North of the River – corrections and clarifications

Compass-SouthSorry, that should be “South of the River”. You see no newspaper or blog gets it right all of the time.

South Leeds Life has made a couple of minor errors this week. The first was mine. I wrote up our public meeting about Stank Hall Barn and said it was on 21st February. It’s not, its on 28th. I corrected myself in the comments section.

Now I could legitimately say that we set the meeting for 21st and then we had to move it to 28th. The only trouble is that we moved it to 28th before I sat down and wrote the post. In my defence someone else (no names, no pack drill) put the event on our Events Calendar on the wrong day. I managed to confuse myself moving it to a Thursday … I’ll stop digging …

One of my colleagues Steve, also had a bit of a rant in a piece about traffic planning. He’s entitled to his opinion, but ideally he would have made it clear that he was expressing his personal opinion and not South Leeds Life’s.

I hope I’ve made it clear over the last few months that the opinions in South of the River are mine rather than  South Leeds Life’s?

Why am I telling you all this? Why am I washing the blog’s (not very) dirty laundry in public?

This is the year of the Leveson Inquiry, when it became clear just how corrupt some parts of the press are. As my son pointed out: it’s not just a few bad apples when the news announces the 58th person to be charged as part of Operation Elvedon.

South Leeds Life is just a little news blog for a corner of our city. Our writers are all amateur journalists, but we have set ourselves high standards. We want to be fair and transparent. We also want to let the people of our communities speak in their own voices. So transparency is important, it’s about being clear when a post is “opinion” and when we are reporting a story “objectively”.

We don’t really have the resources to research a story fully, but we are getting better at including more than one view in a story. We also encourage comments from our readers and not just from those that agree with the point of view expressed in the post. We positively welcome criticism, it’s how we get debate going. And debate helps to clarify an issue – just read the comments on Steve’s piece.

The blog is developing in other ways too and we are aware that we need finance to develop further. To keep the website functioning to its potential, to run training to get more community reporters writing for us and to promote the blog to people who still haven’t heard of us.

The question is who to turn to for money? All money comes with strings. We’ve all heard the stories of newspaper editors pulling good stories because a big advertiser has said they would pull adverts if the story came out.

We are increasingly hearing of charities who feel they are signing up to gagging orders when they get a contract to deliver a public sector contract. I was interested to hear a spokesman from the RNLI last year. RNLI run the lifeboats around our coast, but they don’t receive any help from government. Why? Because they won’t take government money. That way, the spokesman explained, the Government can’t dictate how services are provided, or cut.

Jeremy MortonWe’ve decided to go for both the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. We will start taking advertising in month or two. We have already secured two Community First grants to run Community Reporter training courses. We sincerely hope that neither funder will lead us to change our editorial policy. If you think you spot us pulling our punches please make a comment, I promise we’ll publish it.

I’ll be back next week with more views from South of The River.



5 Replies to “North of the River – corrections and clarifications”

  1. Flags up some interesting issues here, “he who pays the piper calls the tune”… If the council provides money to support an independent local news service such as this then you’ll find local Councillors who love the photo opportunities it brings for them but equally the moment anything even remotely critical of them appears they’ll try to pull the plug on the funding by hook or by crook.

    Undemocratic? yes. Corrupt? Undoubtably, but what comes around goes around with anyone doing that.

    That aside, how does something like this maintain independent credibility? Maintaining transparency is key I think.

  2. Interesting article but who’s the Devil and what’s the Deep Blue Sea?! From the little I know I guess advertisers will be concerned about the reach of the blog – which people are looking at it and how many and are they the people they want to sell products too.

    We should remember Community First is NOT the Council and nor is it Council money. Central government decided (mistakenly in my view) to bypass local authorities when establishing Community First. I was instrumental,when working for a Leeds based charity (re’new), in establishing the three Community First panels in inner south Leeds to make sure they weren’t set up by unrepresentative extremists. I was keen to ensure that local councillors were members of the panels as they are our elected representatives – the money comes from central government and is to encourage projects led by local people and voluntary effort. I think supporting the development of South Leeds Life is very good use of the money

    I hope our local councillors appreciate that encouraging more people to play an active part in local issues is an essential part of helping make a place worth living in – from time to time this will involve some healthy criticism which appreciates the difficulties councillors have in doing their job particularly given current financial constraints but in an appropriate way holds councillors to account.

    I agree with Silver Machine’s comment that transparency is important, so and hope he or she doesn’t take this the wrong way but I think it encourages this if people use their real names on the blog as that too is part of transparency…

  3. Interesting point Steve, but sometimes anonimity is necessary to get a point across when you aren’t on a level playing field to begin with, there are white elephants and sharks in the same room when it comes to discussion of certain local authority matters on here, small fish are in danger of being squashed or eaten…

  4. Silver Machine, I understand the point you are making but I think it undermines the last point in your original comment that ‘maintaining transparency is key’. Maybe it’s up to those of us who have retired to stand up for the small fish…

    1. I think you are both right. It’s great when people write under their own name, but it’s better that people write anonymously than not at all. Those of us who don’t have difficult employers looking over our shoulders are probably in a privileged position right now.

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