Council newspapers: The council with its own newspaper which wants to stifle council debate on its own newspaper

I thought I’d done writing about council newspapers when communities secretary Eric Pickles introduced his new code of conduct which prohibited councils from publishing their own newspapers more than four times a year.

Of course, given that Mr Pickles’ rules on council newspapers are a code of conduct, rather than law, there was always a danger the most ardent supports of council newspapers would carry on regardless. And so it proved in Greenwich.

They produce Greenwich Time there, a weekly publication which is, according to the council, ‘written in a journalistic style, containing a degree of community news, certain lifestyle features and residents’ opinions.’ Residents opinions tend to stand a better chance of getting into print if the concur with the council’s view of the world – and the 853 blog is worth checking out for more on Greenwich Time

Greenwich Time newspaper
Greenwich Time newspaper

As for how journalistic it is, it certainly lacks news values. Take the August 16 edition, which covered the riots in London (a good 10 days after it happened). The intro on the front page was:

“Greenwich councillors have given a firm commitment to stand beside residents and businesses affected in last week’s rioting and looting in Woolwich and Charlton.”

As local councillors, should we expect any less? The previous week’s front page, which hit the streets while the looting was dying down, was dominated by the fact a visit by a children’s author to a library was a sell out. Hold the front page! If ever there was proof that councils make duff newspapers, this it it.

Of course, I’m not saying the local newspapers in the area are perfect, of course they’re not. But in council newspapers, with their guaranteed income from their own departments’ advertising, we don’t get to see the news of the community, we get to see the news the council wants the community to see.

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