21 Comments

Excellent reporting of an important facet of local life, in itself showing how essential independent journalism and scrutiny of our public bodies has become. If you agree, please get any and everyone you know to subscribe and support outlets like NNJ. I write as a retired reporter and editor for local, regional and national media in what I now see as a golden age.

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Thanks for your continued support Sid.

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Excellent piece, informative if not more than a little worrying for what it means for the future with council staff writing their own articles as though independent journalists.

Keep up the good work and providing us the stories we would otherwise not see.

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Huge thanks to NN Journal for being an oasis of insight in a news desert!

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The presence of an independent Media on all platforms is even more crucial as Scrutiny is not the vibrant environment that it should be within Councils. We are all the losers if scrutiny from our media is reducing. Not least the sums being spent on in-house communications that could be used far more effectively on services for the community.

An astonishingly insightful news article as ever.

(Electoral Commission Imprint: Published by Jim Hakewill, The Manor House Business Centre, Squires Hill, High Street, Rothwell,

NN14 6BQ)

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founding

I guess that all local authorities realise it is easier to manage news than deliver good services

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Well done Sarah, a fantastically insightful piece of investigative journalism.

There is a crisis in the communication of local public interest news, as identified by the Cairncross Report in 2019, which also suggested a remedy. The Local Democracy Reporting Service is ensuring a limited coverage of local public bodies in some areas, but the decline of the regional press means the public is still not being served with news from public bodies as well as it should be, or as it was in recent memory. NN Journal is doing its best to fill that gap.

Of course public bodies need to communicate with the public and need some communications professionals to do that, but your investigation shows there are a lot of comms officers compared to the volume of public service journalism available.

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founding

Thank you for a really informative article.

While WNC is spending so much on communication it is failing to keep it's own website up to date with information on either the Local Access Forum (a body that advises on issues regarding rights of way and access to the countryside) or the Wellbeing Walks that it provides and supports.

This is preventing volunteers from assisting the Council effectively taking action to encourage the community to walk more which potentially enables the public sector to make substantial savings.

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The death of independent investigative journalism = the death of accountability within a robust democracy.

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What an excellent piece of investigative journalism. And what a concerning situation. I am so happy to be a NNJ supporter because you present carefully checked out facts…something not happening at any deep level in local news papers now.

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Maybe these departments need renaming to, Offices of Bullshit and Obfuscation. Keep up your good work.

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founding

Obviously the police press office are avid readers of NN Journal, pity they didn’t engage more during the Adderley debacle.

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Great work NNJ - detailed and in-depth reporting. Looking at the amount of resource and money spent by local organisations on comms is certainly a worthwhile exercise - these departments, though it may be awkward for them to have to field questions about their own work, still have to be open to scrutiny.

The number of comms workers and their influence on how we receive the news, and to what level it is scrutinised, is definitely concerning for the reasons identified above. That said, in slight defence of the comms offices, they remain a vital resource for any journalist keen to fact-check their work and provide an accurate picture of what is going on. A good 'press officer' is worth their weight in gold, and their work often goes beyond dealing with journalistic enquiries (internal comms, marketing etc).

Secondly (and your article does point to both these things), many of those in the local media (and, perhaps more pertinently, their bosses) have a lot to answer for when it comes to the creation of the news deserts you reference.

The pressures of finances and advertising collapse accepted, many newspapers couldn't wait to get rid of experienced reporters and sub-editors, revelling in cutting back staff (and maintaining profit levels and returns for shareholders) and appointing junior reporters who no longer had more senior colleagues to learn from. Why bother covering court and council meetings, when a c-list celebrity is opening a bar, or someone has posted a clickbait-able line on Twitter?

The BBC locally has been equally poor. A desire to embrace 'personality' radio and online stories limited to 300 words or centered on what Ed Sheeran has been up to Norwich have helped kill - or at least strangle - proper, local reporting (some notable exceptions permitting).

I could go on, but suffice to say, local media organisations have to take a lot of the blame when it comes to this. Slavishly reprinting the press releases provided by comms professionals is simply the latest trend in this sad downward spiral.

Keep fighting the good fight NNJ - a beacon of light in Northamptonshire's dark news desert.

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This is good work, and thank you for doing it. This state of affairs is a denial of our democrat rights because news management is entirely different from reporting news and examining how local bodies work (or sometimes don't work).

Spending so much (of our) money to make the controlling party 'look good' seeks to perpetuate the sinecure of the controlling party, and here denial of democracy shifts into perversion of democracy. Like most aspects of civic life in the county and the towns for a long time now, it stinks.

When (for one example) the Chief Executive attempts to suppress news reporting of the domestic violent behaviour of the Council leader it becomes evident that we need more news, and much less news management.

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founding

This is the reason large organisations can cover up major failures and worse. I predict that, if asked, every large public body in Northamptonshire would vote to have the FOI removed from the statute book. Thank goodness for Sarah and NN Journal.👏👏👏

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# Back in the USSR # or The Chinese Republic!

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No. This is 21st century state capitalism in action protecting vested interests. This is OUR problem, nothing to do with China or Soviet Union.

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Sorry Paul ……it was intended as tongue in cheek….but with no apologies for the comparison!

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For clarification: You state "the police’s FOI department did not meet the 20 statutory limit for its FOI response, so we are still awaiting the figures for more recent years".

This is not true: You were advised Under Freedom of Information the 20 (sic) working days time limit becomes effective the day after the day of receipt or the day after we receive any necessary clarification. You were advised of this on June 3 when you chased for a response.

On May 15, we requested further information which you provided on May 21. This reset the 20 working days to a due date of June 19...a full eight days from now

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author

Apologies here as we overlooked the detail of the reset date. Article amended.

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An oversight, it seems, by NNJ. Meanwhile, you hide behind FoI - still, good of you to point this out!!

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