically coloured. The latter statement clearly proven by the frequency of some well known local lefty contributors in your support.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Michael wots wrong with your neighbours garden shed? ANYTHING WOULD BE MORE INTERESTING THAN TDC'S MONEY SAVING SCHEMES. I aim to install the new RSSS feed if I can work out how to do it. I am sure something more interesting than TDC's decision to stop mailing people will come along soon and we will all have forgotten about it next week. As for this shed ........tell me more.

    ReplyDelete
  24. there is of course the Thanet District Council RSS feed.
    www.westgateandwestbrook.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
  25. I've been knocked off their list as well. We must all be really dangerous creators of public questioning! Flattering really - if it weren't so worrying about what's really going on...
    Christine

    ReplyDelete
  26. Please! will Ascu 75 Aka Don and Ogmios blogged on 13th June, listen and learn.
    Do you two, not know, how much it costs the tax payers to ask for a FOI. This should only be used if other ways have not been successful.
    I agree with you SOME of the councillors are a waste of space, but then we have far more residents of Thanet who are also a complete waste of space. They don't work, don't clean up their personal space and expect everything for nothing, these are the people we should be focusing on and ousting out of Thanet.

    ReplyDelete
  27. 13:28 you actually think I would ask, I'm sorry you have got me confussed with some onee who gives a toss. I am far past worrying about TDC, they can get on with running Thanet into oblivion. I am only promoting Thanet businesses that I know. When I started the Promote Thanet blog I thought it could make a small difference and maybe even create a few extra visitors to this small Isle we call home.I now know I am a dillusional fool and anything I promote TDC are doing there level best to undermine, Rather than have the interest of Thanet at heart I am convinced our councillors and co see things in a far different light. This of course is my personal opinion and TDC may see things differently.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I'm sorry but those of you who put this down to council incompetence rather than a deliberate attempt at censorship are displaying symptoms of Stockholm syndrome.

    ReplyDelete

Please note comments that may be libellous, comments that may be construed as offensive, anonymous derogatory comments about real people, comments baiting internet trolls, comments saying that an anonymous comment was made by a named real person, boring comments and spam comments, comments in CAPs will be deleted. Playground stuff like calling real people by their time stamp or surname alone, referring to groups as gangs, old duffers and so on will result in deletion. Comment that may be construed as offensive to minority groups is not allowed here either, so think before you write it, remember that the internet is a public place, that it is very difficult to be truly anonymous and that everyone who uses it leaves a trail of some sort. Also note the facility to leave anonymous comment will be turned of during periods when I am unable to monitor comment, this will not affect people commenting who are signed on to their blogger accounts. When things are particularly difficult on the commercial spam front I may turn comment moderation on for periods.

If you feel that someone has left a comment that is offensive and directed at you personally please email me (link on the sidebar) asking to have it removed, you will need to tell which post and the date and timestamp of the offending comment. Please do not reply to the offending comment as I will assume you continuing the dialogue as meaning that you want the comments left there.