Wrexham.com has been successful in pushing for a change in an archaic council rule that favoured print based news outlets, and will allow us and others to get information to readers quicker.
This is a ‘meta’ story regarding interaction of the media with the Council, however much like our campaign to open up council meetings to twitter we are keen on not only a level playing field for media, but to lower barriers to getting information into the public domain.
Aside from the obvious benefit to Wrexham.com for being ‘first’, it is important that people are made aware of what is happening in public(ish*) meetings as they may wish to attend to observe. It is also possible that people may wish to speak to their elected representatives or interact with the Council themselves, such scenarios could benefit from extra time to digest and understand the items for discussion.
Prior to Wrexham Council’s ‘Executive Board’ meetings a media briefing is held where details of forthcoming reports and plans are revealed in strict confidence. This is provided not only to allow members of the media to do further research on topics, but also gives the chance for Lead Members, Leader of the Council and Officers and more often than not the Chief Executive of the Council to be questioned and give quotes on the topic at hand.
Previously the timetables have been set so that media briefings occur on a Tuesday morning, with the more detailed reports being published on the Wrexham.gov.uk website within 24 hours. The media brief has traditionally been embargoed until Thursday morning, with a source telling us the historical reasons were based on allowing councillors the chance to get their paper based reports and agendas as well as their newspaper in the morning. The theory is that a councillor will not read something in the paper before they have the paperwork.
This created the very odd scenario where we could attend a media briefing but as a result not be able to report on the contents of publicly available reports!
Obviously with Wrexham.com being an online publication, plus the fact most councillors now have digital devices provided to save £36,000 in printing costs, we were not keen on this setup so initially complained about the embargos. Lately this has been extended to us declining to attend the media briefs due to the embargos being in place.
We have been told this afternoon that the embargo has changed to “When the report is live on our website or 6am on Thursday prior to the meeting”. Hopefully this will mean the current excellent speedy uploads of documents to the Council website will not alter!
For tomorrows Executive Board meeting the documents were public on the Council’s website on Wednesday, our reports were also up that afternoon. Similar reports were in other media in the following days, with some being in today’s papers – Monday – a possible five days later.
Stories that appeared on the Wednesday before any other local media about tomorrow’s Executive Board meeting include:
- £10 Million Pound Improvement Proposal
- CCTV Changes Due To Be Discussed
- Information On PCSO Council Funding
- Our Ongoing Coverage Of The Single Integrated Plan
*It is public-ish as there are a couple sections of tomorrow’s agenda which will occur behind closed doors – items 18 and 19 viewable here.
(Picture: A Council issue iPad that Councillors can use to get their news first on!)