Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What a Fuss About Nothing

Overnight I see that two of our better known local weblogs or should I say 'surviving' bloggers, are making a fuss because the council has changed it's mechanism for distributing information. Press releases will only go to the accredited media, while everyone else, me included, will be able to collect these from the Thanet District Council RSS feed, which I have attached to my own sidebar.

This has of course encouraged Thanet Online to  announce " A war on prominent Blogs" and Big News Margate to howl 'conspiracy' from the rooftops, with his dramatic headline 'Thanet council discriminates against free press."

It's all a bit pathetic really! I lost track of the number of weblogs in Thanet a long time ago but at least two of the more popular, apparently believe that they should receive special treatment and be regarded on the same basis as the Thanet Gazette or even the BBC, with a self-appointed right to pester the council press team for information but without having to abide by the same news protocols and code of conduct that governs the press.

So it's all a storm in a teacup. The news isn't censored or hidden or denied to anyone. The technology of Twitter and RSS feeds see to that. However, I for one don't consider myself to be operating at the same level as the mainstream media because this blog is a hobby and a diary combined. Others perhaps take themselves far too seriously and some might argue even obsessively, in stressing their own  credentials and influence as local blogging pundits.

For me however, it's just a blog and if you want to read the council news, it's on the sidebar and like this entry, I'll add any comments of my own here!


Anonymous said...

So what protocols do the press have to abide by that bloggers don't?
For those of us not as clever as you (ie all of us) please explain an RSS link and how one goes about getting one.

Luke Edwards said...


From what I can gather, e-mailed press releases occasionally contain attached images, whereas the press releases on the TDC website rarely (if ever) use said images. So if one were to rely on the RSS feed alone – which in itself has been known to be unreliable, occasionally afflicted with prolonged time delays – then the public would only be able to read the text of the press releases long after the date of original publication. This is at odds with your claim that information 'isn't censored or hidden or denied to anyone.' The public won't see the pictures which accompany press releases until the local media decide to print them. If we saw exactly what is e-mailed to local journalists, at the exact same time as they receive it in their inboxes, then I wouldn't have a problem with it, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

For example, since Michael Child was on the TDC press 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, who are often pressed for time and unfortunately drag their feet when publishing images online.

The This Is Kent website did upload the same Arlington House picture as Michael eventually, but it was tiny in comparison to the one on the blogs, 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. I'm not decrying a 'conspiracy' here. I am merely telling you that 'the technology of Twitter and RSS feeds' you sing about are by no means perfect or instantaneous, not least where TDC are concerned, so unless that is rectified then it's hard to see how this new method of 'distributing information' is an improvement on the old way of doing things insofar as the public is concerned.

Tony Beachcomber said...

Blogging is "free press", I think someone is having a laugh. There is absolutely no comparisson between the media and a lone blogger. Of course people are free to express opinions, however I do think that the ranting and ravings of a drama queen is nowhere near the standard of what I call media.

Michael Child said...

Simon I suppose having given this matter some thought there are underlying questions here, perhaps you would like to consider some.

With the Thanet press release site do you think it preferable to have a site showing the latest council press releases, documents and planning applications or not?

Let me give you an example that you can relate to, lets suppose that yesterday a new planning application for Margate Football Club appeared on the councils website, something big, say 11 all weather football pitches 80 bed hotel, conference and banqueting suites, you know the type of thing.

How would people find out about this now the press release blog has gone?

Perhaps you would prefer that people just didn’t know, perhaps you are pleased I have stopped doing the thing, I don’t really know, it was certainly extra work I could do without, perhaps as a cabinet member you could find out what the council want in this respect.

Me I would like them to get all of this information on to their website, in a timely fashion, with proper working feeds, organised, properly prioritised and searchable so I didn’t have to bother.

I could foi this question and in eight weeks time the council would reply their reply could easily be wait another eight weeks for the answer.

MA said...

I contacted the press office this week to enquire where the RSS feeds were advertised on the TDC website. There was no link or mention on the press page. The home page had a link to 'news' This didn't communicate that this was a link to TDC press releases. So I emailed TDC. I got a reply back stating my FOI request had been received and would be dealt with within 20 days! What a waste of resources and how inappropriate or ironic! I notified The Gazette and within a day I got a reply back from TDC apologising. They have now changed the title of the link to the RSS feed and added a link to the press page. But when I last looked at it it only had the releases on it since the move. So only 20 odd items! Is there a problem having all TDC press releases posted on a web page?