EDITOR'S CHAIR: Do you 'treasure' your local council's Pravda?

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South Wales Argus: NEW EDITOR: Kevin Ward by

IT is absolutely right that local councils have direct lines of communication to their residents.


And there are now a host of ways in which that can happen – websites, social media, text messages, leaflet drops. Most of these methods are relatively low cost, particularly those that use new technology.


But whether councils producing their own newspapers is a good idea is a matter for huge debate.


I make no apologies for being a long-standing and vociferous opponent of council newspapers.


At best they are propaganda sheets, at worst they are town hall Pravdas – publications that masquerade as newspapers and sell advertising at discounted rates; using public money to undercut real newspapers.


Thankfully, the latter type of council newspaper does not exist outside of metropolitan areas and the UK Government is cracking down on them.


What council newspapers are not is impartial. They cannot possibly be. They give residents the council spin on council-related issues. There is no scrutiny, there are no challenges, no tough questions.


I don’t have a problem with that.


But to pretend otherwise is ludicrous.


Newport city council’s publication – Newport Matters – formed part of this week’s budget debate. The Tories wanted to get rid of it to save money. Labour defended its existence.


Let me be clear on one thing here. Council newspapers exist under all political leaderships. This isn’t a Labour versus Tory argument.


Indeed, I would suggest that if Newport’s Tories were so against Newport Matters they should have binned it when they were in power.


But some of the supporting statements for retaining the council newspaper were laughable.


One councillor said Newport Matters was ‘treasured’ by the people of Newport and that ‘everyone’ looks forward to it going through their doors. Seriously.


I’ll have a pint of whatever he’s drinking.


Here’s a true story about what people really think about council newspapers. I use Newport Matters as the example purely because I live in Newport – but it applies to all such publications.


I live in an apartment block. It contains 12 apartments. In the foyer there are 12 locked post boxes, one for each apartment. There is also an area to leave junk mail for cleaners to take away.


When Newport Matters is delivered the junk mail area contains 11 copies. One copy makes it from post box to apartment - and that’s mine because I have to read it for professional purposes.


If I’m wrong on this issue I’d be happy to admit it. Please contact me if you ‘treasure’ your council newspaper.


I know who does ‘treasure’ them – council leaders across the UK. I know of one leader who – in private – refers to his council’s newspaper as ‘my Pravda’.


All council newspapers should go. It would save the nation a fortune, free money for vital services, and seriously reduce recycling bills.

Comments (12)

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1:43pm Fri 28 Feb 14

GardenVarietyMushroom says...

Nope, sorry - my copy of Newport Matters goes straight in the recycling with all the other junk mail.
Nope, sorry - my copy of Newport Matters goes straight in the recycling with all the other junk mail. GardenVarietyMushroom
  • Score: -2

2:01pm Fri 28 Feb 14

welsh_n_proud says...

Don't really read it, it's always so dated anyway. There's no 'news' in there, just articles on the supposedly great things the Council has achieved since the last missive. Never any mention of controversial issues, and how badly they handled things, such as the mural debacle or even the total ignoring of every concern presented to them by the Gaer schools, against their proposal to shove us all in together into a wholly unsuitable building.

I don't see the point of it. It's a total waste of money as far as I can see.
Don't really read it, it's always so dated anyway. There's no 'news' in there, just articles on the supposedly great things the Council has achieved since the last missive. Never any mention of controversial issues, and how badly they handled things, such as the mural debacle or even the total ignoring of every concern presented to them by the Gaer schools, against their proposal to shove us all in together into a wholly unsuitable building. I don't see the point of it. It's a total waste of money as far as I can see. welsh_n_proud
  • Score: -3

2:37pm Fri 28 Feb 14

Realist UK says...

The Caerphilly propaganda edition is, I'm sure, equally nauseating as Newport Matters. As part of the drive to decrease expenditure they should be scrapped until such a time that justifies the expense.
The Caerphilly propaganda edition is, I'm sure, equally nauseating as Newport Matters. As part of the drive to decrease expenditure they should be scrapped until such a time that justifies the expense. Realist UK
  • Score: -9

3:45pm Fri 28 Feb 14

Mr Bump. says...

I'd sooner read Newport Matters than the printed Argus lately.
I'd sooner read Newport Matters than the printed Argus lately. Mr Bump.
  • Score: 17

4:08pm Fri 28 Feb 14

Realist UK says...

Mr Bump. wrote:
I'd sooner read Newport Matters than the printed Argus lately.
Says Mr Bump, without irony, via the internet.
[quote][p][bold]Mr Bump.[/bold] wrote: I'd sooner read Newport Matters than the printed Argus lately.[/p][/quote]Says Mr Bump, without irony, via the internet. Realist UK
  • Score: -13

5:10pm Fri 28 Feb 14

On the inside says...

I must have missed the longstanding campaign by the Argus on this matter. If you were so much against it why did you not mention it when the Tories were in power. It is funny how capitalists always hate a free market and want a monopoly for themselves.

P.S. I don't live in Newport and have no connections to Newport Council or any of Newport's Cllrs.
I must have missed the longstanding campaign by the Argus on this matter. If you were so much against it why did you not mention it when the Tories were in power. It is funny how capitalists always hate a free market and want a monopoly for themselves. P.S. I don't live in Newport and have no connections to Newport Council or any of Newport's Cllrs. On the inside
  • Score: 11

6:26pm Fri 28 Feb 14

Kevin Ward - Editor says...

Simple answer to that one 'On The Inside' - I wasn't the Editor of the Argus when the previous administration was in power.
I was the Editor of another daily newspaper elsewhere in the UK where I expressed exactly the same views.
Party politics are immaterial. I am against council 'newspapers' - it's an opinion with which people are free to agree or disagree.
I don't want a monopoly - and we have plenty of competition from print, broadcast and online media.
I just don't want any of my council tax spent on publications that the vast majority of people I speak to dump in the bin without a second glance.
Simple answer to that one 'On The Inside' - I wasn't the Editor of the Argus when the previous administration was in power. I was the Editor of another daily newspaper elsewhere in the UK where I expressed exactly the same views. Party politics are immaterial. I am against council 'newspapers' - it's an opinion with which people are free to agree or disagree. I don't want a monopoly - and we have plenty of competition from print, broadcast and online media. I just don't want any of my council tax spent on publications that the vast majority of people I speak to dump in the bin without a second glance. Kevin Ward - Editor
  • Score: -9

6:42pm Fri 28 Feb 14

Woodgnome says...

An instant saving to be made by scrapping it. Newport Matters is utterly pointless, boring and trivial.
An instant saving to be made by scrapping it. Newport Matters is utterly pointless, boring and trivial. Woodgnome
  • Score: -4

7:05pm Fri 28 Feb 14

Mervyn James says...

I don't read Newport Matters either, absolutely nothing of value in it. I would like the Councillors online so we can question them,not everyone can get to their meetings, or access them, I'd like to see some of them streamed. When an important decision is made, rather than let them vote alone on the result, we are offered a vote too. We can vote for them, that doesn't mean that there afterwards they can exclude us. If they are voted to represent our views than I for one would want to ensure they did,and have the option of a veto if they don't.
I don't read Newport Matters either, absolutely nothing of value in it. I would like the Councillors online so we can question them,not everyone can get to their meetings, or access them, I'd like to see some of them streamed. When an important decision is made, rather than let them vote alone on the result, we are offered a vote too. We can vote for them, that doesn't mean that there afterwards they can exclude us. If they are voted to represent our views than I for one would want to ensure they did,and have the option of a veto if they don't. Mervyn James
  • Score: -7

7:59pm Fri 28 Feb 14

33daverave says...

Mervyn James wrote:
I don't read Newport Matters either, absolutely nothing of value in it. I would like the Councillors online so we can question them,not everyone can get to their meetings, or access them, I'd like to see some of them streamed. When an important decision is made, rather than let them vote alone on the result, we are offered a vote too. We can vote for them, that doesn't mean that there afterwards they can exclude us. If they are voted to represent our views than I for one would want to ensure they did,and have the option of a veto if they don't.
At the end of the day the Councillors don't give a hoot about us.It's just their easy life.Money not great but guaranteed, must toe the party line. If they did support the public their mouths should be going overtime i.e.the recycling debacle with these utterly ridiculous bags for cardboard and downsized bins.Even most on Policy are against it as they know the public are up in arms but are too cowed to do anything.
As for Newport Matters, I use it to pick up my dogs mess.
[quote][p][bold]Mervyn James[/bold] wrote: I don't read Newport Matters either, absolutely nothing of value in it. I would like the Councillors online so we can question them,not everyone can get to their meetings, or access them, I'd like to see some of them streamed. When an important decision is made, rather than let them vote alone on the result, we are offered a vote too. We can vote for them, that doesn't mean that there afterwards they can exclude us. If they are voted to represent our views than I for one would want to ensure they did,and have the option of a veto if they don't.[/p][/quote]At the end of the day the Councillors don't give a hoot about us.It's just their easy life.Money not great but guaranteed, must toe the party line. If they did support the public their mouths should be going overtime i.e.the recycling debacle with these utterly ridiculous bags for cardboard and downsized bins.Even most on Policy are against it as they know the public are up in arms but are too cowed to do anything. As for Newport Matters, I use it to pick up my dogs mess. 33daverave
  • Score: -11

8:43pm Fri 28 Feb 14

Roger Stone says...

Given that sales of the Argus have fallen by almost a third in the past year (32%), perhaps we should get used to the council papers as we won't have an Argus for much longer?
Given that sales of the Argus have fallen by almost a third in the past year (32%), perhaps we should get used to the council papers as we won't have an Argus for much longer? Roger Stone
  • Score: 14

11:07am Mon 3 Mar 14

Mervyn James says...

I'm wondering if the fall off of Argus sales is due to increased online access, and the higher cost, I still find the Argus a decent read and buy it every day. Given I buy it every day, I was somewhat annoyed they wanted to charge me for online access too. Why make me pay twice ?
I'm wondering if the fall off of Argus sales is due to increased online access, and the higher cost, I still find the Argus a decent read and buy it every day. Given I buy it every day, I was somewhat annoyed they wanted to charge me for online access too. Why make me pay twice ? Mervyn James
  • Score: 0

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