How does a vintage car rally to the South of France qualify for arts and culture cash from our skint council?


Bailie Denis Agnew at the wheel of an old Hillman Imp which will be taking part in the vintage car rally from Clydebank to Monte Carlo.

By Bill Heaney

Everything changes. Journalism in Scotland is no exception. Nobody really knows what the future holds although, in the meantime, new models of journalism are springing up.

They range from co-operatives like the investigative journalism bureau, The Ferret, and the West Highland Free Press, to hyper-locals and community journalism.

The old paradigm of an all-knowing expert pontificating in one direction is gradually giving way to a more consultative model of journalism that listens to audiences and their experiences before telling things as they are.

And now the National Union of Journalists has secured funding to run the New Models of Journalism course in Edinburgh.

This will give people in the industry the ideas, resources and practical examples they need to explore new ways of doing of journalism – from reader-owned and non-hierarchical models to the latest tools and techniques for developing a two-way relationship with their audience.

Since the NUJ includes press and public relations people amongst its members, I expect there will be members of the standing army of local and national government spin doctors present on this course.

Hopefully, they will come away with the realisation that the old ways of doing business in the newspaper trade are almost over, that it’s time for a change.

And that on-line digital newspapers such as The Dumbarton Democrat are the new guys on the block.

West Dunbartonshire Council for one does not seem to realise this.

Newspaper sales are dropping dramatically in the 21st century – and new media such as The Democrat are gaining ground.

Proof of this is that some days (usually Fridays or Saturdays) we are now getting between 1,000 and 1,400 “hits” in a single day.

At least one of our local newspapers sells just 1,500 copies a week. The other maybe three times that, which is pitifully down by almost 70 per cent on 15 years ago.

More and more people are reading the news that really matters on-line, alongside informed comment and opinion, which is sourced locally and based here in West Dunbartonshire.

Too many local newspapers today are owned by multi-national companies and staffed by blow-ins, who drop in occasionally, and who neither live locally nor have local offices here.

Dunbartonshire is of as much importance to many of them as Devonshire.

Local newspapers, printed locally and staffed by local journalists and advertising staff were once described as “the concrete that binds a community together”.

West Dunbartonshire Council though has banned The Democrat from using the services of its media office for bona fide inquiries.

They appear afraid that the whole truth about their limping along, money draining operation will out and so they literally won’t tell us the time of day.

We asked this week what time the Monte Carlo Rally would start out from Clydebank on Wednesday, January 30, next year. No answer was their loud reply.

This rally start seems to be regarded by the Council as some sort of coup for the Arts and Culture Committee.

But in an area where libraries are being closed, professional staff are being cut and children are being priced out of music lessons, it looks like more of a sop to Councillor (Bailie) Denis Agnew, the allegedly Independent Culture Committee convener whose votes with the Tories keeps the SNP in power here.

The Council’s information website states: “The world-famous event will see dozens of classic vehicles flagged off from Aurora Avenue in the town and is expected to bring thousands of visitors to the area.”

Really? One would imagine that this will depend on what time of day this event begins on what could be a cold winter morning, afternoon or evening.

The website adds: “The cars will set off through the streets of Clydebank on Wednesday, 30 January, as they begin their 1,500-mile dash to Monaco, in the South of France.”

One trusts that the beloved old bangers move faster than the councillors and media people who are supposed to answer my questions but refuse to do so.

What are the advantages to the people of West Dunbartonshire of hosting a vintage car rally of petrol-guzzling vehicles from one of the most deprived areas of Scotland to a super rich tax haven in the South of France? And how much will this “hosting” cost local taxpayers?

I think we should be told, but the Council is not prepared to tell us or by extension the people who read The Democrat.


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