Friday, April 16, 2010

Sir Richard Leese and hyperlocal news

The news that Sir Richard Leese has been in a spot of domestic bother is covered elsewhere, here, here and here. I'm not commenting because it's not my style and it sounds like a horrible personal issue which he is dealing with.

It's one of those issues where you'd expect bloggers to have a unique take. Blood and Treasure points out here that he's accepted a caution and would fail a CRB check. A rather unpleasant blogger who I won't dignify with a link uses the phrase "scum" while David Ottewell points out the options for the leader are now limited.

On Twitter a new hyperlocal news service asked whether this was "good or bad?" for Manchester. It struck me that such a clumsy and insensitive question at the point at which a story was far from clear betrayed the emotional immaturity that lies behind many bloggers and the new class of keyboard warriors looking to sweep aside what they see as the present lazy media.

Attempts at a dialogue on Twitter are fairly pointless and lose their meaning, but my question that this could never be "good" - so why ask it? - were met with the veiled accusation that I'd gone native and was part of a "clique".

Here's a more thoughtful justification and explanation with some detail taken out to protect the identity of the correspondent.

When *we* first talking about setting up ... it was on the basis that the local media in Manchester is far too focused on the city centre and rarely ventures out of it's comfort zone

Part of that comfort zone is a lack of scrutiny of local politics and how it relates to the ordinary person in Manchester

A small clique of people in the city who make important decisons that effect the lives of its citizens,some elected and some not,yet are rarely scrutinised

The Manchester evening news lies at the centre of this failure.I was surprised that you held out David's article as am example of how to report local politics.It was a passionate plea to give a friend a bit of space but rarely has that journalist questioned what goes on on Albert Square.We ... as many of the emerging hyperlocal sites are doing will do that.

Now to the subject of Sir Richard.He has presided over a period of great change of Manchester and I wouldn't take that away from him as his drive to create the city region.

Yet 14 years in power can create arrogence and laziness.I have attended the lastfew council meetings and the ruling Labour front bench displays a total lack of respect for any person who dares to disagree with their philosophy-when is that ever reported?

Three years ago Richard Leese launched a campaign to clamp gown on domestic violence.It is unfortunate and rather ironic that his career has been put on hold because of that very issue.I sincerely hope that he sorts his personal issues out but the fact is that the leader of the third biggest city council must be seen to be impecable

The job of journalists as I am sure you would agree is to question, explain and coordinate in an impartial way.our site goes live shortly and you will see an objective article on the story- the reason for us asking for opinions in the earlier tweet
There you go.

There is a room for hyperlocal news and scrutiny of public figures. But there is still a chasm between the present reality of bloggers and the needs of a well-informed society.


Unknown said...

The hyperlocal site you refer to is not run by bloggers but by journalists, one of whom has 3 decades-plus experience - something you could have discovered easily with a simple bit of trawling on the search engines. Be careful with your criticism as the evidence is there that they know their trade...

Michael Taylor said...

That has absolutely nothing to do with anything.

My point isn't about experience, and I'm not unaware of the people behind the planned site.

Unknown said...

Then why refer to the "present reality of bloggers" after posting the quote from one of the journos from the hyperlocal site? There's a clear inference that they are "just bloggers". Or the comment above the quote about the "emotional immaturity that lies behind many bloggers and the new class of keyboard warriors" which again frames how you see the journalists in question.

The post you refer to was an editorial column, not a news piece. Good heavens, if no publication could editorialise on an event, clear or unclear, there wouldn't be an editorial page left in the land! It was a fair comment that was made and lot less brown-nosed than the one published the same day by Manchester Confidential, which sought to gloss over Leese's behaviour (and they knew no more at that stage than any other journalists did).

Michael Taylor said...

That is rather for the fledgling local service to prove, not for me to concede. The question "good or bad for Manchester" struck me as crass and pointless. You can judge people on what they say and what they do, not on what they did in the past.

If any new media can do something fresh and challenging it has to be good. My point remains.

David Ottewell said...

I find it astonishing to say that the MEN is 'part of the problem' and doesn't hold the council to scrutiny. It's absurd. Just a few examples, off the top of my head: plans for an underground car park for councillors; countless millions spent on consultants; plans to get soup kitchens off Manchester's streets; plans to make people pay to park in Manchester on Sundays. All MEN exclusives, all 'anti-council', all achieved some tangible result. And none of which you'd have heard about if not for us. I'd certainly never 'protect' Richard Leese; my job is pretty much the opposite. But I do try to play fair by all parties - including him. Vitriolic, negative campaiging against a council that has clearly done good as well as bad is not great journalism, any more than the opposite (i.e. being supine and uncritical).

David Ottewell said...

Oh, and isn't the point of my blog post that it will be very hard, if not impossible, for Richard Leese to continue as council leader?

Michael Taylor said...

To be clear, I also pointed out on Twitter that the so-called establishment media in Manchester Confidential (who I write for) and the Manchester Evening News, particularly the political editor David Ottewell got it spot on. Ottewell is a quality political analyst who sees the big picture very astutely, which is why I link to his blog, and always read him, even though I must admit I don't pick up the paper as much as I did.

Anonymous said...

Wordsmith_for_Hire is one of the said journos who runs Inside the M60. My advice to them is to be careful themselves when posting comments defending their publication in the third-person.

Anonymous said...

It would be helpful if your correspondent could write, particularly if he/she is setting up a website in Manchester. It undermines the claim to be serious commentators if they don't even have a basic grasp of English grammar.

Nigel Barlow said...

A pity that anonymous can't reveal who he or she is.

Nothing worse than people who haven't the guts to put a name behind a comment

Ps you should also get your facts right about who is behind the site.