Victoria View – Total immunity to Total Place?

By on 06/08/2010 in Blog

The following is the latest in an (irregular) series of blogs from the Queen-Victoria-250pxBirmingham City Council press office…

Over the last couple of years, the phrase “Total Place” has become incredibly trendy in local government circles.

All sorts of pilot projects and initiatives have been launched under this banner - with the aim essentially being to cut out duplication and therefore waste across the public sector.

A theoretical example would be to consolidate the financial back office functions for councils, the police and fire service in any given area. They all do the same, so why not bring them together?

This is exactly the thought that I have about certain parts of the media when a big story affecting our great city ever breaks.

We get organisations that aren't shy to bombard us with more than half a dozen bids for information, interviews or statements.

All come from different journalists, yet all ultimately work for the same media outlet.

Why is this? Well, we get told that they are all “following different angles” or that “different audiences need to be catered for”.

Can't these reporters, who more likely than not share offices, simply communicate with one another instead of flooding us with their identical requests?

When shareholders' investments are at stake, or licence payers hard-earned cash is on the line, should this really be the case?

Despite the protestations they make, they all tend to ask the same questions in exactly the same ways - and the coverage, shock horror, looks the same.

As well as wasting resources on the media's side of the fence, it requires spokespeople put up by the council to spend a great deal of time repeating themselves, when they could actually be getting on with their job - to serve the people of Birmingham.

If councils are constantly under the microscope for their expenditure, it does make you wonder why some newspapers, radio stations and television networks don't look at themselves a little more closely.

All we ask is that media bids are co-ordinated in a fair and sensible way, as that will help our small (and very busy) press office deal with requests in the best way possible.

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There Are 8 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Sack the Panda says:

    Instead of writing this moping, sorry for yourself, introverted drivel you could have been answering a vital media question…

  2. Dee says:

    One could say the same things about public service bodies. I have been asked to supply the same information repeatedly by the council, tax office, DWP and Passport office. I am asked to prove my identity to get questions answered and problems dealt with. I have to prove that I am entitled to work in the UK in spite of the fact that I have an NI number and have been working (paying tax, NI and Council Tax) for over over thirty years. Why if I have an NI number do I have to provide all sorts of other information? The answer is simple the person I am talking to does not know that.

    What you need to remember is that many journalists are freelancers and are expected to do their own research. They may not necessarily be working in an office but instead are mobile; submitting copy via the internet or mobile phone. Of course they could not bother asking questions at all and just make something up but that would be bad journalism.

    Before you ask I am not a journalist but do work professionally in the IT industry as a technical writer.

  3. old hack says:

    Well what a pointless posting. Obviously this member of the city’s small (and very busy) press office is not that busy if he has time to come up with this ill-thought out drivel. But then in all my years of experience as a journalist, the PR’s definition of busy is diametrically opposed to mine. And as for his grasp of the media…is he really expecting Newsnight and Newsround to club together and put in one request for information between them because, well, they’re both from the BBC afterall and it would make life so much easier for the council’s PR machine? But should we expect anything more from a PR than the argument that news organisations should be run for the benefit of their workload rather than the public they individually and collectively serve. If he cares to understand the media that serves the city, he would know that the BBC Midlands Today is different from BBC WM. the Birmingham Mail is different from the Birmingham Post which is different from the Sunday Mercury. The fact that they are owned or part of the same parent organisation is irrelevant, they are different media outlets and serve different audiences. Those publications are held to account each year by shareholders or the BBC Trust/ Government and costs are regularly scrutinised. Can the council say that they have taken as much care with taxpayers’ money?

  4. Philip John says:

    Why not blog your answer, then just refer all the individual journalists to the blog? Eventually they may just check the before phoning or e-mailing you.

  5. DerekB says:

    As you are a former journalist I can’t help thinking you should have known better than to write this.
    It shows a staggering naivity, not to mention an element of whingeing that is not really very becoming…

    …Mon Dieu! Of course, it is precisely because you are a former journalist that you have written such a naive and whingeing article.
    Apologies. As you were.

  6. other side of the coin says:

    Should the council really be advocating that media outlets sack even more people than they have already done in recent years?
    Surely a better solution would be for the council, in the event of a big news story, to immediately call a press conference and/or release a news statement, and then you wouldn’t have to field a load of inquiries from members of the media presumably starved of information!

  7. My thoughts are with you! Worked for BCC back in the nineties and knew a few of your press office then. In that era, what always struck me was how the actions of “Beadle’s About” and the like could have such a negative impact on public perceptions of a council, yet no recompense was ever made. You are right – the media do need to consider the cost to the public purse of meeting their demands.

  8. Butane Wayne says:

    As a newspaper veteran, in my reporting days OK, the answer might be the same for all but each hack from various outlets would have different set of follow up questions..and does that mean if some crisis hit the border lands between Brum and, say, Sandwell you’d advocate it as a good and legit use of time to concoct a standard reply for both authorities?? Maybe publications do share ‘space’ and are part of the same organisation but it would make a mockery of that individual publication’s integrity to have one call on behalf of all.

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