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Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The failure of the Press in Barnet and why I bother doing this

I used to write a blog on the Hendon Times much like this. Following pressure from the ruling Tories on Barnet Council, this was stopped in October 2008. I was told that Brian Coleman crowed "We've seen the last of him". I started the Barnet Eye blog. Today I was reminded why I didn't "F*** off and die" as a certain councillor hoped. There is a massive scandal concerning the finances of the future shape program. This has been compounded by pressure from the executive to ignore a report by Grant Thornton auditors. I copied the local press, who have websites into the correspondence, so that they could broadcast what is clearly a matter of public importance. To date they haven't bothered to say a dickybird. If they do now, it is too late for the meeting of the audit committee which is going on as I write this. I could despair. I would despair but for two things. The magnificent support of the readers of this blog, growing all the time, here's the stats for the last three months. As you can see, with 10 days of the month to go, the stats just keep on rising month on month.
The other thing which makes it worthwhile is the fact that there are other blogs in Barnet who also care. I draw great support from this. They are on both the left and right of the argument, but most of all they care. Please take five minutes to have a look at the sidebar in the right hand column and check them all out.

Generally there is a decline in circulation and readership of the traditional local papers. As they are free, most of the people in Barnet still see them on a weekly basis, wheras you have to choose to look at this blog. I'm not having a go at the journalists on these papers. They do their best and I am not having a go at them, but it is time for the editors to get out of their comfort zones, start campaigning, start taking risks and start serving the people of Barnet. Three years ago, this blog didn't exist. Now look how many people read it. This isn't because I'm a genius or even a good writer. It's because their is a fierce interest in these issues.

Thanks for your support. I do this in my spare time, which is why I can't cover all of the things I'd like to. This is why I can't attend things like the audit committee tonight (had to attend a meeting for my sons school transfer). I apologise for the fact I can't. It is time that the people of Barnet started getting the service they'd like from the people who's job it is to provide it, rather than from people like me. I hope these stats might get the editors thinking about the fact that they are actually missing a huge opportunity to grow their readerships. What is undeniable is that in three years, this blog has grown from nothing to a very respectable figure, for something which mostly just covers the shenanigan of our local masters. Just imagine what the figures would be like if I could cover sport, arts, local news, restaurants. Anyway, must go, got a studio to run.

7 comments:

Mrs Angry said...

I have also been puzzled by the silence of the local press on this story. Perhaps they are waiting for the committee meetings tonight to cover the issue. Perhaps they are struggling to find an angle in the face of a lack of attack from the opposition parties on this council. If the press fails to follow this story, this will be an indictment of our local newspapers, and an indictation of, as you have suggested, an inability to keep abreast of the changing face of local politics and the way in which people choose to keep themselves informed. Equally, politicians in the opposition parties need to wake up and seize the initiative, handed to them on a plate by this idiotic Tory council, floundering from one crisis to another.

baarnett said...

And oddly enough, Barnet's three newspapers probably have the highest proportion of editorial copy in the country. (The 'Ham & High' considers itself THE greatest local newspaper in the country, anyway - which it probably is).

There has been a collapse in newspaper advertising generally, and hacks made redundant, so don't speak ill, of what we have in our newspapers, too much.

Nevertheless, there's plenty worth criticising.

Is the 'Barnet Press' constrained by the fact it handles all the council advertising?

Can the 'Barnet Times' now repeat its level of activity on OneBarnet/easyCouncil/FreerShape that it did over Allowancegate (its petition was great, but it took a couple of weeks to get going on that, and also failed to emphasise the 54% rises in committee chairmen pay which STILL WENT AHEAD).

Roger - You, and your blog are brilliant.

One thought, though - there are not many of us rabbitting on in the Comments sections of the Posts. What about opening up "Anonymous" access - for just a few days, perhaps - to see if more people have something to say? I don't mean Brian, Lynne and Mikey, but just new-comers to Commenting.

baarnett said...

I see there's only three days to go for the "Is Bobby a Twat?" poll.

I hope you've got something special planned.

Is it still your Books-for-Bobbie day in Mill Hill on Saturday?

baarnett said...

I've been around all the Barnet blogs, and others.

Mrs A has excelled herself in eloquence here.

And the interests of local people in the Cricklewood railway cottages seem totally ignored by Barnet council here.

Rog T said...

Baarnet,

Probably didn't express myself very well. What I was trying to say was that I feel both papers fail to use their websites to stay on top of local news.

I can't criticise the way they covered the expenses scandal, but I think they have the resources to do a far better job online. If they'd written about the audit committee meeting in advance, maybe there would have been more public interest.

Mrs Angry said...

To be fair, as mentioned, the Press and the Times have shown guts in their coverage of Allowancegate ... however they both seem slow to follow up political stories, which is daft as there is, as we know, enormous interest in theses issues, and a more energetic and challenging approach would do wonders for circulation figures and advertising revenue.

Broadway Blogger said...

This blog is excellent and is my daily source of news about Barnet.
The stats say it all. Impressive statistics.