Local Media in Glastonbury – popular, but not with everybody

I recently published a post on the Normal For Glastonbury Facebook page about two Somerset Live articles on Glastonbury Market. The first (see it here) on June 14th was titled “This is what is wrong with the Tuesday market in Glastonbury”, the next (see it here), only  a month later on July 26th had the headline “We find out who benefits from the Glastonbury market and who doesn’t”  and the subtitle “The market is popular and successful, but not with everybody”. (If I start to get huge numbers of readers for this blog perhaps I should change the title to ‘Normal For Glastonbury – Popular and Successful, but not with everybody’)

My facebook post  (published on 26th July) was titled ‘Somerset Live are really getting on my tits’ and it precipitated a lively discussion about local media and the impact of the market on the town. I think some of my comments hurt the feelings of the journalist who wrote the original piece, for which I am sorry. My issue is not with her personally, but rather with what I see as the sorry state of the media, particularly on a local level. 

Tabloid and local media thrives on contention and argument, in any story journalists are looking for the ‘angle’, the confrontation. It’s always possible to find an angry person to quote, on any subject. Often local media gives a mouthpiece to the loudest and most opinionated (opinions are like arseholes, everyone’s got one). Then they look for an opposing point of view, if that’s extreme too, all the better. I believe this approach to reporting news and local issues is damaging on both a community and national level.

Questions are framed in such a way that the respondent is forced to ‘take a side’. There is a fashion now for polls: who’s right, who’s wrong, who is the victim and who is the perpetrator. Life is more complicated than this. When issues are reduced to this level of simplicity all complexity and nuance are lost. The opportunity for meaningful discussion and collaboration goes, replaced with acrimony and blame. If enough people can be convinced there is an issue, that someone or something is ‘wrong’, then there will be calls for ‘something to be done’. When action is taken on the basis of outrage it is inevitably ill thought out and generally causes more harm than good.

Local news is not impartial, headlines are clickbait, every click makes an article that little bit more attractive to advertisers, regardless of whether the reader gets the story the headline has promised. I’m sure it doesn’t pay to be too critical of a giant supermarket’s plan if they are promising a full page ad every week.

When I first came to Glastonbury the festival was reported in the local media in purely negative terms – deaths and crime and drug busts. There were always vocal locals to be found with their tales of outrage (many of which I’m sure were justified, but they did not represent the whole picture). The experience of the festival-goers was not considered relevant. That is until the festival (despite the best efforts of the local press but partly down to the BBC coverage) became a ‘must see’ event amongst those with more disposable income. Once people realised money could be made locally, advertising revenue gained, the local media started celebrating the colour and vibrancy of the event. I believe that if it had been solely down to local newspapers, enough righteous anger would have been generated that the festival would have lost its license. We would never have seen the amazing event that it has become, never have benefitted from the huge amounts of revenue it generates in the local area.

Journalism, at its best, can be a force for good, but only when it frames issues in a way that seek to unite, rather than divide us, that fully examines the issues, the context, that interviews the quiet and thoughtful, not just the loud and angry.  Look at Positive News for examples of constructive journalism, the kind that helps people see each other as allies, not enemies.

Presumably everyone with a business in Glastonbury wants to see a vibrant town, so how about working together? It’s clear that the market brings people to the town, I see them every Tuesday. There’s bloody loads of them, walking really slowly and stopping suddenly for no obvious reason. Taking ages to find their purses when I’m in the queue behind them just trying to buy a punnet of strawberries. If local businesses don’t feel they are benefitting from the market trade they need to look at that, seek creative solutions with others, not look for people to blame.

Stained Glass pictures of Glastonbury Tor
Local Crafts on Glastonbury Market

Many of the market traders are local craftspeople. If they sell their hand-made goods to a shop they end up with very little return for their work, plus most local shops will only take goods on a sale or return basis. If they sell on the market, directly to the customer, they make a much better return, which makes their business much more viable. They interact directly with the buyer, forging a genuine human connection.  If they do well enough they might even go on to opening up their own shop in town. Then, of course, they see the issues from a shop-owner’s point of view – the rent and rates, the bills, the staff.

Things seem so obvious when we look at someone else’s life, it’s so easy to assume they are having an easier time than us, that they are taking advantage, that we’re struggling while they are taking the piss. Righteous indignation is rife in a small town, it’s just sad that it is so often the fodder that local media feeds upon.

This problem is not limited to print journalism or local media websites, it’s endemic in the media across the board, a consequence of a rigid dualistic worldview. In so many areas Glastonbury people are looking within to overcome the conditioning that leads us to see the world purely in terms of good and evil, ourselves as victims. A mindset in which it is easier to apportion blame rather than take responsibility for our own faults and forgive them,  so we can be more accepting and forgiving of others in turn.

On that note, if I’ve upset anyone writing this blog, ridden roughshod over your feelings, failed to take into account the enormous complexity of your lives, then I’m sorry. I make no pretence at impartiality, the opinions expressed on this site are mine alone, I’m beholden to no advertisers, but through my writing I seek to examine the ways in which we as a community are trying different ways to live together. I too am learning, I do try to poke rather than provoke.

If you’ve enjoyed reading about Glastonbury please share my blog and facebook posts (this is really important – it’s how I reach more readers!), check out how to support this blog, ‘like’ my facebook page and contribute your own stories and comments, or subscribe to the blog by email. You can buy a Normal For Glastonbury Mug featuring my famous and funny town map or see my ’Hire Me’ page if you’d like to pay me to help you with your own projects.

 

12 thoughts on “Local Media in Glastonbury – popular, but not with everybody

  1. You seem to assume that you are popular. In fact that’s quite contrary to what I hear around the place. Since I have lived in the town much longer than you, I think I know more of its residents than you, who seem to think that your fucking dopey blog is the final word on everything, you jumped-up tart.
    I don’t think much of your photography either; way inferior to my photographs.

  2. Well said Vicki , you’re an important and refreshing voice in local media , something which you rightly pointed out has not been without it’s flaws. I’ve lived in and around Glastonbury my whole life, and remember the bad old days of negatively slanted festival and alternative culture reporting, . The biggest thing i can remember was the black and white minstrels carnival float in the early 2000s that had a reporter from the gazzette on it , featuring a huge photo on the front page in celebration of something the rest of our culture has thankfully moved past. More and more it seems that Somerset is being a trial area for new schemes, Glastonbury itself is a hotbed of new ideas ( for better or worse) and i look forward to our local media following this trend , with blogs such as yours in the lead. Keep up the informative, thoughtful, funny , well observed and above all bloody good work.

  3. Aww…Mikey! Do you need a hug? There, there. Now where can we see these fine photographs of yours? You seem like a nice guy so I’d like to buy some from you.

  4. Mike I’m sure you’re really great but popping up unannounced on someone else’s content to tell them how much better you are than them really isn’t a strong look mate. Makes you come across as a bit of a douche. But as I said I’m sure you’re super cool👍

    NFG- This is easily one of the finest things I’ve read this year for a myriad of reasons. Excellent work, hope it goes far and wide. Thank you

  5. Jud Relf You have expressed with such clarity what is wrong with local (and national) press all over the country. I really hope this is read by all kinds of people, including those who might be turned off if you were spelling out the fact that Somerset Live, like most of Britain’s local papers, is owned by the same mean and vicious right-wing propaganda machine that brings us that famous supporter of Hitler in the 1930s, The Daily Mail.

  6. If you are popular, but not with everybody then you are doing it right.

    The issue here is not just media but social media. We have seen a huge amount of polarisation, everyone is moving away from the middle ground, people are getting more extreme in everything. I think the reason for this is the echo chamber effect of social media, I am not going to try and debate the cause of this, whether it is our choice of friends or the facebook algorithm for hiding/promoting some posts. But the fact is we are seeing more of what we like in our social media and so the only things that stand out that are controversial are the more extreme things and because we look at them more they get promoted more, the boring centre ground is not as exciting and we don’t look at it and it becomes another hidden post.

    The Media proper is under huge pressure, it can not come up with the same extreme content that we love so much and is their competition. We have articles written by people who don’t know the ares, regurgitation of other websites:

    Scores on the Doors for the worst food outlets with the worst hygiene that someone somewhere is writing every week for a local paper, who knows perhaps there is one person writing them for every local newspaper and doing 10 a week. A quick scan of Rightmove Commercial or Daltons weekly can get you a fascinating article on local businesses for sale. Trip advisers top 10 restaurants for places to eat. FixMyStreet for local issues needing fixing. The public newsfeeds of the emergency services, the planned roadworks from Highways England. A little GoogleFu and you can be a moderately proficient local reporter without any local knowledge at all.

    The bottom line is that things are changing and none of us has any real control. There are exceptions, genuine local comment in blogs like this, some run by multiple people with multiple strands and vastly superior to to the mass produced articles that the impoverished local media has to use.

    That people disagree is a good thing, we are diverse and you can’t get much more diverse than Glastonbury. Glastonbury is also a safe space, it is somewhere you can walk down the road naked, where you can say you disagree and you can be a pillock and none of us care, we know Mike has issues, we know he is venting and we know he has a point as well, the old school grew up here members of our community are getting to be a minority, the woo woo loving, hippy brigade influx of people seeking spiritual solace can be deadly boring. The number of crystal trinket shops is exceptional, whilst there are some of us who love this town because it does not have a high street like every other there are also those who really would like a Weatherspoons, M&S, Maplin, Next, Currys, Ann Summers and TopShop.

    Diversity is strength, we should celebrate it, love it and embrace it.

    BUT we need to maintain the common ground of the centre as well, we need to see what is going on around us.

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