Coveritlive and Twitter: Covering councils in a new way?

Apologies for the lack of bloggage this week, but I wanted to flag up a pretty special live blog which the Manchester Evening News carried out today.

In truth, the liveblog itself wasn’t that unusual – the MEN has married up Twitter with Coveritlive to provide instant coverage of council meetings for several months now.

Today, it was the turn of Manchester City Council, where reporter Deborah Linton (@deblinton) using Twitter to update on proceedings, which was in turn pulled into Coveritlive.

What was particularly interesting was the other people who picked up on the #mcc hashtag used by the paper.

Not only was Deborah tweeting, but the council’s press officer (@sharper76) who was also in the meeting, was tweeting as well. Along with eight different councillors (@mikeamesbury, @sjbracegirdle, @cllrpaulankers @hulmelabour, @smurph99, @hulmelabou, @rosabattle and @jackiepearcey.

Public comments via the MEN website were few and far between, but then again, it’s a political meeting taking place during the day. And I also think we often get a little too hung up over the number of comments we receive on liveblogs – as long as there is an audience there, then it’s worth doing.

And at a time when newspapers are often criticised for not covering councils properly, I think one paper may have come up with a quick, savvy way of getting breaking news from the council chamber out for public consumption quickly.

5 comments

  1. I’m not convinced on this. The public want us to report accurately, and analyse intelligently, the important things that have happened in council chambers.

    I’m not sure they’re keen on hearing every cough, spit and inanity. Councillors arguing with councillors in 140 characters is just noise, surely. You can’t dress it up as quality journalism, intelligent debate or even a public service.

    Just like there’s hardly throngs of residents attending council meetings, there’s probably a reason the public didn’t join in with this live coverage – I’m a huge democracy geek and politics graduate and even I would find it too boring and unfulfilling.

    Twitter and CoverItLive are great for quick, live updates on evolving news situations, like the MEN’s coverage of the EDL violence or a football game, or for crowdsourcing information, like the snowfall, or just to chat, like the Hull Daily Mail’s sports discussions.

    Live coverage of a key council vote or public inquiry, however, for example on the closure of Preston’s Football Museum, where people are genuinely interested in hearing the outcome as quickly as possible, would be a different matter.

  2. I think it’s an innovative and interesting use of the tools, but I agree with Paul – every single debate in the council doesn’t need to be covered. That’s what council minute takers are there for.

    These tools however would be great to be used at a controversial planning/licencing meeting or where the executive are making a big decision on something e.g. Cardiff’s schools reorganisation.

    1. Paul: I’m not suggesting one replaces the other. Some people do want us to analyse intelligently and provide in-depth coverage but some people, equally, just want to know what’s happened when it happens. What the MEN are doing, to me, is provide a snapshot of what’s happening, as it happens. I think it is a public service – curating material about and reporting from important events. And if a councillor is spitting out nonsense on Twitter, then at least it can be put into context?

      In many respects, the council meeting itself isn’t that important any more in terms of making decisions, as often they just nod through agendas which newspapers will have covered for the previous week. That said, if the tools are there to use, why not? Council meetings can be evolving breaking news stories, as you point out.

      Ed: You’re right, it’s not for every council meeting, but the examples you list are ones where I think it would work really well.

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