Community news and investigative journalism for Wapping E1W and Tower Hamlets London

An unwillingness to balance sources in critical reporting

By on January 15, 2015 in Comment, Tower Hamlets council

Both regular readers of Love Wapping will have realised by now that we are neither ‘a national newsroom’ or the BBC.

We do however have teeth and use them on a regular basis. (Unless we get bored and hand over editorial control to the Wapping Squirrels. Who also have teeth.)

Determined squirrel after nuts

Determined squirrel after nuts

This is for the simple reason that residents of the London borough of Tower Hamlets are sick and tired of being treated like mushrooms – kept in the dark and fed on bullshit – and there are few if any sources of information about the reality of what is going on in our borough.

Despite the DCLG having sent their commissioners into Tower Hamlets town hall the council rag East End Life stills plops through 100,000 of our letterboxes on a regular basis, although it has to be said that the number of photographs of our dear mayor it contains has reduced considerably.

Propaganda levels stay the same however.

And as any good propagandist knows if you repeat a lie often enough people will start to believe it.

Hard reality is that there is no local press in Tower Hamlets.

Yes there are ‘newspapers’ that purport to provide borough news but they are useless. Reporters are desk-bound and consequently out of touch with the communities they are supposed to serve.

Still a world capital

An outstanding example of this was on December 5th last year when the lead news story in the East London Advertiser was about a school trip to France.

Although this sort of event should be covered by a local newspaper many residents may consider that there just might have been other things going on in East London that day that may have warranted being the front page lead news story.

London is, last time we checked, still a world capital. And the East End is one of the most important parts of our capital. So there might be some news stories knocking around somewhere.

Just gotta find ’em!

To be fair and balanced (for once) the East London Advertiser did run an interesting story that involved quite a lot of research, analysis and other journalist type things on 23rd October 2014, ‘Tower Hamlets accused of ‘huge disparity’ in grants to poorest areas’.

We know because Love Wapping wrote it.

If you don’t care stop reading here

Last year the entire Love Wapping Editorial Team were interviewed for an academic analysis of ‘The Value of UK Hyperlocal Community News’. This study included the largest content analysis to date of UK hyperlocal news content.

You might be interested to read some of the reasoning as to why our editorial team takes the approach they do. Or you might not care at all.

The usual bullshit

Either way here is the Love Wapping bit in the report:

This unwillingness to balance sources in critical reporting is rooted, in part, in a pragmatic expectation that the PR office in question will not take any questions or allegations seriously (Kean talks of “bland meaningless responses”), but also in a certain amount of contempt for the uncritical way in which local newspapers already routinely provide a mouthpiece for the output of local government communications officers.

Mark Baynes, of campaigning London blog Love Wapping, shares these critiques. When asked whether he balances his critical coverage of Tower Hamlets Council with quotes from relevant officers he told us:

“I don’t see why I should, as a resident, ring the town hall up or anybody else … Because I know all they’re going to give me is the usual bullshit. So what’s the point? And they’ve got a huge media machine … I don’t see, to be quite honest, why any hyperlocal should. Because if you look at it in the broader context of media and communications in our society: if Tower Hamlets wants to get on TV, they can get on TV. They can send a press release to the East London Advertiser [the local weekly newspaper] … and they literally print the press release.”

Golly gosh! Strong words.

But most East Enders would be more direct.

And Love Wapping refuses to waste time asking for ‘the councils position on this issue’ when we know that we will be lied to.

Spot the odd one out

Have a look at the list below and see if you can spot the odd one out. No prizes so don’t ask.

  • Professor of Journalism, City University, London
  • Trinity Mirror
  • Love Wapping
  • BBC
  • Open University expert on Open Data
  • Google
  • Twitter

Correct! Love Wapping!

The reason Love Wapping is the odd one out is because these are the media organisations and individuals who have been invited to speak at the BBC Data Day in Birmingham organised by the BBC College of Journalism.

You have to laugh – Love Wapping in the same line-up as organisations like the BBC, Google, Twitter and people like Paul Bradshaw and Tony Hirst?  What the hell do they know about kingfishers? Cheek.

The reason Love Wapping will be giving a talk about a tiny eeny weeny website may be something to do with some of the non-wildlife stories we ran in 2014. These included:

And last but by no means least our favourite photograph from the May 2014 elections that sums it all up.

Cat having a wash at Polling Station

Cat having a wash at Polling Station

As there are so many investigations, court hearings and on-going criminal investigations relating to Tower Hamlets council still in progress and upcoming our editorial team will be confined to talking about what has been published here.

As opposed to what we actually know. <sigh>

So both regular readers have been treated to a preview. Or used as guinea pigs. Take your pick.

But then maybe the BBC College of Journalism invite was a mistake and Love Wapping should really be on BBC Springwatch?  Kevin would love that.

We should be so lucky. While the search for Kevin continues we have other business to attend to.

For example I have this really interesting story about Tower Hamlets First councillors and how they….

But wait. I have to write that one! Back soon. Unless Kevin comes back.


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