EDITOR'S CHAIR: Demolition latest in long line of missed opportunities for Newport
10:06am Thursday 16th January 2014 in News
NEWPORT had a chance to give the world a positive message on Sunday.
It had an open goal to aim at but fluffed its chance spectacularly.
The demolition of the Capitol car park via controlled explosion generated enormous interest in the city and beyond.
Our website had its second highest audience of all time during the day, and our videos of the demolition have been viewed almost 70,000 times.
We were inundated over the weekend by readers wanting to know exactly what time the 'Big Bang' was going to happen.
We've had emails and website comments from as far away as New Zealand.
Yet what could and should have been an event for the city was a damp squib.
Why? Because the city missed yet another fantastic PR opportunity.
The fact the car park was to be blown up was initially kept under wraps because of safety fears if huge crowds turned up to watch. I'll admit the Argus was complicit in keeping the secret initially until it became obvious to me that too many people knew what was about to happen for us not to report it.
Not reporting what we knew was a mistake. I made a decision that was driven by journalistic desire for an exclusive rather than what was right for our readers. I got it wrong.
Newport council got it wrong as well.
Sunday should have been the day Newport announced in spectacular style that its city centre regeneration was well and truly under way.
True, a crowd turned out but many people missed out because they either did not know it was happening or because of the lack of precise information about the time of the demolition.
Imagine what the day could have been like.
There could have been a competition among the city's schools to find a youngster to press the button to bring down the car park.
There could have been various viewing sites for the public. Tickets could have been sold with all proceeds going to charity.
There could have been full details released in advance of the precise time of the demolition, and a proper countdown before the explosives were set off.
Retailers could have been encouraged to open, and car parking made free for the day to take advantage of the footfall.
I'll admit all of the above would have had a cost attached to it and, as we all know, money is tight in the public sector. But the long-term advantages of making last Sunday a real event to remember would far outweigh any one-off outlay.
Newport has suffered one worldwide PR disaster in the last 12 months with the manner in which the Chartist mural was destroyed.
Sunday wasn't quite on that scale but it was a missed opportunity to send out a really positive message about the city.
It is a view shared by many, including people who are experts in the field. A quick glance at Twitter and other social media on Sunday showed that.
People were sharing ideas for T-shirt designs heralding the demolition as a new start for Newport.
Others are now talking about setting up a new group to promote and highlight all that is positive about the city, with a first meeting planned for this evening.
These are all good things, as is the generally positive public reaction to the Re:Newport proposals.
Harnessing that positivity and encouraging it to grow is vital.
Newport needs more forward-thinking and less conservatism. There can be no more missed opportunities.
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