Matt Goold writes:
Dear Bramcote Today
As you may be aware, my name is Matt Goold, a local freelance journalist, publisher, communications officer and community activist. During the election, I have been working in my freelance capacity to string articles to national media agencies and outlets.
A story I am presently working on involves yourselves; and despite trying to communicate on a less formal manner I have yet to receive a response.
My investigation has concerned the increasingly politicised editorial stance of your site: while I appreciate you repost articles / newsletters from all parties, these are clearly indicated as such. Editorialising is at odds with your stated intention to be a neutral community utility.
I have included examples of this http://bramcotetoday.org.uk/2015/04/22/alex-salmond-i-am-writing-the-labour-party-budget/
I have compiled a dossier of similar with screenshots and date stamps.
Especially worrying is the funding structure of your website. Analysis of grants made through the County Councillor’s Divisional Fund shows that funding towards your site has come from Liberal Democrat councillors. This money should only be given to de facto community resources, projects or initiatives that are in no way politically motivated. This is to prevent one party siphoning taxpayers money into politicised propaganda / campaign funds. Failure to adhere to these rules is a severe breach of Council rules.
Details on allocation of funds is available in both PDF and Excel files publicly available on Nottinghamshire County Council’s website.
I have received, from other sources, examples where commentators on your site have been told that comments they have attempted to upload have been spiked in Moderation as they might cause distress to Liberal Democrat politicians, who then in turn take legal action. This is a strange logic: the commentator would bear the responsibility for their comments, and as such, the legal actions. As long as the comment does not evoke racist / offensive language; is on-topic; and does not make threatening remarks; then a Moderator should not use their position as a gate-keeper to decide what could end up as a civic case.
This reinforces my research that shows Bramcote Today to be misleading the public, misappropriating public funds and acting in ways which could be seen as seriously breaching electoral rules.
I note this evening a new policy has been enforced that requires all commentators to prove their identity by sending over photographic and address-related means of identification. An e-security expert I consulted on hearing my news was shocked that you would ask people to give up sensitive data, data which could be easily used in identity fraud, without a full stated policy on usage, storage and retention, other than ‘this data will not be published’. I urge you to immediately take this down for the e-security of commentators, and would advise you to check European data-protection laws for contravention.
I plan to publish my findings later this evening (26/4/2015); and then forward my findings on to the appropriate monitoring and standards authority, as well as national publications for consideration. I would thus appreciate any right of reply, or explanation to the concerns outlined above, which I will in the interests of fair comment print in full.
Please understand this is not intended as malicious: I sincerely think Bramcote Today is a fine resource for local news and information. However, I am most concerned that it isn’t acting this way right now, and if left unchecked will become something nobody is happy with.
I appreciate your swift response.
Matt Goold is Editor of Beestonia
Here is our reply:
Thank you for your email. Contact with Bramcote Today should be via the Bramcotetoday@hotmail.com email address.
As you should be aware, Bramcote Today was set up according to the brief as an electronic version of a Community Action Team Meeting. These meetings are a two way information process for Broxtowe Borough Councillors but are political by their very nature. Bramcote Today will therefore carry political content. You could argue, as the Councillors in Bramcote are all Liberal Democrats, that Community Action Team meetings are very biased. That is most definitely not the case with Bramcote Today.
The Editors of Bramcote Today make every effort to be as even handed as possible with the political material we publish to inform Bramcote residents. We do include all the newsletters from all local politicians and we don’t edit the content. We may include other material but this will be where we believe the content is important for our readers to consider. As you well know, any reader may comment on our posts subject to reasonable moderation rules so the balance is maintained.
We do publish the vast majority of the comments we receive and I did recently outline the criteria in a recent comment myself (Click on http://bramcotetoday.org.uk/2015/04/02/bardills-island/#comments to take you to the post that contains the comment). We do stick to these and it is nonsense to suggest that we favour the Liberal Democrats in any way. The comment to which you refer was potentially libellous and the writer was asked to amend it. The required change was simple to make and would not have detracted from the message. The writer did not do this and so the comment was, as you would expect, not published. If you have any other example, let us know.
We therefore reject your charge that we are misleading the public in anyway and offering any kind of biased view. You may be uncomfortable with posts and comments that don’t meet your political views but you have to accept these will be published so the political spectrum is fairly represented.
In terms of funding Bramcote Today website has not received any public funding since July 2012. Our accounts are as follows:
|16.02.11||Opening Q from NCC||100.00||100|
|04.03.11||100001||SA 6.94 + 7.82 domain costs||14.76||85.24|
|13.04.11||100002||MJ – promotional materials||14.99||70.25|
|17.02.12||100003||SA – domain mapping||7.86||62.39|
|28.07.12||Q from NCC||150.00||212.39|
|31.08.12||100004||MJ – printing costs||25.00||187.39|
|09.02.13||100005||SA – 29.99 + 8.53 domain/wordpress||38.52||148.87|
|100006||SA – to prevent adds on website||20.47||128.40|
|03.02.14||100008||SA – domain name||26.93||101.47|
|03.02.14||100007||MJ – printing History comp certs||2.50||98.97|
The payment in 2014, while being paid into Bramcote Today’s bank account was for the NottsWatch representation at the 2014 Hemlock Happening. The balance after expenditure remains in Bramcote Today’s account ring fenced for NottsWatch.
Finally thank you for your comment regarding the data protection aspects of the information required to place a comment on the site. I have amended the post to give further detail. Regrettably we have had to ask for this information to ensure the website is not subject to any campaign orchestrated by any political party or its supporters during the rest of the election period.