I have found myself on a bit of a holiday break but am now back to my routine. I kept collecting bits of information and found new sources.
One very useful source was a blog on how to study and write as a researcher — tips etc.
I found the details of what is needed for submission of a journal article — Journalism Studies (below:)
Preparing Your Paper
- Should be written with the following elements in the following order: title page (including Acknowledgements as well as Funding and grant-awarding bodies); abstract; keywords; main text; references; appendices (as appropriate); table(s) with caption(s) (on individual pages); figure caption(s) (as a list)
- Should be between 6000 and 9000 words, inclusive of the abstract, tables, references, figure captions, endnotes.
- Should contain an unstructured abstract of 200 words.
- Should contain between 6 and 6 keywords. Read making your article more discoverable, including information on choosing a title and search engine op2
There are no submission fees, publication fees or page charges for this journal.
And now it’s time to get back to some thinking and writing.
I’ve written about this before but briefly, the Bristol mayor Marvin Rees paid for a type of brand awareness, reputation management analysis from March 2018. [link]
I broke the story and then it was covered by the Bristol Post and BBC Bristol.
The cost to the tax payer has been, and continues to be, £3000.
Policy or politic-wise, the impacts from this revelation have been the following:
- At the first full council after this story ran, the Labour administration had one of their cllrs — Marg Hickman — mention it as a joke: ‘people complain we don’t listen and then they complain that we listen too much’ — i.e. the administration claimed that this ‘reputational awareness’ data gathering showed some kind of interest in what people were saying so it could HELP them. Any results from this work would HELP the people.
- This is an interesting take and could be a useful narrative to use for checking.
- The second impact from breaking this story and pursuing an FOI (alongside others who also FOId it) has been the release of the reports for years 2018 and 2019. The council’s FOI team said they would not release the documents because they were already scheduled for release in December 2020. The reports from 2020, however, have not been published.
- An interesting point was made on Twitter about how ethical it might be to collect such information about one’s voters — constituents? Apart from GDPR implications, what are the ethical considerations?
- Because the reports have been released, we can see what has been discussed and how. Starting from the very first report, there is some clue as to the lack of understanding the company had about what they were reporting.
- First, note that £3000 a month could have paid for an employee to do this work. Probably much less than that.
- Second, the information provided does not seem to match up to reality.
Example 1 — first report (March to April 2018):
The report’s ‘analysis’ is divided into positive and negative trends, and each section is provided in sentence-length bullet points. There may be further reporting than just the documents because the contract specified an in-person representation once a month.
In the first report, under ‘positive’ trends, there is the following bullet point: “• Pick up from local political blogs and radio shows that the Mayor is “bringing US style business politics to Britain”
Now, I can see that the mayor might find this type of comment believable; he might believe that US politics is a ‘positive’ thing because he was involved in it as an assistant to Bill Clinton’s spiritual adviser Tony Campolo. In fact, he has brought his seemingly one role — to coordinate with faith (Christian) groups for welfare purposes to Bristol.
However, I found it a curious prospect that the people making such statements would have meant them this way so I searched for the blogs (plural) as cited in the bullet point.
I found one place where this was mentioned; it was on Bristol journalist Tony Gosling’s BCFM show
I listened to the show and there was an interview on it with outgoing Lib Dem cllr Clare Campion-Smith. The transcript of the relevant section is below. In contrast to any notion of ‘US politics’ in Bristol being a positive thing, the issues brought up were distinctly negative:
- Salaries paid for council officials were too high (Tony Gosling linked this with ‘US style politics’);
- This issue was raised in the ‘negative trends’ part of the report too: “The “four £165k salary jobs at BCC” line was widely used.” New executive directors had been brought in at high salaries. The Chief Executive role had been eliminated;
- Marvin Rees was very new to politics and had surrounded himself with other new faces and there was a real loss of political experience; “he doesn’t have a balance of experience and new people”; he’s never been a cllr or an MP.
- The mayor was also compared to Trump in terms of coming from outside politics, and called naive:
- “TG: I wonder whether there’s a bit of a Trump syndrome here? someone coming from outside politics; i mean obviously Marvin’s been involved in the public sector most of his working life but where someone is might be a little bit naïve in certain ways?“
- There is a reference to bypassing democracy in a sense, although that is implied:
- Clare: I think there’s something very strange about democracy, and that is that you do have to take a lot of notice of the people and you’ve got to persuade them, you’ve got to listen to them, persuade them and that takes a bit more time.
- Quite a damning comment is made about the mayors being seduced by the role and not being interested in democracy because that takes time. They would rather get things done:
- Clare: yes, yes, I think Marvin would like to be more collaborative. I think Marvin has formulated quite a lot of his politics in the USA. He doesn’t come with the same level of experience that George did because George had been president of RIBA and he’d been, he had his own,  so he came with a different background but I think anybody coming from outside the council, always finds democracy a challenge because it sort of slows them down, and I think, it’s very difficult to concentrate on the hard graft of being a leader especially in a time when you don’t have a lot of money so I think both are rather seduced by being mayors on a global stage and in reality what we want at the moment is a lot of concentration on Bristol and a lot of hard graft.
- The point about concentrating on Bristol is also an interesting one, especially as the second mayor spent time in July involved in New York City’s Sustainable Development Goal agenda: “13:45 Record message for NYC Commissioner for #SDGLocal campaign” (link). Quite a few FOIs on the mayor are about all his trips and how they are funded.
As can be seen from reading the above points, the discussion about bringing US politics to Bristol was distinctly not positive.
Ironically or aptly enough, bringing US style politics to Bristol was another story that came up a year later when it was revealed that the mayor met with ‘close friend’ Kris Vallotton (an evangelist US preacher and associate founder of the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry that is known for its beliefs on healing the sick, raising the dead, anti-same sex relationships, anti-abortion, pro-Trump etc.) for US-Bristol ‘trade’ issues. That US-Bristol trade has yet to be unveiled.
This is a tiny exploration into what the reports say, how accurate they are, and what their purpose might be.
One final comment — and I note that my lack of discourse analysis skills makes me think I need to read up on how to do that — the reports brand certain residents as ‘negative’ because they are campaigning to save public services.
‘library activists, complaints about cuts to services, Metrobus issues, increasing homelessness in the city, “• Local action group RADE Bristol is regularly posting detailed scientific air quality warnings which are getting some traction”.
The labelling of these activities as ‘negative’ seems to bely the point made by the council that the reports are being produced so that the council can know about people’s issues.
If the council wanted to deal with these issues (while noting that £40k a year is spent on the Quality of Life survey) would they not be labelled as ‘opportunities’ or something like ‘challenges’?
[further research needed: methods of analysing text (I have studied qualitative analysis; reputation awareness tools]
13:11 Clare Campion-Smith
Clare: the mayor has made a few mistakes with his cabinet, the sense in which, and I am being very open now, in a sense in which he has got too many new people in and he doesn’t have that … he doesn’t have a balance of experience and new people — that’s just a personal view because at the same time Mark Bradshaw went when I went and I think that was sad.
TG: Oh but ‘course, Mark, he didn’t really see through the delivery of metro bus as well, didn’t he? and also we hear about all the changes to much the senior staff at the council as well as people in the cabinet because the council has been defending its decision today, Marvin has, to pay new chief executive directors, there’s four of them, £165k ; now it does seem a little bit steep; we’re being told that there isn’t enough money to go around; that we’ve also got these new faces and I wonder, with all these new people involved, both at cabinet level and the council staff, do you think there’s any problem with that, isn’t that just what Marvin has to do, really? any new mayor is going to come in and think maybe at least possibly think ‘Oh I just need a new broom around here’.
Clare: that is a temptation and i have a serious concern leaving the council that in fact it is in a considerable state of flux. We have had a lot of senior officers leaving and they’ve taken with them a lot of good knowledge and, as i said beforehand, I think that balance of experience and new thinking is helpful but I think we have got too many people who are new to the council. I think the other thing is that… I am quite worried the city , about the fact we don’t have a chief exec , because Marvin himself is new to politics; he’s never been a councillor, never been an MP, so in one sense he’s new to politics, and that’s no bad thing, but, it does mean that you really need a strong, experienced chief exec because that’s the balance between the politics and the executive; Marvin is the chief politician, and I think we probably do need a proper chief exec who can hold the reins as far as the officers are concerned.
TG: Marvin will say, I imagine, is that he… it would be nice to get him on this program but he won’t reply to my requests at the moment, but what he’ll say is that these four chief officers I’m paying £165k each, they are actually in a way better than a chief exec because they have more brain power between the four of them.
Clare: I think that we will have to see how it all pans out but there’s nobody in a sense who can say then I hold the ultimate decisions from the officer perspective and officers; and I mean who’s going to arbitrate if there is a disagreement between those four chief officers?
TG: I imagine Marvin will; that’s his job isn’t it?
Clare: yes, but it’s sort of very useful if you’ve got an officer there as well.
TG: I wonder whether there’s a bit of a Trump syndrome here? someone coming from outside politics; i mean obviously Marvin’s been involved in the public sector most of his working life but where someone is might be a little bit naïve in certain ways?
Clare: I couldn’t really comment on that except that I don’t think he does have the political experience that you gain from being a councillor before moving on to being leader of council or one of those particular roles. and I think that is useful. I think there’s something very strange about democracy, and that is that you do have to take a lot of notice of the people and you’ve got to persuade them, you’ve got to listen to them, persuade them and that takes a bit more time. so, people come in wanting to be new brooms and over my various years, many years with different experiences, I think that the most helpful thing with change is somebody who comes in and observes; and when they’ve observed, and when they’ve understood the system, it’s at that point that they’re ready to make changes
TG: We’ve also seen things bubbling along at the moment , Clare, I wonder what would be your parting thoughts about the way the arena project.. I mean I can remember back to the noughties there were people like John Savage from Business West and he was also a member of the Labour party, constantly banging his fist on the table saying when are we going to get this bleep bleep arena built?
Clare: right, and yes, we’re still saying that when are we going to get this arena built. There was a motion at full council. I voted for it at temple meads because I think it’s a better location . I don’t think it’s an arena at any price so if we can’t get the funding package right then it may be that we have to delay it for a few more years.
TG: What about style of leadership because you’ve seen both in action haven’t you?
Clare: yes, yes, I think Marvin would like to be more collaborative. I think Marvin has formulated quite a lot of his politics in the USA. He doesn’t come with the same level of experience that George did because George had been president of RIBA and he’d been, he had his own,  so he came with a different background but I think anybody coming from outside the council, always finds democracy a challenge because it sort of slows them down, and I think, it’s very difficult to concentrate on the hard graft of being a leader especially in a time when you don’t have a lot of money so i think both are rather seduced by being mayors on a global stage and in reality what we want at the moment is a lot of concentration on Bristol and a lot of hard graft