The events of last Tuesday evening and the ensuing media interest have been something of an eye-opener. It has been fascinating to see how this story broke out into the wider press and TV arena and, on the way, lost much of the detail.
As far as I can understand, the story started off with a local reporter, Dave Nichols from the Western Gazette, reporting the story without actually being at the Tin Dunny to witness events unfolding. Around midday on Wednesday, David couldn't explain exactly what he was basing his story on. The piece then became 'front page' on the Western Gazette on Thursday morning and contained references to events which observers on the night cannot confirm took place. That story was picked up by the South West News Agency who called me around 09:30am wanting a photograph. I spoke at some length with Paul Adcock (from South West), not realising that he had already cherry-picked the Western Gazette story and was busy with other things. That 'story' was duly picked up by some of the national press (Daily Telegraph, Express, Mail) and their online counterparts including BBC online. Everyone beleved the 'facts' that they were given by the last person in the chain and no-one checked.
The story on the BBC website on Thursday evening was pretty hard to take because there was nothing to it other than 'Lone Blogger brings down Council' and it claimed that the BBC had tried to contact me without success. It turned out that their reporter, Daniel Thomas, had sent an email to M&B, not knowing (why should he?) that I only look at M&B emails once a day at best. (Or at least that was what I used to do.)
By early Thursday evening I was trying, and failing, to contact BBConline until a phone number on a letter from Mark Thompson (Director of the Beeb) got through. That reached the BBConline newsdesk in London which led to the Birmingham office where I was able to speak with a sub-editor, Katie Smith, and that was when I started to understand what Max Clifford gets paid for.
Try as I might, I couldn't get Katie to add anything to the story that had been written by Daniel Thomas. He was the journo and only he could make changes. The story had become a runaway train and, in the case of runaways, you are either in front of them or behind them, there is no in-between. Had Max Clifford been managing this, he'd have had a press-pack out on Tuesday evening with the story that his client (whichever side that might have been) wanted published. But Max wasn't there, and neither was Dave Nichols, but Dave's piece, focusing on the 'Mass Walkout' (a major part of the story) and the Blogger (a side show) became the lead. The community didn't get a mention.
By midnight on Thursday I had finally found Daniel Thomas' mobile number and he called me back sometime in the small hours of Friday am. Our conversation was a bit tense (understatement) because I felt that the story had been seriously misrepresented. Daniel, for his part, hadn't misquoted me and he had tried to contact me before placing the story, so his hands were clean. We eventually got things onto an even keel and Daniel agreed to some changes but, in the event, they were pretty minor and didn't change the imbalance.
I got to bed at 5:00am on Friday morning and was up again at 07:30am to 'work the phones' but they were already working quite happily on their own. BBC TV Southwest was on the blower wanting to film a piece for the 6pm news and they were closely followed by BBC Newsnight wanting a piece for the 10:30pm slot. Given that I thought that the reporting of the story was a complete disaster, the idea that the BBC were going to do not one but two pieces on it, and one was going to be done by Michael Crick, filled me with horror.
In the event, the BBC SouthWest crew were easy easy to work with and helped me regain some of my composure. Then I did the piece with Michael Crick which went out on Newsnight aroun 10:45pm. In all fairness, the Newsnight piece brought the story into sharper focus and for that I have to thank them. They also gave my Westie (Trilby) her little slice of 'fame pie'.
Today, as I write this, I'm once again looking forward.
Watch this space and may your God check the copy.