Sunday, 19 June 2011

HOW TO GET BACK ON TDC'S PRESS MAILING LIST

© Copyright Zoltán Horlik and licensed for reuse. This is not an endorsement of my post.
I've come up with a solution as to how bloggers can get back onto TDC's press mailing list. Are you ready? Well, basically... we've got to become journalists. Now come on, hear me out, because I do have a point. If Thanet District Council has removed bloggers from their press release mailing list and refused to take press queries from them on the basis that they will only deal with 'accredited media' in the future, then the only way we're going to get out of this mess is by becoming accredited.

This could probably be an expensive undertaking, but the University of Kent does offer a couple of accredited National Council for the Training of Journalists qualifications such as a BA (Hons) in Journalism and the News Industry and even an MA in Multimedia Journalism. If a blogger had one of those degrees under their belt, could the council justify leaving them off their mailing list of 'accredited' media even if they didn't happen to work for a newspaper? I shouldn't have thought so.

It does lead me to wonder exactly how 'accredited' one has to be to make the council's press mailing list. For example, what if you're a qualified freelance journalist who currently doesn't work in the media but still submits the occasional news article to local newspapers on spec. Would they be entitled to be added to the council's mailing list, on account of their NCTJ qualifications? I imagine so... because they're accredited. It seems like this could be a loophole bloggers could potentially exploit, should they have the gumption to do so.

So that's the best solution I can come up with. Come on, bloggers, go and get yourselves some NCTJ qualifications. Problem solved. But I am joking, of course. Can you imagine what the local blogosphere would be like if Michael Child or Tony Flaig had an NCTJ accolade to their names? It's an interesting thought. But personally, the fact that Thanet Council has removed bloggers from their press mailing lists doesn't bother me in that I have never been on the list anyway. Besides, my blogging style isn't really geared towards investigatism in the same way as Michael Child's or Tony Flaig's is. I may express a view here and there, but I'm certainly no Daniel Ellsberg.

Since I've only ever used the council's RSS feeds, removing bloggers from the press mailing list is not something which adversely affects me. But what does bother me is the e-mail's suggestion that unless you're a journalist for the mainstream media, then the council really isn't interested in talking to you and won't co-operate with any potential press queries you may have. In other words, non-journalists or members of the public who want to call the press office must like it or lump it, and put in an FOI request if they want to find out any information.

I must say, I've never called TDC's press office. I've never felt the need to. But I've also never felt that not calling them was out of the question. So the fact that the door has now been permanently closed to bloggers like myself feels like we're being given the cold shoulder. If Thanet Council prohibits bloggers from making press queries then it could, in my view, have the side-effect of stifling and discouraging potential journalists (and, conversely, other concerned members of the public) from finding out information from the council through more direct means than FOI. Is it right to shut out citizen journalists or even community activists in this way? I don't think so.

Let me put it this way, since I'm a media graduate from De Montfort University, I do harbour ambitions to become a journalist (surprise surprise!). As it happens, I'm currently unemployed, and since job opportunities in the local media are slim at best, I'm using this blog as a way of showing exactly what I'm capable of and making the most of my talents. I'd like to think that I don't take myself too seriously but my point is that if TDC chooses to disregard bloggers in favour of the mainstream press then it's hard not to feel like my ambitions as an amateur journalist basically count for nothing. 

Ultimately, the impression I'm getting from Thanet District Council's decision is that people in my position can blog as much as they like, but since they are not 'accredited' then their civic engagement simply doesn't matter to the council any more. The only answer for bloggers, therefore, is to go on an NCTJ course and see if that makes a difference to getting their foot in the door. That, as far as I can see, is the only way how local bloggers can get back on TDC's press mailing list and be allowed to make calls to the press office once again. What do you think?

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