THE NEWSDESK: After the flood, we must all learn the lessons

Lighthouse Park resident Barry Law watches the incoming tide (3228627)

Lighthouse Park resident Barry Law watches the incoming tide (3228627)

First published in News
Last updated
South Wales Argus: Photograph of the Author by

CLOUDS were gathering above the city. The moon was reflected in the swollen waters of the River Usk.

Sandbags were placed in doorways. Phones rang with automated flood warnings. Residents stood on the river's sides and watched for signs that the tidal surge would make it burst its banks.

Some got on buses and left their homes. Others chose to stay put and ride out the rising waters.

And people took to social media in their thousands.

Last Thursday night, in particular, brought home to me just how important social media now is when it comes to major incidents.

People shared information. They shared their experiences. They shared their fears.

And the night also brought it home to me how there are winners and losers when it comes to disseminating information on social media.

Us, the traditional media, we're pretty darned good at it. We understand it. We understand the value of good and trusted information on social media.

Some organisations simply do not. Still. They do not get it. They do not understand that wild rumours will circulate if good, reliable information is not readily available when people need it.

And that is not 24 hours after something has happened, not even a few hours.

In the darkness of Thursday night, I had tweets from people who were worried about their sick baby's safety, people who did not know whether to leave their homes or not, people who were very worried by an automated message which mentioned "danger to life". Once they heard those words, they heard very little afterwards.

People wanted to know if sandbags were available, and some wanted to know if they could help.

Our job was to sift through the reports of things happening, to try to verify things where we could and to put out information from our brand which was as accurate as we could possibly put out.

And that task wasn't made any easier by the lack of responsiveness to us from some organisations.

There were few people in those organisations available to take questions, let alone answer them - despite the fact the tidal surge warning was expected hours before.

Sometimes, those who are on the end of our questions forget why we ask them. We don't ask them because we want to create work for someone, or mischief, we ask them because that is our role - to ask the things which the public want to know.

And which the public have the right to know. Because they are, more often than not, funding the organisations of whom we ask questions.

At a time when we are all being asked to pay more for less - more taxes for fewer services - there needs to be a sea-change in attitude.

A change in mindset.

Publicly-funded organisations - be they councils, police forces or health boards - cannot operate on a 'them and us' basis which withholds information until it is convenient for them to release it.

WHY are we all wishing our lives away?

It is time we stood up against the thieves of time who are so keen for us to be over the Christmas and New Year holidays, that they are putting out stands packed full of Valentine's Day cards, Easter eggs on sale in some stores, and putting adverts for Easter eggs on TV .

It's intolerable.

The Christmas build-up began in September. Next year, I predict it will begin in August, shortly after a rain-sodden late August bank holiday.

The answer is startlingly simple. These people are doing it because they want our hard-earned cash. We have to teach them that to get our hard-earned cash, they have to stop making us thoroughly depressed.

Let's give our precious funds to those who understand that to every thing, there is a season. Those who advertise their wares when we want to buy them, not when they want us to buy them.

Comments (19)

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12:08pm Sun 5 Jan 14

coalpicker says...

Best submission I have read anywhere for a very long time .
Best submission I have read anywhere for a very long time . coalpicker
  • Score: 4

12:44pm Sun 5 Jan 14

Katie Re-Registered says...

"Us, the traditional media, we're pretty darned good at it. We understand it. We understand the value of good and trusted information on social media.

Some organisations simply do not. Still. They do not get it. They do not understand that wild rumours will circulate if good, reliable information is not readily available when people need it."

Hmm...just don't mention News International, Fox News, British tabloids like The Sun, The Mail, The Mirror, The Daily Star - and, of course, the now defunct News of the World. Btw...isn't there an ongoing trial taking place? Tbh...what passes for British traditional media is now the laughing stock of the entire world - comics for adults, isn't that how someone once described the mainstream print media?

Personally, I don't think that the 'traditional media' are any better than "social media" when it comes to relaying truth - or even for that matter with regard to quality of writing:

1. Fact is, either some people are good writers and others are not. You don't have to be a talented journalist to have wealthy parents who can afford to send you to a fee-paying school, university and then get onto a major national newspaper as a 'journalist' with their connections - and that so often shows in the poor quality of many of these celebrity journalists - much of their initially unintelligible stuff often ghost written anyway by humble sub-editors. Like it or not, what the internet has done is to democratize journalism to show that anyone can be a journalist, if they so choose - and the abilities of many of these online bloggers and reporters are often easily equal to and above the standard possessed by those so-called 'professional' journalists whose words were taken as truth without question by Jo/e Public for so long.

2. Although social media (including online bloggers) present a very, bewildering diversity of political opinions and abilities at the same time the British Press presents a very narrow group of opinions all controlled to uphold the vested interests of a handful of media barons who come from the same class, same gender, same sexuality, same race and (probably) the same public schools. In common with dodgy folks on the Internet, they tailor, edit and often even misreport or under-report events with ulterior motives, too - however, the general opinion of the British Press is, by contrast, much more narrow: i.e. aside from two papers (namely The Independent and The Guardian) it leans to the right politically; tends to be homophobic, misogynistic, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, racist, anti-single parent households. It has unscrupulous ways of getting information, as has come out in the Leveson Inquiry. In order to mask the seamier underside of the newspaper biz whilst engaging in these underhand (often illegal) activities it's often keen to promote itself as a defender of the Christian Church and traditionalist values. Whilst certain papers - such as the Mail - have a long track history of support for far-right traitors like Oswald Mosely and enemies of Britain such as Hitler - they're keen to mask this through claiming to be the patriotic paper that supports 'our boys'.

3. The Internet is the Grim Reaper to many people who work on print publications - their livelihoods are literally at stake as it continues to be the reason why so many people who work for newspapers are losing their jobs. Small wonder that they should resent this dangerous upstart and associate it with the mob rule that so often follows any other revolution. There are historical analogies: The Press are a bit like King Canute who (by legend) tried to turn back the tide - or the Russian aristocrats who stuck their heads in the sand by attempting to live like they'd always done after the October 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

Fact is, 'traditional' print media needs to change if it is going to survive: instead of continuing to scapegoat marginalised minority groups in some pathetic attempt at populism, it needs to ditch the sexism, misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism, anti-immigrant, anti-single parent, anti-unemployed people schtick...oh, and did someone mention ditch the transphobia, too? The masses are not as stupid as the largely public school educated 'elite' professional journalist class think and we are also much less bigoted than you guys give us credit for. To set your sales pitch from the automatic assumption that we are is a vastly unjust insult to our collective intelligence and will definitely not win an already struggling to survive paper press any much needed Brownie points!
"Us, the traditional media, we're pretty darned good at it. We understand it. We understand the value of good and trusted information on social media. Some organisations simply do not. Still. They do not get it. They do not understand that wild rumours will circulate if good, reliable information is not readily available when people need it." Hmm...just don't mention News International, Fox News, British tabloids like The Sun, The Mail, The Mirror, The Daily Star - and, of course, the now defunct News of the World. Btw...isn't there an ongoing trial taking place? Tbh...what passes for British traditional media is now the laughing stock of the entire world - comics for adults, isn't that how someone once described the mainstream print media? Personally, I don't think that the 'traditional media' are any better than "social media" when it comes to relaying truth - or even for that matter with regard to quality of writing: 1. Fact is, either some people are good writers and others are not. You don't have to be a talented journalist to have wealthy parents who can afford to send you to a fee-paying school, university and then get onto a major national newspaper as a 'journalist' with their connections - and that so often shows in the poor quality of many of these celebrity journalists - much of their initially unintelligible stuff often ghost written anyway by humble sub-editors. Like it or not, what the internet has done is to democratize journalism to show that anyone can be a journalist, if they so choose - and the abilities of many of these online bloggers and reporters are often easily equal to and above the standard possessed by those so-called 'professional' journalists whose words were taken as truth without question by Jo/e Public for so long. 2. Although social media (including online bloggers) present a very, bewildering diversity of political opinions and abilities at the same time the British Press presents a very narrow group of opinions all controlled to uphold the vested interests of a handful of media barons who come from the same class, same gender, same sexuality, same race and (probably) the same public schools. In common with dodgy folks on the Internet, they tailor, edit and often even misreport or under-report events with ulterior motives, too - however, the general opinion of the British Press is, by contrast, much more narrow: i.e. aside from two papers (namely The Independent and The Guardian) it leans to the right politically; tends to be homophobic, misogynistic, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, racist, anti-single parent households. It has unscrupulous ways of getting information, as has come out in the Leveson Inquiry. In order to mask the seamier underside of the newspaper biz whilst engaging in these underhand (often illegal) activities it's often keen to promote itself as a defender of the Christian Church and traditionalist values. Whilst certain papers - such as the Mail - have a long track history of support for far-right traitors like Oswald Mosely and enemies of Britain such as Hitler - they're keen to mask this through claiming to be the patriotic paper that supports 'our boys'. 3. The Internet is the Grim Reaper to many people who work on print publications - their livelihoods are literally at stake as it continues to be the reason why so many people who work for newspapers are losing their jobs. Small wonder that they should resent this dangerous upstart and associate it with the mob rule that so often follows any other revolution. There are historical analogies: The Press are a bit like King Canute who (by legend) tried to turn back the tide - or the Russian aristocrats who stuck their heads in the sand by attempting to live like they'd always done after the October 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Fact is, 'traditional' print media needs to change if it is going to survive: instead of continuing to scapegoat marginalised minority groups in some pathetic attempt at populism, it needs to ditch the sexism, misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism, anti-immigrant, anti-single parent, anti-unemployed people schtick...oh, and did someone mention ditch the transphobia, too? The masses are not as stupid as the largely public school educated 'elite' professional journalist class think and we are also much less bigoted than you guys give us credit for. To set your sales pitch from the automatic assumption that we are is a vastly unjust insult to our collective intelligence and will definitely not win an already struggling to survive paper press any much needed Brownie points! Katie Re-Registered
  • Score: 3

12:46pm Sun 5 Jan 14

whatintheworld says...

great article. i thought the coverage was excellent!
great article. i thought the coverage was excellent! whatintheworld
  • Score: 0

12:54pm Sun 5 Jan 14

Katie Re-Registered says...

What's more, like some banana republic junta, the Press have controlled, impeded and directed the political moves of the supposed elected representatives of the people for far too long. Now that power grip is beginning to crack and I believe that we are seeing signs of revolt amongst certain MPs. Ed Miliband has dared to stick his head above the parapet and challenge the might of the Press. They hit back with all the dirt they had, but guess what: for that one, single act of gallantry Ed's popularity shot up in the opinion polls higher than it's ever been. That's because people admire authenticity and a lack of ulterior motive: *mainstream print press please note.
What's more, like some banana republic junta, the Press have controlled, impeded and directed the political moves of the supposed elected representatives of the people for far too long. Now that power grip is beginning to crack and I believe that we are seeing signs of revolt amongst certain MPs. Ed Miliband has dared to stick his head above the parapet and challenge the might of the Press. They hit back with all the dirt they had, but guess what: for that one, single act of gallantry Ed's popularity shot up in the opinion polls higher than it's ever been. That's because people admire authenticity and a lack of ulterior motive: *mainstream print press please note. Katie Re-Registered
  • Score: 1

1:12pm Sun 5 Jan 14

bluebanana says...

'we must all learn the lessons'.....I trust you include yourselves and general public in that statement?

The risk of flooding is not new. If people/organisations were not prepared for it then that is a lesson to learn.

All those things you mention that were tweeted to you in the middle of the night....why on earth would people ask a local paper those things and not the police or council who are coordinating the incident?
'we must all learn the lessons'.....I trust you include yourselves and general public in that statement? The risk of flooding is not new. If people/organisations were not prepared for it then that is a lesson to learn. All those things you mention that were tweeted to you in the middle of the night....why on earth would people ask a local paper those things and not the police or council who are coordinating the incident? bluebanana
  • Score: 8

1:26pm Sun 5 Jan 14

GardenVarietyMushroom says...

Publicly-funded organisations - be they councils, police forces or health boards - cannot operate on a 'them and us' basis which withholds information until it is convenient for them to release it

Lol - which planet do you live on. If what you propose - complete transparency - was actually put into practice by the state and its rep's, there would be absolute chaos. The state only maintains its position through lies and deception.

As for funding - our taxes are currently being used, (to the tune of £15m/day) to murder people abroad and steal all their stuff - you can't have it both ways. Just remember that when NATO comes to town, bringing violence, disruption and damage in their wake with them.
[quote]Publicly-funded organisations - be they councils, police forces or health boards - cannot operate on a 'them and us' basis which withholds information until it is convenient for them to release it[/quote] Lol - which planet do you live on. If what you propose - complete transparency - was actually put into practice by the state and its rep's, there would be absolute chaos. The state only maintains its position through lies and deception. As for funding - our taxes are currently being used, (to the tune of £15m/day) to murder people abroad and steal all their stuff - you can't have it both ways. Just remember that when NATO comes to town, bringing violence, disruption and damage in their wake with them. GardenVarietyMushroom
  • Score: -3

1:29pm Sun 5 Jan 14

GardenVarietyMushroom says...

BTW - I thought the Argus did a decent job of keeping people fairly well informed. Plus, you get extra credit from me for not publishing the Tory Twonk's publicity photo.
BTW - I thought the Argus did a decent job of keeping people fairly well informed. Plus, you get extra credit from me for not publishing the Tory Twonk's publicity photo. GardenVarietyMushroom
  • Score: -5

1:35pm Sun 5 Jan 14

bluebanana says...

Also....another lesson or more of a question perhaps.....have we become over reliant on social media and do we have unrealistic expectations of it?

I don't about the rest of you, but if I had received a warning about 'danger to life' or was unsure about whether to evacuate or not, I wouldn't be emailing or tweeting someone to ask. I would be on the phone speaking to the relevant organisation.
Also....another lesson or more of a question perhaps.....have we become over reliant on social media and do we have unrealistic expectations of it? I don't about the rest of you, but if I had received a warning about 'danger to life' or was unsure about whether to evacuate or not, I wouldn't be emailing or tweeting someone to ask. I would be on the phone speaking to the relevant organisation. bluebanana
  • Score: 7

1:59pm Sun 5 Jan 14

Magor says...

We have become media morons controlled by a nanny state.
We have become media morons controlled by a nanny state. Magor
  • Score: 7

2:10pm Sun 5 Jan 14

ex-St. Julians boy says...

Learn the lessons of flooding, eh! Well, we never have before so why start now?
Learn the lessons of flooding, eh! Well, we never have before so why start now? ex-St. Julians boy
  • Score: 6

3:47pm Sun 5 Jan 14

ncfcr says...

Perhaps someone should build an ark?
Perhaps someone should build an ark? ncfcr
  • Score: 1

3:54pm Sun 5 Jan 14

Dai Rear says...

Katie Re-Registered wrote:
What's more, like some banana republic junta, the Press have controlled, impeded and directed the political moves of the supposed elected representatives of the people for far too long. Now that power grip is beginning to crack and I believe that we are seeing signs of revolt amongst certain MPs. Ed Miliband has dared to stick his head above the parapet and challenge the might of the Press. They hit back with all the dirt they had, but guess what: for that one, single act of gallantry Ed's popularity shot up in the opinion polls higher than it's ever been. That's because people admire authenticity and a lack of ulterior motive: *mainstream print press please note.
Wouldn't have been hard. Put politely, our Ed starts from a pretty low base point. Don't think Mock Marriages did Dough Face Dave a lot of good though, did they? Aren't the public fickle?
[quote][p][bold]Katie Re-Registered[/bold] wrote: What's more, like some banana republic junta, the Press have controlled, impeded and directed the political moves of the supposed elected representatives of the people for far too long. Now that power grip is beginning to crack and I believe that we are seeing signs of revolt amongst certain MPs. Ed Miliband has dared to stick his head above the parapet and challenge the might of the Press. They hit back with all the dirt they had, but guess what: for that one, single act of gallantry Ed's popularity shot up in the opinion polls higher than it's ever been. That's because people admire authenticity and a lack of ulterior motive: *mainstream print press please note.[/p][/quote]Wouldn't have been hard. Put politely, our Ed starts from a pretty low base point. Don't think Mock Marriages did Dough Face Dave a lot of good though, did they? Aren't the public fickle? Dai Rear
  • Score: 1

4:31pm Sun 5 Jan 14

Katie Re-Registered says...

Hmmm..."lessons have been learnt": isn't that what David Cameron said on the Andrew Marr show this morning - and what all the typical official authoritarian line whenever an avoidable tragedy happens that devastates the lives of us 'ordinary' people?
Hmmm..."lessons have been learnt": isn't that what David Cameron said on the Andrew Marr show this morning - and what all the typical official authoritarian line whenever an avoidable tragedy happens that devastates the lives of us 'ordinary' people? Katie Re-Registered
  • Score: -1

4:40pm Sun 5 Jan 14

GardenVarietyMushroom says...

I don't think lessons have been learned though - was reading just yesterday that the Environment Agency are cutting 1500 jobs in England - including hundreds in flood defence. Wonder if NRW are considering the same...
I don't think lessons have been learned though - was reading just yesterday that the Environment Agency are cutting 1500 jobs in England - including hundreds in flood defence. Wonder if NRW are considering the same... GardenVarietyMushroom
  • Score: 4

5:21pm Sun 5 Jan 14

Bobevans says...

Please will people not go walking through or driving through flood waters. It is very dangerous it does not take much water to be swept away.

Today another person dies taking an unnecessary rick by going along a flooded footpath in a mobility scooter. He got swept into the canal and died he was pulled out but sadly he died
Please will people not go walking through or driving through flood waters. It is very dangerous it does not take much water to be swept away. Today another person dies taking an unnecessary rick by going along a flooded footpath in a mobility scooter. He got swept into the canal and died he was pulled out but sadly he died Bobevans
  • Score: 5

6:46pm Sun 5 Jan 14

Port0214 says...

Magor wrote:
We have become media morons controlled by a nanny state.
I agree, a complete figment of the imagination perpetrated by the media (The Argus included) somebody's wheelie bin blowing over in Pill is not news it has to stop, all this whingeing and bleating about the "authorities" doing nothing totally pathetic! they did nothing because there was little to do simple.

There was no major incident and the only wild rumors have been fueled by this very publication, we had the Environment Minister Owen Paterson sounding like Neville Chamberlain declaring war on nazi Germany look around the world and you see far worse loss of property and life related to weather.

We had a couple of high tides and a bit of wind, please stop it now It's getting very silly indeed.
[quote][p][bold]Magor[/bold] wrote: We have become media morons controlled by a nanny state.[/p][/quote]I agree, a complete figment of the imagination perpetrated by the media (The Argus included) somebody's wheelie bin blowing over in Pill is not news it has to stop, all this whingeing and bleating about the "authorities" doing nothing totally pathetic! they did nothing because there was little to do simple. There was no major incident and the only wild rumors have been fueled by this very publication, we had the Environment Minister Owen Paterson sounding like Neville Chamberlain declaring war on nazi Germany look around the world and you see far worse loss of property and life related to weather. We had a couple of high tides and a bit of wind, please stop it now It's getting very silly indeed. Port0214
  • Score: 7

8:09pm Sun 5 Jan 14

Frankfurt says...

Did something happen? I didn't notice. I thought the tide came in and then went out again as it has for thousands of years. I've seen no reports of property being flooded in Newport although I know that Tintern was flooded where there is a history of this happening. I spent some of my childhood watching waves hitting the sea walls at the Lighthouse. That's not new. That's why the walls are there. And they are a lot higher now than they were in the 1950's.
Did something happen? I didn't notice. I thought the tide came in and then went out again as it has for thousands of years. I've seen no reports of property being flooded in Newport although I know that Tintern was flooded where there is a history of this happening. I spent some of my childhood watching waves hitting the sea walls at the Lighthouse. That's not new. That's why the walls are there. And they are a lot higher now than they were in the 1950's. Frankfurt
  • Score: 5

10:44pm Sun 5 Jan 14

bobbajob says...

"Us, the traditional media, we're pretty darned good at it. We understand it. We understand the value of good and trusted information on social media. "

Err, no you don't. What a load of tosh. Is she trying to emulate Katie Hopkins by provoking debate by scribing a load of nonsense? Pretty darned good at writing rubbish it seems
"Us, the traditional media, we're pretty darned good at it. We understand it. We understand the value of good and trusted information on social media. " Err, no you don't. What a load of tosh. Is she trying to emulate Katie Hopkins by provoking debate by scribing a load of nonsense? Pretty darned good at writing rubbish it seems bobbajob
  • Score: 7

10:58pm Tue 7 Jan 14

Limestonecowboy says...

Is the guy in the picture Barry Law? how do we know...?
Is the guy in the picture Barry Law? how do we know...? Limestonecowboy
  • Score: 0

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