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December 11, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 8:42am

Bristol Post editor slams mayor’s ‘petty and childish’ ridicule of local democracy reporter

By Charlotte Tobitt

A Bristol editor has criticised the city’s mayor after a local democracy reporter was “targeted for public ridicule” during a cabinet meeting.

Mike Norton, who edits the Bristol Post and website Bristol Live, told Press Gazette LDR Adam Postans was met with “pretty reprehensible”, “petty” and “childish” remarks from the mayor and councillors.

Former Sunday People TV critic Postans (pictured) attended last Tuesday’s meeting, but was met with “jibes” from elected mayor Marvin Rees who reportedly joked it would be “great to have a journalist” attending.

Once microphones had been switched on for a video stream, Rees said it had been “just a jovial start to today’s serious business”.

At numerous points in the meeting, Rees and Councillor Steve Pearce, the cabinet member for waste, repeatedly over-emphasised the full name of a “reuse and recycling centre”.

It came after Postans was allegedly challenged before the meeting over a story he wrote about the cost of the “new rubbish dump” almost doubling.

Rees said he was “glad” the facility’s full name had been stressed, saying: “I saw some really poor writing that described this as a tip, a city dump.

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“It’s not a dump and I’m sure you’d agree that is an appalling way of describing a critical intervention in the way the city relates to, manages and processes its waste.”

An editorial published on Bristol Live today, which led the website for several hours, pointed out that Bristol City Council’s own website directs residents to find their nearest “tip or recycling centre”.

The mayor also criticised “clickbait” reporting.

He said: “Might I also say to any journalists who might be listening somewhere out there on the internet that it is also important that we don’t allow our political bias to be put on full display and that we offer people the opportunity to engage with issues as they actually are.

“Actually the world is a little bit more complicated than crash bang wallop.

“It’s very important that we move beyond clickbait and get to helping people navigate their way through a complicated world, and I hope we’ve said that as gently as anyone might need it – I know there are some sensitive people out there.”

The Bristol Live editorial said the reference to “bias” was a “sideswipe at Adam’s completely acceptable engagement with some of the administration’s political opponents on Twitter”.

A spokesperson for the mayor told Press Gazette today: “Just like journalists do, it is important that councils and public bodies challenge reporters when we feel the public have been misinformed or confused.

“This year we worked with dozens of journalists and media outlets from around the world and welcome the service and scrutiny their reporting provides.

“But, when a journalist becomes an activist and enters the field of play, they should not complain when they get tackled.”

The Bristol Live editorial said Postans was “clearly worn down” by the end of the meeting, adding: “Why would the people who run our city pick on an individual in this way? The clue is in Adam’s job.”

It told readers Postans is one of 150 BBC-funded local democracy reporters placed in newsrooms around the UK to hold local authorities to account.

“Bristol City Council’s ruling administration seems to have taken great exception to this new scrutiny,” the editorial went on.

“Such exception, in fact, that the council complained about one of Adam’s stories to the Independent Press Standards Organisation. The complaint did not even pass the first hurdle.

“But the background to this unsavoury behaviour is irrelevant. That the people who run our city would behave in this way towards another human being, in plain sight, is reprehensible.

“It is an abuse of the public platform which their roles bestow upon them.”

Norton told Press Gazette that such “petty and childish” behaviour “absolutely should not be in the job description of a city leader”.

“My feeling is that they are trying to control the narrative,” he added. “Ultimately they would prefer for journalists not to be present and don’t like the extra scrutiny the LDR is bringing.”

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