Wednesday 19 December 2012

Council email reveals truth behind blacklisting of South Wales Guardian

Last week the South Wales Guardian used its front page to expose the Council's attempt to financially cripple the independent weekly paper for publishing a couple of articles mildly critical of County Hall. (See South Wales Guardian blacklisted by Carmarthenshire Council)

As the story spread nationally, the council, (as it does), hi-jacked its press office to attack the paper and its editor, Mike Lewis. In the bizarre tirade, the council claimed its decision to withdraw advertising was purely for 'commercial reasons' due to the low circulation of the paper, but went on say that the critical comment piece, which appeared to have sparked the ban, was the latest in a long line of 'biased and unbalanced' articles.

Mike Lewis has this week hit back at the council  and published an email mistakenly forwarded to the paper by council staff, it confirms the council withdrew its advertising back in July and had nothing to do with 'commercial reasons'.

He says;

"... the authority’s press manager Debbie Williams ordered colleagues to pull advertising following a Guardian story describing town council fears that the Quay Street regeneration works would not be completed by Christmas.  
“Due to the continuing negative publicity by the Guardian,” she said. “I do not think we should be placing adverts with them until this issue is resolved. Please could you cancel the ad Diane had planned in the meantime.” 
That comment leaves little doubt that the decision was not a commercial one."

In a further article the defiant editor challenges the council's statements and also suggests that the 'beef' with the paper does not, as many suspect, originate from the council's press team itself.
He says;
"We anticipated County Hall’s response to last week’s front page – and did not have to wait long.The county council’s statement– which can be read in full on this week’s front page – describes the notion of an advertising blackout as “nonsense”.But where’s the beef? Where are the hard facts to support this bizarre 565-word tirade?The council says it is “astonished to have read so many incorrect statements on the front page of the Guardian”.
List them.
Biased and unbalanced coverage in a long list of articles?
Name them.
Numerous complaints and many discussions with myself?
Then show us the correspondence or e-mails to illustrate this supposed litany of conflict.
Never managed to establish any kind of working relationship with the Guardian under my editorship?
Wrong again – the Guardian actually has a very good relationship with the local authority’s press team, all of whom are experienced journalists and one or two I count as personal friends.
Like me, they will find the notion of council press officers quaking at the prospect of another call from ‘The Ogre of the Guardian’ – this fearsome and ruthless individual dedicated to shining his torch of truth into the darker recesses of County Hall – highly amusing..."

Mike Lewis also includes an opinion piece in which he questions the council's obsession with negative stories and the low threshold of tolerance, shown by County Hall to any criticism, however mild;

".... wouldn't its energies be better spent tackling the enormous challenges our county faces, including education reorganisation, the off-loading of public amenities and the future of social care?
Let’s be honest, the two recent articles that raised their hackles were hardly the stuff of Fleet Street! The July article on town councillors’ concerns about the major redevelopment of Quay Street was a straightforward account of a town council meeting.
Our September 19 editorial highlighted the council’s much-criticised Sainsbury’s press release, which resulted in council leader Kevin Madge being reported to the ombudsman...."
I'm pleased to see the overwhelming support for the paper in its letters page today, (not online). There is also a lengthy missive from Council leader, Kevin Madge. He describes the paper as 'politically biased' and its reaction to the Sainsbury's press release as 'hysterical', and he again accuses the Plaid MP and AM of being complicit in the destruction of 250 job opportunities. Mike Lewis responds strongly to the accusation of political bias and reminds Cllr Madge of their previous excellent working relationship, he says;

"The furore surrounding that bloody Sainsbury's press release appears to have changed all that. I haven't seen or heard from Kevin since. So, as he's clearly mislaid my number, perhaps he can address a question I have been repeatedly asked in the past can he continue to remain silent while his home town paper is being damaged by the actions of County Hall?" 


Anonymous said...

Editors like Mike Lewis should be applauded in their stand for freedom of speech, exposing the bully boy tactics of CCC press office.

Jon said...

Hi Jacqui,

Loved the article - all power to you and The South Wales Guardian in standing up to the bullying tactics of the Council.

Just one thing, and I apologise for being such a pedant, but your use of "it's" as a possessive is incorrect and it jars with an old-school, old git like me. "It's" can only be used as a shorthand for "it is", never as a possessive, where there should be no apostrophe.

Again, I'm sorry if I appear as a grammar fascist, when you make such sterling efforts in countering bullsh*t - I just can't help myself.


caebrwyn said...

Thanks for the comments.

Jon; Thank you - I hope all the offending apostrophes have been corrected. I have previously been reprimanded about the 'its and it's' laws by Cneifiwr....I'll get it right one day ;)

Anonymous said...

Good on the SWG. I wouldnt mind betting that circulation has risen. I say again to the Carmarthen Journal - Take note, see how proper journalism is and free yourself from the press offce at CCC. You might like it, you never know !!

caebrwyn said...

Anon 12.33 Of course I applaud the SWG and its editor and I have emailed Mr Lewis with my support.
Whatever the situation is with the Carmarthen Journal, I do not doubt for one moment the professional integrity of its journalists.
We need all our local papers and we need them all to be free of undue influence from County Hall.

Anonymous said...

Where can I get a copy of the South Wales Guardian in the Carmarthen area?

caebrwyn said...

Anon 17.44 Not sure of exact circulation area, most places east of the town, maybe sold in Carmarthen itself.

Anonymous said...

Is there a postal subscription to the South Wales Guardian available?
I'm sure many of us who live outside its area would like to give and recieve that fine gift to support the paper.If there is a way to buy it regularly pleae let us know!

caebrwyn said...

Not sure about a subscription but if you want to enquire the contact page for the South Wales Guardian, and the editor, is here;

Hmmmm said...

not sure about sunbsriptions any more or postal, but ask you newsagent to get a copy, they can get any newspaper as long as it's didtributed through the warehouse. That's what i was saying the other day, people in ammanford read the journal, but how many people in carmarthen read it?
I think it more or less stops around the crosshands/drefach area. Llandeilo it's circulated and llandovery. But it has been known for it to appear in Llanelli as i had noticed there, whther it was one off or something i don't know.

while i would say it is commendable standing up to county hall. i don't want to mention double standards but the guardian does seem to be selective in reporting. I'll give you an example, they were running a story on the court closure a few times and mentioning law and order. But when an actual crime takes place smack in the middle of ammanford's main street and the culprit caught on cctv, the guardian did not run the story in the hope of catching the person if a reader recognises. Then again the police could have produced a better photo and a closer up one, as there is a chance of nobody recognising because of it. when is a crime not a crime? when it occurs in ammanford. and you would have thought the guardian would have been interested in that kind of thing

Anonymous said...

Don't the Carmarthen Journal do that all the time?

johnsouthwales said...

i would say the councils assumption of the amman valley not having much of a readership is quite bizarre. nothing new there.
the swg do have a point. It would be rather silly of having carmarthen notices inside the swg because frankly it doesn't actually apply to the locality. it wouldn't be relevant of having temp road works in abergwilli or that type notified in the swg.
swg have notices that are relevant to the locality such as roadworks etc in ammanford, or llandybie. and on the occasion llandovery area and beyond, ccc know the infrastructure of the readership and outreach to start with. the mind boggles with that lot

caebrwyn said...

thank you @johnsouthwales The point here is that a deliberate decision was made, knowing the financial implications, to withdraw advertising purely on the grounds of mildly critical articles. As the 'leaked' email confirms.

Anonymous said...

For Carmarthen residents, the SWG is available every week at Morrisons in Pensarn.

The Journal really doesn't sell that well in the Amman Valley: the Evening Post is the best selling daily, with the SWG as the staple weekly paper.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't look as if the Journal is selling well in Carmarthen either lately with the appearance of the kiosk selling copies of it on the corner of Greyfriars on a Wed.