Thursday 15 March 2012

No news is good news

Did anyone else spot a connection between the following two "news" items in the pages of this week's Carmarthen Journal?

1. Council Leader Meryl Gravell told the paper that she was "disappointed" that Dyfed Powys Police had raised the police precept by 5%. This shock horror revelation is then padded out with a few more paragraphs of waffle.

Here's the background to the story, and the bits the Journal left out.

Back in January the Chief Constable of Dyfed Powys Police, Ian Arundale, went along to a meeting of Carmarthenshire County Council and told councillors that his police service faced a very bleak future of cuts and more cuts. He was therefore going to have to ask for a 5% rise in the police precept.

Several councillors questioned Mr Arundale, and it was obvious that quite a few of them were a little sceptical of some of the claims being made. In response to one question, it turned out that Mr Arundale did not know what proportion of the force's revenue was generated by the precept, or even how much the precept raised.

All through this fairly lengthy debate, council leader Meryl Gravell sat silent.

With an election looming, Meryl is keen to get press coverage and for us to know that she cares, she really does. But not enough to do anything about it.

2. Also in the same edition of the Journal we have a happy smiling picture of deputy leader, Kevin Madge, who excitedly tells us that he believes the latest Estyn inspection of the council's schools will give the county top marks. Chief executive Mark James joins in the political jockeying as well to tell us that he believes the report, not published yet, will see that the county's schools score well in every category.

But the report has not been published yet. And while there are some very good schools and examples of good teaching, the reality is that the county is still churning out too many children with very poor literacy and numeracy skills, and children who emerge from school with 11 or more years of Welsh but are unable to speak the language. Presumably Estyn did not spot that, but then we will have to wait for the report to see.

Of course, the county council elections are looming, and so Meryl, Madge and all the others are keen to get their mugshots in the paper as often as possible, especially when there is good news to report. In the case of these two "stories", there is actually no news at all to report.

Both were manufactured spin, and sadly the Carmarthen Journal seized on both. Considering what the current regime in County Hall has done to the local press in recent years, this is a pathetic sight. It seems that all pretence of editorial independence, questioning and objective reporting has been abandoned, as the newspaper morphs into a weekly version of Carmarthenshire News. A case of Stockholm Syndrome, perhaps.

1 comment:

Tessa said...

Cneifiwr - I totally agree with you re the Journal and the News have become the same - I've just commented so on Caebrwyn's post, actually, ahead of reading yours.