On Saturday, 16th July 2011, Express & Star columnist Dan Wainwright ran his usual column about local government in the region. Even though Walsall Council is gripped by a Single Status pay controversy, as is Dudley, and other notable stuff had happened in civic life in the previous week, Dan decided to fill three quarters of his column acreage with a dismal musing on whether Walsall Council should have tweeted the throwaway piece of whimsy ‘Rain, rain, go away’ at 8:06am on a dull Tuesday morning. Our intrepid Paul Foot then goes on to muse on the possible waste of time on the part of the officer (who was actually at home at the time), and whether it’s all getting a bit too chatty. He even suggested it may have been of interest to Eric Pickles, the pneumatic Mr. Bumble currently charged with running the Department of Communities and Local Government.
I chose to scan this piece and put it onto The YamYam, Walsall’s very own news website, as the article hadn’t appeared on line. It seems many in the local online community were as irritated by the piece as me. Stymaster, over at The Pigblog wrote another well considered excoriation, and the Plastic Hippo has launched a mauling in his usual inimitable style.
I’ve always supported Walsall Council’s twitter activity – if not some of the dafter attempts to oversell what is generally a very useful thing. I will defend the people pioneering this brave project in an otherwise quite technophobic authority, because they are putting a human face onto a formerly lumpen civic hivemind. This weekend I have talked council business – out of hours – with the people behind the main Walsall Council feed, Walsall Neighbourhoods, Walsall Wildlife and Walsall Web Focus – who’ve alone have been doing sterling work getting feedback on a new council website all weekend. They don’t have to do this, they do it because they care. Because they care, I’m prepared to stand up, alongside The Plastic Hippo and Stymaster, and call out this piece of piss-poor, cheap journalism.
The Express & Star is clearly losing it’s plot. This week has seen op-ed, third-rate Richard Littlecock impersonating columnist Peter Rhodes dismally attempt to minimise the phone hacking scandal, a step which proved too far even from the collected loons who normally post comments beneath E&S stories. The last couple of weeks have seen a succession of editorials – which could have been dictated by the Daily Mail – dismissing one of the largest crises in the UK media and political spheres for years as an obsession or collusive plot to distract by the BBC, Guardian and MP Tom Watson. Even as Rebekah Brooks resigned and her ex-boss grovelled before the abused parents of a murdered schoolgirl, the local rag was snidely insinuating the dogged MP may not be able to prove his accusations.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The Express & Star is losing touch and needs to solve the collective awareness difficulties that seem to be hemorrhaging their journalistic ability, otherwise we may soon only have The Birmingham Mail to stick in the cat’s litter tray. Dire, lazy and frankly amateur stories like this only continue to degrade the reputation of a once great institution.
From The Plastic Hippo: