“Dog shit, not Bosnia!” was how one of my old bosses described the editorial policy for local news outlets. A little flippant, maybe, but he had a point. When it comes to caring about what happens in the news, the audience for local media are more interested in what’s happening on their street – or, in this case, what’s on the pavement.
So it’s great to see that Nottingham has been given the honour of cleanest city in the UK. And you can’t blame the authority for trying after a notorious faux pas three years ago.
It all started with an embargoed press release in 2011, declaring that Nottingham had been named as the cleanest UK city by the Chartered Institute of Waste Management. A great story, but one that needed to be tested against public opinion – not in the gleaming city centre but in some of the suburbs, where “clean” was often defined by the amount of drug paraphernalia in the local park.
Don’t get me wrong, huge efforts had already been made at that point to warrant an award. A portable suction machine for dog mess called the Poover was among the armoury. And, as with any good vox pop, the people’s views were mixed. But there was a small problem. And it was called Truro.
You see, Nottingham hadn’t won the main award at all. It had been beaten by Truro. Maybe not that surprising as there’s something of a size difference here. But nevertheless, Nottingham hadn’t won.
Yet that didn’t stop the City Council proudly declaring that Nottingham was the cleanest “large city” in the UK. I checked with the CIWM. There was no such category (at the time, although there is now) – Nottingham were definitely runners up.
For the past three years, subsequent council press releases, and many interviews featuring councillors, have trotted out this “cleanest big city” line. A completely made up title. Even by 2012, when the categories were changed, it wasn’t true. Northumberland held the “large local authority” award.
But now at last, the 2014 awards have been held. And, without the need for spin, Nottingham can proudly fly the Cleanest City flag.
In a roundabout way, it still shows that poo beats war in local news priorities.