Read a much fuller explanation of this sorry tale here.
One week ago I launched the Evening Anus. It was a modest beginning with only a twitter account. Yesterday I created the inevitable blog, which is very much in its infancy. It’ll take a while to settle down into a sensible format.
The point is to expose the sloppy reportage masquerading as journalism, which is served up by the Brighton based ‘newspaper’ The Argus. I’ve thought about doing something like this for years but the final straw was The Argus’s decision to base a front page story on a single tweet by my friend and Green Party councillor Ben Duncan. The content of the tweet and the politics of its author are irrelevant. The issue is the shockingly poor standard of journalistic investigation. Essentially, The Argus just reprints press releases. If that were generally known, perhaps it wouldn’t matter too much. However, it isn’t well known. Instead, The Argus trades on its legacy position as having a monopoly on locally printed news. Having previously been a big(ish) organisation it routinely presents political spin as reality. It doesn’t contribute to our community life in a positive way. Brighton & Hove deserve better, much better.
Last night it came to my attention that Tim Ridgway of The Argus has contacted a senior figure inside the Brighton & Hove Green Party to ask about The Evening Anus. This initiative of mine is not party political. That’s why I’ve not used my usual accounts. I shall be recruiting others to assist with the project. Members of other political parties are welcome to help. Details of how to help will be posted at The Evening Anus shortly. The Green Party has a long standing and firm policy of a positive press strategy. When I’ve suggested something similar to this project in the past, it has been poo-pooed by the majority of the party. Now I can see why. Tim Ridgway told his Green Party contact that if The Argus decided a Green Party person was behind the twitter account @EveningAnus, there would likely be consequences for the party, in terms of nastier reporting. (Italicised words added shortly after this post was published, to clarify nature of threat.)
This is absurd. A local political party has several hundred members but if just one of them criticises the local rag, a direct threat is made against the entire party?! Certainly, the man Tim Ridgway contacted was left in no doubt that the party had been threatened and/or blackmailed. Blackmail is, of course, a very serious criminal offence.
It was tempting to keep the Anus anonymous. On the whole I don’t agree with the netiquette of anonymity wherever convenient. Obviously, the Anus doesn’t blow whistles or engage in any other activity which justifies secrecy. Therefore, I have come out into the open. I’m not the first local blogger to attack The Argus. The local rag’s reaction reveals its insecurity.
When it is not reprinting political press releases, The Argus relies on other RSS feeds. This week I spotted that it had republished, word for word, a news announcement by Sussex Police. Anyone can collate the various local news feeds. In fact, you don’t even need a human being to do this – the process can be automated. The Argus does rather well out of the invaluable work done by the Sussex Police public relations team. The trouble is that they do so badly with the many stories which they have to pen themselves.
The Evening Anus aims to get The Argus to buck up or shut up shop. It will concentrate on local politics. It will experiment with publishing automated news feeds from across the political spectrum. I expect senior officers in the Green Party to ask me to desist from this project. If necessary, I will leave the party. We live in an age where it is acceptable to scrutinise the established press and where crowd sourced news increasingly informs us better than the privately owned media. I challenge The Argus to justify its existence by improving its quality rather than by attacking its critics.