Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Knowle relocation project: the latest 'questionnaire' ............. or: the latest exercise in public relations

"Politicians and journalists frequently ignore survey results in characterising public opinion, in part because the data are often so contradictory and in part because neglecting polls is strategically useful."

Mediated Politics: Communication in the Future of Democracy - W. Lance Bennett, Robert M. Entman - Google Books

This is managed democracy:
Futures Forum: Managed democracy: "The deliberate undermining of people's perception of the world, by creating confusion and contradiction ... undermining any opposition to existing power structures ... which leaves us feeling helpless and depressed and to which the only response is: 'Oh dear'."

When it comes to 'surveys', the District Council has quite a record of 'neglecting' these when it is 'strategically useful'.

In Exmouth, its own survey on the development of the seafront has been undermined by an independently commissioned survey:
Futures Forum: Save Exmouth Seafront: public meeting Saturday 26th Sept
Futures Forum: 'Save Exmouth Seafront' group launched >>> complete the survey by Saturday 5th September

And the District Council was determined to ignore a massive demonstration of public opinion over its plans to 'redevelop' the Elizabeth Hall site at another section of Exmouth's seafront:
12,000 battle to save Exmouth hall facing sell-off in seafront shake-up | Western Morning News
Futures Forum: East Devon and the expropriation of public space

Meanwhile, the District Council's own survey on beach huts is under fire - from Exmouth to Seaton:
Futures Forum: Save East Devon Beach Huts campaign launched
Futures Forum: East Devon beach huts: “The proposal was procedurally incorrect, uncosted, reputationally damaging, harmful"

Much of the District Council's promises to 'consult the people' are promoted through press releases - which the press duly undertakes to quote verbatim.

This is 'churnalism':
Futures Forum: Happy news coming out of Cranbrook... churnalism and the partnership between developers and politicians...

The difference between journalism and churnalism
The new book about the state of British journalism, Flat Earth News by Nick Davies, is attracting a lot of coverage. Indeed, given that it amounts to a full-frontal assault on the newspapers for routinely publishing dodgy stories, it is heartening to see that it is being taken seriously.
In yesterday's Observer review, Mary Riddell described his analysis as "fair, meticulously researched and fascinating, if gloomy." In today's Independent, media commentator Stephen Glover rightly says the book presents a damning picture of a dysfunctional national press, which is spoon fed by government and PR agencies, and incorporates wire copy into stories without the most cursory fact checking.
Peter Wilby, in today's Guardian, praises Davies's"fundamentally sound" argument. He thinks it right to compare the modern newsroom to a factory production line and that most do reporters practise "churnalism", not journalism... "pure PR hokum". And The Guardian have also given Davies space today to argue his case, Our media have become mass producers of distortion.
He points to the fact that his book rests to an extent on a study he commissioned from Cardiff University. Its researchers surveyed more than 2,000 news stories from The Times, Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Independent and the Daily Mail. (The full report can be downloaded here)
Davies writes: "They found two striking things. First, when they tried to trace the origins of their 'facts', they discovered that only 12% of the stories were wholly composed of material researched by reporters. With 8% of the stories, they just couldn't be sure. The remaining 80%, they found, were wholly, mainly or partially constructed from second-hand material, provided by news agencies and by the public relations industry. "Second, when they looked for evidence that these 'facts' had been thoroughly checked, they found this was happening in only 12% of the stories."
The man who led the research team, Professor Justin Lewis, believes that the study provides clear evidence that "the everyday practices of news judgement, fact checking, balance, criticising and interrogating sources that are, in theory, central to routine day to day journalism practice have been eroded."

Davies argues that "an industry whose primary task is to filter out falsehood has become so vulnerable to manipulation that it is now involved in the mass production of falsehood, distortion and propaganda."

The difference between journalism and churnalism, a book we must take seriously | Media | The Guardian

Would this be classified as a piece of churnalism - which led the front page of today's View from Sidmouth?

View From Online - News from West Dorset, East Devon & South Somerset
Moving and Improving: all you need to know about the office relocation - East Devon
Moving and Improving - East Devon
Consultation and surveys - East Devon

See also:
Futures Forum: How to alienate your electorate and lose influence

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