Peninsula Press (Again!)
Thursday, June 13, 2013 at 11:33PM
Bill Barclay

There have been many requests for furher information as to why I have severed my relationship with the 'Peninsula Press." I was content to let the matter rest with my earlier post - describing a mutual decision with publisher Gary Buling, who is obviously under considerable pressure to 'balance the books'. Without Council advertising in a town this size, that is very difficult. I acknowledged that the content of my column probably made life uncomfortable for Gary - it is a small town, and councils are able to apply inordinate pressure.

After last evening's post readers will understand that our Council has gone to considerable trouble to influence the manner in which it is perceived in the community, and that Audit NZ representative on the Audit Committee - Mr David Walker, went to some trouble to issue a warning about advertorial material leading up to an election. "Embellishment" is the word he used that should be noted by all concerned.

Today I received the following email from Mr Gary Buling- publisher of the Peninsula Press, in regard to request I had made for a letter to Council continuing my accreditation for the provision of meeting facilities in view of the fact that I continue to make the content of my blog available to his reporter Michael Dobie as and when required - a quid pro pro as they say. 

"I have a meeting coming up with Ben Day in July to discuss advertising for the next 12 months. This meeting was initiated by Day just after you announced you were no longer writing your column for PenPress. With the state of the paper at the moment, and the wolves at the door, this meeting is very important for the future of the paper and I am not prepared to do anything to jeopardise this. Especially considering the amount of advertising up for grabs with an election coming up. I hope you can understand my point of view here, and I am not selling out to the council. But after the meeting I will have a clear indication of where we are at with the council."

Even cynical old me was aghast when I considered the ramifications of this - I had  of course warned Gary on several occasions of the likely consequences of continuing my column, but I had not considered for a moment that Day's reaction would be as blatant as this.  

To those who think "this is little ole Thames - nothing like that ever happens here" - let me assure you that the game has changed - recent arrivals have brought real politic to our Council, and there is a determination to ensure that it is portrayed in such a way as to always reflect well on the incumbents. Mr Walker is well aware of this, and hence his warning. He is obliged to do this in any case under the terms of the Electoral Act. Our Council was sailing very close to the wind with recent advertorials in the Hauraki Herald. These and others (today's newsletter may fall into that category) could well become subject to a request for intervention by the Auditor General in due course. 

The advent of an "Informer" style local paper appears imminent, and from what I have seen of the layout to date, it seems to me that it will have wide aceptance around this town. All it requires is for sufficient advertisers to put their hands up, and for it proceed with its business case without the benefit of TCDC advertising, because it will surely now know the downside. These people do not countenance criticism, and will blatantly use their advertising dollars to silence critics.

Update on Friday, June 14, 2013 at 5:42PM by Registered CommenterBill Barclay

Gary has requested that I publish my reply to his email. I have no problem with that - he thinks that I should have treated his letter to me as 'personal'. If he means 'confidentail', I don't think so - the reaction to the PP by Ben Day as reported in Gary's email was important in my view, and could not be allowed to pass. I would certainly have treated his email as 'personal', or 'confidentiial' had he asked me to do so. 

My reply read - "Understood – no problem.  It was only a ‘back-up’, and I can deal with Day"

Pretty innocuous I would have thought.

I am sorry if my action has caused further problems for Gary, but  will continue to post any information that comes in my direction regarding the actions of the Council and its employees that I consider need to be in the public arena.




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