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Spin, smoke-filled rooms, and the decline of council reporting by British local newspapers: the slow demise of town hall transparency.

Morrison, James

Authors

James Morrison



Contributors

Alec Charles
Editor

Gavin Stewart
Editor

Abstract

If there is one realm of public life in which the provincial press has long justified the mantle 'fourth estate', it is in fulfilling its time-honoured role as principal scrutinizer (and critic) of local government. For generations, regional newspapers in the UK, mainland Europe and the United States have been our primary sources of information on the deliberations and decisions of local authorities - and our channels for dissent over wayward procedures, policies and politicking. Yet, as we enter the second decade of a new century - a brave new digital world, in which it should be easier than ever for journalists to keep us abreast of the activities of councillors and officials - local papers appear increasingly neutered, at least in England and Wales. Surveys point to a dramatic decline in the amount of space and time they are devoting to council coverage, and the steady demise of dedicated local government correspondents. This chapter argues that these developments can be partly blamed on recent reforms to the way in which councils in England and Wales conduct their business. Tony Blair's Local Government Act (HM Stationery Office 2000a) ushered in cabinet-style council executives based on the model used by the UK's national administration. The act simultaneously exempted them from meeting in public, unless discussing major decisions that they intended to make collectively.

Publication Date Jun 16, 2011
Publisher Peter Lang International Academic Publishers
Pages 193-210
Book Title The end of journalism: news in the twenty-first century
Institution Citation MORRISON, J. 2011. Spin, smoke-filled rooms, and the decline of council reporting by British local newspapers: the slow demise of town hall transparency. In Charles, A. and Stewart, G. (eds.) The end of journalism: news in the twenty-first century. Bern: Peter Lang [online], pages 193-210. Available from: https://doi.org/10.3726/978-3-0353-0150-2
DOI https://doi.org/10.3726/978-3-0353-0150-2
Keywords Regional newspapers; Local authorities; Policies; Politics; Transparency

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