The launch of a Thurrock Council newspaper took a step closer after the controversial issue was discussed at the Performance and Overview Committee on Monday night.
With representatives and representations from all the Thurrock news organisations (Thurrock Gazette, Yellow Advertiser, Essex Enquirer and YourThurrock), it appeared that the issue would be in what form the paper would take rather than if a publication would come into existence.
Thurrock Gazette Editor Steve Lewis asked the Leader of the Council, Garry Hague to prove his pledge to support local businesses by continuing to support the Gazette and not run in direct competition.
However it is understood that sources close to the Labour Group were reported to be dismayed that after pledging their support to the Thurrock Gazette they did not supply any staff to report on the last two Full Council meetings nor the last Cabinet meeting.
A source said: “The Gazette could well be the architect of it’s own downfall. Their absence provided the perfect ammunition for the Council Media and Communications Department to prove their point.”
Meanwhile, Committee members were keeping an open mind.
Committee member Cllr Eddie Hardiman said: “Perhaps we need to look at how we distribute our advertising budget. No ideas are set in stone.”
Fellow committee member Cllr Roisin Hewitt slammed the Council website. She said: “It is tired looking and doesn’t jump out at you.
“It provides a basic function but it isn’t vibrant and doesn’t embrace new social media.”
Chair of Thurrock Labour Group, Carl Morris slammed the whole idea of a fortnightly paper.
He said: “This would be foolish and a waste of taxpayers money. Quarterly publications as well as investigating the use of new social media may be the way forward.
“The success of the Corringham car parking charges was mainly down to a Facebook campaign that had over 2000 members in less than a week.”
Editor of the Yellow Advertiser, Greg Fidgeon sent a written submission. He said: “If Thurrock Council decided to run adverts from third parties there is no doubt in my view that this would impact very seriously on our ability to operate.”
Editor of the Essex Enquirer, Neil Speight (a veteran of the newspaper industry with over 35 years experience) said: “I have seen the death of the newspaper industry told many times before. Even when Teletext came out.”
“The Gazette can only blame itself. It took £1.4 million out of the borough last year but has cut jobs severely.”
The Gazette is owned by the Gannet Company in North America. Over 50 US based newspapers, owned by Gannet, have folded in recent times.
Editor of YourThurrock.Com Michael Casey also addressed the meeting.
He said: “Whatever you produce, show some vision. In the 90’s Edinburgh and Dublin were asked, are you east coast county towns or do you aspire to be european capital cities for the 21st century.
“You are in the same position. Everywhere in the Thames Gateway is using new social media. Don’t end up with another tired parish newsletter.”
Afterwards, Chair of the Labour Group Carl Morris slammed the meeting as a done deal.
He said: “The statement from Garry Hague shows that the power has been delegated to the Interim Chief Executive and the Leader of the Council.
“It also appears that Cllr Hague has been in talks with other new organisations while ostracising others.”