Thursday, 30 October 2008

Rewriting History

Bristol City Council's Simon Caplan must be feeling more than a little embarrassed about the press release that has now been ridiculed on several Bristol blogs because he's only gone and altered it after the event. For comparison here's the original version and here's the new version. Both versions bear the date of 23rd October, although the second version appeared yesterday, 29th October.

I've not been through it properly yet but one difference is that "This narrow swing bridge ... has a slim pavement on one side only.." has become "This narrow swing bridge ... has a slim pavement on each side only...". That change was expected because the first statement was so demonstrably untrue. Mr Caplan has also added his name as the author and added the following paragraph -
Some inaccurate and misleading reports in local media have wrongly suggested that the changes will ban motorists completely from the bridge. This is not the case - and road access via Prince Street Bridge will continue to be available in both directions..
There is surely an important point of principle here. Press releases are the main instrument by which the Council informs the public of its activities and so must have some status as documents of record. Anyone looking at the press release will naturally think they are seeing what was issued to the media on 23rd October, but they will be seeing a version amended almost a week later. There does not appear to be any note to say that the original has been amended. This is clearly liable to mislead.

The City Council surely have a legal obligation, not to mention a moral one, to be honest in its dealings with the public. Senior officers such as Simon Caplan must surely understand that. So how can he have made those amendments without giving clear advice that the press release had been amended, together with an explanation for his reasons for doing so and a link to the original press release? I'm no expert on these matters but to my simple way of thinking this is plain wrong.


Anonymous said...

A very pertinent post, given that Mr Caplan has brought into play the whole issue of accountability and transparency over on The Bristol Blogger.

t1mmyb said...

Responsible bloggers have, for a long time, indicated where they have made changes to a blog post for precisely this reason.

You only have to read 1984 to realise how easy rewriting history is in the digital age; it's a disincentive to do it unless you use 1984 as some kind of ideal to live up to...

There are even HTML tags for marking up revisions: del (for deletions) and ins (for insertions).

Also: your Furl link is hidden behind a login page, by the way.

Anonymous said...

Presumably the boat in the logo isn't sinking but taking an innovative strategic direction using a new major 'under water' route?

Our city already has a tremendous range of facilities under water and this can only serve to enhance them further ...

Chris Hutt said...

I see you're entering into the spirit of "ambitious together" Blogger. As you know it's one of the four themes for "Our City", the others being "Making a Difference, Safer and Healthier, and Better Neighbourhoods.

Meanwhile the few of us left with functioning brains must crawl away and find somewhere to die while the "our city" anesthetic sweeps all before.

Anonymous said...

"... functioning brains ..."

You've not been taking your regular hours of infotainment, have you? That really would make you feel a lot better.

With this, what leader even needs censorship? Susan Jacoby might claim that "ignorance is a political issue", but millions can't be wrong in a democracy after all.