Monday 2 June 2014

Robust local press in Brent more important than ever

Hannah Bewley, Brent reporter for the Willesden and Wembley Observer, has filed her last reports fro that paper. During her time at the paper, which is an off-shoot of the Harrow Observer, despite having little space she published some great investigative journalism.  The paper was particularly vociferous in its support of the campaign against Brent library closures.

Her departure reflects a reduction in editorial staff of the Trinity South group and the closure of some titles. The WWO, expensive at 90p where sold, is likely to have fewer Brent stories in the future which is a pity.

Meanwhile the pressure which is exerted on the local press is evident in the adjudication published in last week's Brent and Kilburn Times.  The Press Complaints Commission upheld a complaint by former Labour councillor Jim Moher against Lorraine King, the BKT news editor but rejected two further complaints by him about accuracy and the opportunity to reply to stories.

The complaint that was upheld was about a comment that she made on Facebook about an unnamed individual Lorraine identified as a 'failed wannabe MP'. and in which she stated ''I plan to make his life a misery as much as possible' and  'Lord God forgive me if I bump into him before I get back to work, you will be visiting me in Holloway'.  The BKT argued that the comment was made on a personal Facebook account that could only be seen by 'friends'.  The comment had been made after she received an email from Moher which said:
Here you are again this week giving extensive coverage to the most scurrilous and unfounded attacks
and concluded:
PS By the way it was me who sorted your permit problem.
At the time that Moher's email, one of a series, was sent Lorraine King was on compassionate leave after the death of her mother. The PS  refers to a parking permit that Ms King needed for grieving relatives.  In the circumstances she found the email upsetting which led to the Facebook comments.

Although the Commission's remit does not cover social media content they ruled that as the comment related to the news editor's contact with Moher in her professional role, and could be viewed by individuals who she came into contact in that role, it could be considered under Clause 4 of the Code which states:
Journalists must not engage in intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit.
The Commission considered that the implied threat of violence was not intended to be taken seriously but concluded: had no hesitation in finding that this constituted intimidation withint the meaning of Clause 4, and a serious failure to uphold the highest professional standards required by the code.
The Huffington Post in covering this story said it was the first time the PCC, which is shortly to be ablosihed and replaced by several bodies, had decided it could rule on what journalsits said on 'private' social media accounts LINK:
Mike Jempson, Vice-chair of NUJ Ethics Council, told HuffPost UK it was an issue that the union had debated on several occasions. "Difficulties have arisen because some employers encourage reporters to express their opinions on blogs and to engage with their publics via social media, yet as reporters they are expected to retain a degree of impartiality," he said.

“Journalists share the right to freedom of expression with all members of the public, and should not feel constrained in how they express themselves. Indeed many journalists also write fiction, drama and poetry which is not a matter for the PCC."
While stressing it was important the journalists themselves made the distinction between personal and professional contributions on social media, it would be "a pity, and improper, if the PCC and its successor IPSO were to determine that all material by journalists published on non-commercial outlets that operate their own agreed contributors’ codes should be subject to the Editor’s Code.”
Readers will make up their own minds about this but I do hope that the BKT maintains its robust coverage of local issues, which has sometimes inevitably made it unpopular with local councillors. Lorraine King has been an excellent news editor and local press coverage is especially important now that we have a Council with a very large majority. The BKT must continue to be 'on the side of the people'.

Wembley Matters in the past has had its own dealings with Jim and Roth Moher LINK


Anonymous said...

What is not stated in your report is that the Kilburn Times editor was on bereavement leave following the death of her mother when she received this completely unacceptable email from councillor Moher.

There are some councillors and former councillors who are well-known as bullies. I do hope the Kilburn Times will not be intimidated by them and will continue to hold them to account.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure that lots of WM readers would like to thank both Lorraine and Hannah for all they've done on various important issues in the past.

Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. I have had contacts with both Hannah and Lorraine over several years, mainly by email.

I actually met Hannah for the first time when she came along to cover part of the public inquiry on the Willesden Green Town or Village Green application (it was great to have her interest in that battle between local people and the barristers representing Brent Council and their developer partner). She has also taken a keen interest in both environmental and local history "stories", and will be sorely missed.

I'm not sure what alleged 'scurrilous and unfounded attacks' Jim Moher was referring to in his email to Lorraine, but I know that I will forever be grateful to her for the publicity she gave to the fight to save the Victorian Willesden Green Library building in 2012. The "Project Team" behind the Willesden Green Library Centre redevelopment (Brent's Regeneration Department, Galliford Try and their PR and Planning consultants), were trying to mislead local people and Councillors about some aspects of the plans, including the "significance" of the locally listed building which they wanted to demolish. Without the coverage which the Brent & Kilburn Times gave to this issue, including publishing a number of "letters to the editor", the campaign to save the old building might not have succeeded.

The title to Martin's article says it all: a robust local press in Brent IS more important than ever, and I hope that our local newspapers will continue to report the stories which Brent's in-house Media Team do not publicise.

Philip Grant.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. And what on earth Moher thought he'd gain by complaing escapes me. MInd you, Mrs Moher has been oftimes heard to denigrate what she refers to as the "local rag".

Michael Calderbank said...

The ability of independent media to hold local councillors to account is more important now than ever. Sadly the culture of control freakery at the Civic Centre doesn't seem to recognsie this.

Anonymous said...

Is Moher the new Education person? Sounds a nice lady. I'm starting to get nostalgic for Mike Pavey already.

Anonymous said...

I'll second the above. Always good responsive coverage of Copland's various scandals, cock-ups, mismanagements, scams, victimisations, sackings, nepotistic shenanigans and general thievery.

Anonymous said...

And of the students, the staff and their unions' 5 year old battle to blow the whistle on all of those things. Thanks Hannah, and Lorraine.

Philip Bromberg said...

I'd also like to thank Hannah for her very good work over the last couple of years. If a library returns to Preston Road, it will be in no small measure due to the support of sympathetic journalists at both the Times and the Observer. As Martin implies here ("expensive at 90p") the Observer already looks desperately under-resourced; how it will manage with even fewer journalists is anyone's guess. So thanks again Hannah, and my very best wishes for the future.


Meg Howarth said...

A proliferation of blogs in every ward/group of wards...? Cross-linking with Wembley Matters and each other, that would ramp up scrutiny, as would a vibrant letters' page in BKT. In our new one-party statelet of Islington, where we're lucky enough to have an independent local newspaper as well as a BKT sister-paper, residents are asking for an increase in the numbers of letters' pages in both publications to assist in keeping the ruling party on its toes. Islington's official scrutiny proposals haven't yet been published but in addition to dropping the whip from backbenchers, the borough's active civil society will be demanding a residents' Right of Recall of councillors.

I'd like to say a special thanks to BKT. The paper published a series of letters from me relating to Kensal Rise Library and All Souls College, Oxford - I hadn't heard of Wembley Matters at the time! In response to one of these, Jim Moher had a go at me, too, referring sneeringly to 'leafy Islington' (while justifying the Libraries Transformation Project which he supported). I was able to set the now-former councillor straight about Islington, the borough with the least green space per head of population across the capital (excluding the City, which has very few residents). Alas, he didn't take up my invitation to come and see for himself. A couple of weeks ago, however, I visited Freyent Country Park for the first time. What a wonder! The Hampstead Heath of west London, it should be as well-known as its Camden counterpart! LOL - Freyent, I recall, was Mr Moher's old ward. The ex-councillor sounds like a bully to me, knocking anyone who dared challenge his/the Labour Party line.

Anonymous said...

Side of the people?

Labour massively increased their majority, yet at every opportunity the B & K Times kiss up the Lib Dems, ignoring vast government cuts to the Council budget.

Labour won a huge majority but got less coverage than Alex Colas, one candidate in a single ward, himself achieving half the votes there of Labour on average and a sixth in total - even after a really strong local campaign and some dodgy local development.

It's not true to say that the paper remotely reflects the way that people went in the recent elections, and their attitude to Mr Moher shows a wider agenda against Labour that the public don't share.

Whilst scrutiny remains vital, the voters feel very differently to it about local politics, and the paper is out of touch.

Anonymous said...

Complaint upheld.

Nan Tewari said...

What did J Moher mean by saying:

"PS By the way it was me who sorted your permit problem" ?

Firstly, councillors do not have executive powers, so the statement is untrue.

Secondly, the statement is ungrammatical, as it should have read: it was I who..." etc.

Thirdly, who made J Moher aware of King's personal business? This is a potential breach of data protection.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear. Labour 'won' its majority on the back of the anti-democratic 'first past the post' voting system which, to use your words, doesn't remotely reflect where the one-third of residents who bothered to vote put their crosses. A question to ask Brent Labour is why it and its national party doesn't support PR (proportional representation). Is Labour on the side of democracy, or not?

Anonymous said...

Well, you would know about bullies Meg - your methods of 'communication' leave a lot to be desired and, as for 'debate' on Wembley Matters, that also is a matter of opinion.
Slurs, innuendo, abuse, put downs etc etc for anyone disagreeing with the 'line'.
Thank goodness not a lot of people take much of notice of it.

Martin Francis said...

The Trustees of Kensal Rise wrote a 'Guest blog' on Wembley Matters on April 2nd setting out their reasons for settling for the new planning proposals. On April 16th I published another Guest Blog (Blunt Speaking in favour of Kensal Rise Library). An offer to publish a posting from the Treasurer in order to answer questions about funding was declined.

Whatever you may think about Meg Howarth, she has consistently published comments under hew own name.

Anonymous said...

The poorest in Brent have a class loyalty to Labour - but not to the way many Tory cuts have been impkemented by Mo Butt.Hannah will be missed for doing a good job of allowing opponents of cuts to the community -libarries,housing evictions,benmefits,youth clubs

Anonymous said...

Yes, there is no doubt whatsoever that she is happy to be associated with her own comments/orders/directives etc Very confident in the 'correctness' of her views, so much so that she can't hear what others might be saying..

Meg Howarth said...

And you are, Anonymous above, 17.01?

Anonymous said...

Alex Colas had, I think, two or three stories about him in the Kilburn Times in the 6 months leading up to the election, one of which related to the Birkbeck pop-up and was nothing to do with his election campaign. In just one issue the week before the election the paper had 3 positive stories featuring Labour councillors in Brent. I'm not sure where you get the idea that a sole independent got more coverage than 63 Labour candidates or 40-odd sitting Labour candidates?

Unknown said...

Indeed Nan Tewari.

To me, this seems to be an admission by Jim Moher to have misused his position in public office to curry favour with a journalist. Worse still, in a time when the journalist was vulnerable following a bereavement he tried to use what he 'PS' did to put pressure upon her.

Jim then did not get whatever it was that he wanted (increased or favourable press coverage?) and somehow invaded the privacy of a journalist through the access (or snooping) of her private facebook account.

This is corruption.

Scott Bartle

Anonymous said...

It's the arrogance and false entitlement of smug, unscrutinised power. Let's hope Mrs Moher doesn't bring Mr Moher's values into her dealings with Brent's schools.
(Actually, does Brent have any schools any more? I mean the schools which are geographically situated in Brent.)
Thanks, Mr Pavey.

Anonymous said...

Precisely. Labour is (fortunately in many respects) still the default position. That doesn't mean that the individual politicians using Labour's history as a 'brand' and as a vehicle for their own self-promotion are necessarily of any use whatsoever to the people who still dutifully vote Labour in hope more than expectation.

Anonymous said...

This potential breach of confidentiality and obvious use of pressure by Councillor Moher should be fully investigated.

We will add this to the list of issues that need a thorough investigation.

Might call this one PressGate.

Anonymous said...

Seems that someone on this blog is trying to cosy up to Labour. Hidden agenda, perhaps...?

Anonymous said...

Poor response and yet typical of people who know they are backing minority positions - hide behind the electoral system.

We have the system we have, and it's a better judge of public opinion than a single newspaper editor.

Anonymous said...

"The poorest in Brent have a class loyalty to Labour - but not to the way many Tory cuts have been impkemented by Mo Butt."

But they didn't when they were voting Lib Dem?

These are the only electorally viable parties in the Borough (i.e. with a decent blend of spread and depth of support).

The paper prefers one. The public the other. That is our right.

Anonymous said...

LOL. This avidly pro-Labour poster can't see the irony of her/his own position - castigating those who want electoral change for 'hid[ing] behind the electoral system' while hiding behind the mask of Anonymous! Perhaps Martin should introduce a new blogging rule on posting anonymously?

Anonymous said...

Another example of Brent corruption.

Anonymous said...

Since when have you, Anonymous 11.57, been 'the public' and delegated to speak on its behalf?

Anonymous said...

Seems like standard practice in Brent for people to be gently lent on !

FKRL obviously were lent on by certain people prior to election, given the 180 U turn they made and now it seems Councillors have been leaning on the Press.

Brent is getting as bad as Tower Hamlets.

Anonymous said...

If Lab and LibDem are the 'only electorally viable parties in the Borough' - despite the 6 Cons which you ignore - that's because of the outdated, anti-democratic first-past-the-post voting system. Do you support electoral reform or not? Someone else on this blog - or perhaps you're one and the same? - has smugly described those who're on the side of a more democratic voting system as 'people who...are backing minority positions - hid[ing] behind the electoral system'. Too cowardly to give your name because of your anti-progressive stance you dare to criticise others. Clearly a Labour political-party animal, hope you're not an 'elected' councillor.