Local government, local media, BFF.

Recently I’ve been feeling a little like someone wearing a Skippy costume at a ‘roo shooter’s convention over my attitude towards local government, local media and the relationship between the two.

I’ve had vindictive little sabateurs stirring up a stink over some copyright non issue, and of course the unquantified general slur hurled at the “Border’s bloggers” (sic.).

I don’t think there is much doubt that some (or at least one) nose is squarely out of joint.

Rather than denigrating the phenomenon of “blogging”, “CitJ” or whatever you’d like to call it, I thought it might be more productive to provide an explanation of why I do it.

Why do I bother?, don’t I have better things to do? Well I do as a matter of fact, but it just so happens I’m not doing them right now.

As I see it, local media is directly responsible for the upsurge in people taking to the internet to express views and opinions which ordinarily are given short shrift.

Here’s a quick mental excercise to illustrate my point, cast your mind back as far as you can, and see if you can recall a single instance where a local media source has spoken out publicly against a move put forward by local council?

I’m not talking about things put on the table for discussion, I’m talking where council has resolved to move in a particular direction and media commentators have publicly disagreed with it.

Think of any? Please feel free to list them in the comments section because I can’t think of a single instance.

In short, I think the local government has come to rely on local media to print or broadcast their press releases, virtually verbatum, little consideration is given to opposing points of view and when opposing points of view are put forward it seems to be done in a “tut tut” kind of way, more about painting opposition to council as extremist lunacy than as an actual, legitimate point of view.

Case in point, the freeway development. There has been widespread community opposition to building a freeway development within the city limits for many, many years.

Council, led by then Mayor Patricia Gould, promptly disregarded this (and the state government recommendation suggesting an external option).

The result? Borella road is more congested than an opium addict’s colon and we have a network of pedestrian overpasses that closely resemble a “three shots for a dollar” shooting gallery for rock throwers.

“Yes, we have identified “problems” with the freeway project” Council assures us via the media, “but we’re working closely with the RTA to fix that”,

“Go back to sleep Albury Wodonga, everything’s OK” comes the unspoken dialogue.

I can’t help but feel it’s a case of history repeating with this Fromholz Park fiasco.

An unpopular council project being spritzed with perfume courtesy of a local media which can be relied on implicitly not to make waves.

Nepotism apparently is truly the currency of the realm.

Of course the examples of local media ballyhooing council projects are myriad, everything from Wodonga’s rail redevelopment to the sale of the LOGIC transport hub.

I wonder can anyone come up with an example of where the local media has expressed reservations about a council development plan?

Benefits to council of having a local media in their back pocket are obvious enough, but I wonder what’s in it for the press?

Maybe it’s just a case of lazy journalism and it is that much easier to have their information spoon fed to them from council press releases.

The extent to which council is used to dictating the terms to the media became obvious to me when I went to do a piece on of all things an artistic retrospective being held.

I planned to do a bit of a puff piece for a local artist, kind of my good deed for the day.

The guy I spoke to at the gallery was very helpful, but insistant I speak to some beige beurocrat on council staff.

I rang this woman who wanted to know all the in’s and outs of what I intended to write, “expressed reservations” about the publication for which I wrote etc. etc.

In short, I felt enormous pressure to write a puff piece for Wodonga council, something I am most certainly not in the buisiness of doing. 

So the obvious solution, the way to put blog sites like this out of buisiness, is for local media to come out from under the thumb of local council.

Be a little more impartial in other words.

Once that happens, I may well find something else to do. But I’m not holding my breath. 


About alburywodongaonline

Hi I'm Jack Stone (a pseudonym), I'm a long-time Albury resident and I think it's a great place to live and work. I have a strong interest in local events and media and I started this site because I think a different perspective is often needed when reporting local news. I take a keen interest in local politics, as well as what's going on at the state and federal level, I'm also a supporter of social justice issues, the envirionment and the need for people to have a say in the events that effect their lives. I'm a fan of the Border Bandits and I'd love to see both teams take the flag this year, and next year, and maybe the one after that too.
This entry was posted in Albury, Council, Editorial, Local Government, Media, Wodonga. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Local government, local media, BFF.

  1. raydixon says:

    I’m not sure “what’s in it” for the local press over there in A-W but over here I believe there’s no doubt the local paper (Bright Observer/Myrtleford Times) has one eye on the amount of advertising revenue they receive from the Alpine council, who are probably their biggest single client.

    Not surprisingly the paper is part of North East Publications, based in Wangaratta – and really I think they don’t give a shit about local issues and they’re only interested in the bottom line.

  2. it beggars belief that kind of situation can continue doesn’t it?
    I mean how is that NOT a conflict of interests?

    It makes claims to the moral high ground over “journalistic ethics” all the more laughable though doesn’t it?

  3. raydixon says:

    Well the good part is AWOL that most people I talk to over here agree that the local paper is a joke. I believe people are not as stupid as the media (and governments & councils) often seem to think they are.

    So the message I’m getting from a lot of people is that blogs like yours & mine are doing a great service.

    Not all of them agree with that though , I mean … Save Bright!

  4. you know, there are a few issues I feel strongly about, but even in those cases I don’t really have an agenda to push.
    Of course I’ll argue my case, but if everybody agreed all the time, what a boring old world it would be.
    For me, the most important function of sites like this is the comments function at the end, it provides an actual forum for debate which I think is sadly lacking in most mainstream media.

    The one-sided dictum of mainstream media is the best friend of sites like these think.

  5. Exactly the same thing happens down my way.
    Bloggers cop grief for expressing a valid opinion. I myself have been given 7 days to remove a post criticising a local councillor or get fired.
    I’m getting legal advice at the moment in regards to a discrimination action against two shire employees and the shitfight is well and truly on.

  6. Greg Naylor says:

    In the case of Wangaratta, the connection between the newspaper and council is quite blatant.

    The Managing Editor of The Chronicle – and regular contributor, Phil Nolan, last year received an OEM and his citation read:

    Mr Philip Edmond NOLAN, 2 Yale Court, Wangaratta Vic 3677
    For service to the community of Wangaratta through roles in economic development, school and sporting organisations, and to the print media.
    Chairman, Wangaratta Unlimited (economic development advisory committee), 2000-2003; Inaugural Member, since 1996.
    Committee Member, Wangaratta Rural Expo, for 4 years.
    Councillor, Wangaratta High School Advisory Council, early 1990s; Deputy Chair, for 4 years.
    Deputy Chairman, Ovens and Murray Football League, for 4 years; Director, for 14 years; Life Member.
    Former player and coach, Wangaratta Magpies; Life Member.
    Chairman, Wangaratta Junior Football League and cricket association tribunals.
    Committee Member, Wangaratta Athletics Complex; Master of Ceremonies at various community and sporting functions.
    Editor-in-Chief, North East Newspapers; former Editor and Managing Director.
    Journalist, Wangaratta Chronicle, 1973; Editor, since 1976.

  7. Greg, that’s not even making an attempt at appearing impartial is it?

    BLL, that’s just awful!! I’m apalled at such a blatant misuse of authority.
    Puts my “slings and arrows” well and truly into context.
    How can anyone think such blatant misuse of authority to quash free speech is acceptable?

    I assume all the facts you reference in the article are a matter of public record and not up for debate, the “controversy” revolves around opinions you have expressed.

    To write the piece I read is your perfect right, from what I can see you haven’t defamed anyone. You’ve referenced facts to support an opinion.
    It’s not illegal or a sacking offence to hold an opinion as far as I’m aware.

    God help them I think they’d have the mother of all unfair dismissal claims on their hands if they tried to sack you for writing that in your spare time.
    If it comes to it, stick them for pain and suffering, it sounds like they spread pain and suffering like typhoid Mary.

  8. raydixon says:

    I once suggested a council manager should resign because of the number of her own staff doing likewise due to her management style. I even stated in the post that I had verbal and written testimony from ex-staff (who had approached me) to support my opinion, but that didn’t stop the then CEO (the prick who’s now at Wang) from using ratepayers’ money to seek highly expensive legal advice and instruct them to send me several threatening letters. His actions were even supported by a vote of the council (in a private briefing session of course).

  9. raydixon says:

    Oh yeah, I forgot to add this one. Early last year the councillors also voted (in private of course) that no councillor was permitted to communicate with me. That decision still stands to this day, although most of them have since broken it and two of them refused to go along with it at all.

  10. well if nothing else, it’s nice to know it isn’t just me coming in for some dispicable treatment for having the audacious gall to excercise my right to free speech.

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