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.