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countering the spin and providing the balance


 

On The Move

On The MoveSince our first article back in February 2004, counterbalance has published articles that have mostly been about the activities and decisions of the Council that governs Fylde, although we sometimes stray further afield.

As it says on our front page, we don't aim to provide a balanced view, we usually publish our own take on matters, and we like to think we publish informed comment in more depth than is publicly elsewhere.

counterbalance began because of a problem with the introduction of a night club in St Annes town centre. It had incensed many folk in the Central Ward area, (and those along the routes out of town) who we were unhappy that the Borough Council had encouraged this development in order to create what they called a 'night time economy'

Residents we spoke to didn't want anything of the sort, they were happy with an evening economy, but the idea of encouraging alcohol-based commercial activity past midnight and toward 2 and 3 in the morning was widely opposed.

So that was one of two sparks that gave life to counterbalance.

The other was the introduction of a Press Officer and Media Policy at FBC. This removed the requirement for decision-takers to be personally accountable - because statements and comment had to be cleared (and sanitised) through the Press Officer. So instead of having real human beings called elected councillors expressing their views and opinions, we got bland, sanitised, centrally-managed press statements.

Fylde adopted 'corporate speak' that hid reality, and counterbalance was born to counter it.

Sometimes we have been controversial. Sometimes we have broken stories that others have followed.

But over the 10 years we've been reporting we've gained a loyal band of regular readers.

We currently hover around 300 people who subscribe to our notifications service. That doesn't sound many, but our readers are a company of quality. They are people who want to be well informed and often they are people of influence. They include many of the local and some regional media folk who feed from some of the articles we publish.

Mostly we receive well done or thank-you emails. Occasionally we get angry ones from people who feel slighted, and we have weathered a few threats sent via solicitors.

But mostly we have been humbled by the support of our readers. Nowhere was this more evident than when we appealed for financial help toward legal costs for folk in Lytham who had been the subject of a gross injustice by the Council. The money flooded in.

We are also humbled when we go to one of the meetings we attend from time to time and someone tells us we ought to read counterbalance and sing its praises, not knowing who publishes it. We have a vivid memory of overhearing two farmers discussing counterbalance in such terms at a meeting in Wesham.

The decision to publish counterbalance anonymously was taken because, as many regular readers will have guessed, we have worked at the "Fylde factory" and we did not want to be accused of trading on that reputation for credibility. However that imperative is fading with the passing of years.

As well as our registered users, we have another band of readers who don't receive notifications, but who dip in and out of the site as and when the fancy, or as the topic takes them.

12 months ago we were hovering around the 5,000 page-reads a month mark for such readers (That's either 5000 people reading one page each, or one poor person reading 5,000 pages), and it's grown since them, to the extent that  we have become a victim of our success.

The number of emails we send out is now routinely bouncing up against the maximum that our present internet provider allows (we had to apologise to readers recently for email duplication because of a blocking problem with the number of emails sent in one batch). Furthermore, the size of the website is growing, and now takes more than half our available hosting space.

The upshot of this is that, having looked at all the options in some detail, we've come up with a new combination of doing things, and it's time to move.

So over the next month or so we expect to change our internet provider and our webhosting.

Like moving house, such events are traumatic and stress inducing.

Our aim is that our readers won't even feel the changes as they take place, but there is always the possibility that things could go wrong, and if they do, we ask readers to bear with us.

The first change is that we will be moving the hosting of counterbalance to America. We have found no companies in the UK who offer a service that suits our needs, so we're headed to the USA. It will make no difference to readers, the electrons flash backwards and forwards in the twinkling of an eye, and we've found the US companies to be more accommodating.

We may have a day or two when the website is down as it moves across the Atlantic, but we hope that will not be the case.

Once our migration to the US is complete, we will be changing our internet provider. That has more potential to cause disruption because of the issues around switching from one broadband supplier to another which are outside our control.

Again we ask for readers tolerance if there are some 'issues' - as they say.

Finally, once the move is complete, we should be able to offer a greater range of facilities, so after ten years of operation and a move to 'bigger premises' we figure its time to ask our readers what you like and don't like about counterbalance, and what you'd like to see additional to what we're able to do now.

We have one reader and friend who regularly tells us we need to be more like 'The Sun' (at least that's how we describe it), with articles that are shorter and less detailed. We have to say that's not a direction in which we're likely to travel far.

One other road we won't be travelling is allowing comments on the articles in counterbalance (much as we would actually like to do this). We did it once before in a similar website and found the language of some contributors intolerable, but equally, we fundamentally disagree that people's comments should be censored, and we were not willing to do that. So the choice was between an unacceptable rock or an equally unacceptable hard place. We took it as a lesson learned, chose a compromise, and removed the facility altogether.

So whilst we can't promise to do everything that's suggested, we do promise to read  and to look seriously into all the comments and suggestions we receive.

So if you'd like to make a comment please drop an email to
 info@counterbalance.org.uk

Dated:   24 January 2014


info@counterbalance.org.uk

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