Thursday, July 16, 2009

Blears Watch: Harsh Review For Steven Kingston With a Vee

Stephen Newton, with a Ph, is seriously concerned about Steven Kingston, with a Vee, who is the editor of a defunct, nay bankrupt local magazine and ongoing webzine aka blog. That's the Salford Star and Stephen's robust critique is here.

Back in the 1980s, 25 years ago, soon after we started City Life Magazine in Manchester - cf Time Out - Steven edited a free what's on paper, name of Uptown. And when all three founders and other committed crusaders had left our beloved Worker's Co-op (TU) and some clever clogs decided to sell the title Steven bid for it. But he lost out to Guardian Media Group.

This was a great shame really. City Life had been set up specifically to counter the bland news "offer" of the Manchester Evening News - which was actually relatively hard-hitting and occasionally even investigative back then - and their desperately ill-informed and pedestrian arts coverage.

Clearly Steven was more likely to carry on that City Life alternative tradition and intent than ... the incumbent Evening News themselves!

The ring leader of the sell outs was not bound to take the highest bid. There was no bankruptcy or liquidation involved in the decision to sell the title. But other factors kicked in. And quite coincidentally that ring leader was the only one who got a proper job with the new owners!

A dozen other workers and at least as many part time contributors were not written in to the new script. Uptown went down too, soon enough. City Life (lite) - under the old enemy - lasted another 17 years. Hurrah! Indeed the brand is still alive in locally targeted weekly pull outs in the MEN and all the local papers. And in programming on Channel M. Hurrah! again.

Although I continued to buy it and advertise my stuff in City Life, and although I found myself eyeball to eyeball with bean counter Mark Doodson of GMG in defending it to the death, it must be said that City Life had been "dead mag walking" since the takeover/buy out.

Taking part in the wake at BBC Radio Manchester with former columnist John Robb we both found ourselves shrugging. Not caring that much at our so called loss.

And then along came the Salford Star. Chippy on both shoulders. Glossy. Yet very very shabby where it mattered.

A lesson in miserable miserabalism. An epitome of unchecked unfair stories and rampant bad manners. And, what's more, horrendously over-produced.

Relying for sustainability on building an advertising base. Yet refusing to even provide rate cards to enquirers they had some (personal) issue or other with.

For any thinking trot, or indeed even any unthinking trot, the la di da format and the infrequent frequency and the even, to be fair, the unrelenting negativity were just plain wrong, wrong, wrong.

The Hazel Blears cheque waving has set Steve Kingston off on a new run. Salford Star was bankrupt in every sense. SK has been employed to produce a non-political glossy a couple of miles down the road. A chance to consolidate. And relax. But Hazel's waved cheque was like a red rag to a bull. And he was off again.

PREDICTION: If Steven Kingston puts himself up as the independent candidate to unseat Hazel Blears, as seems possible if we believe Stephen Newton, he will either get a trivial number of votes and have no great effect. Or he will get a trivial number of votes and will hand one of the most Labour seats under the sun to the Libs or the Tories or even the BNP. No good can come of this.


Stephen Newton said...

I should have known you'd know Stephen Kingston of old... you don't seem to think he's SWP. But they are an entryist organisation and the Salford Star is an obvious target.

Suggesting Kingston as the candidate is a little mischief making, but I think you should give him more credit. His Salford Star has provided a focal point for some community campaigns.

Salford Labour can't say his name without spitting, but they should have found him a job.

Interestingly, the Salford Star could not be more vague on what happened at last night's meeting. The Hazel Must Go blog is silent.

Would it be outrageous to speculate that the entryists wanted the campaign to back Alec McFadden and fell out with Kingston?

(And now pedantry and apology. The SS website has Mr Kingston with a ph and sorry your comment on my blog, to which I responded before catching up with you here, got filtered.)

Chris Paul said...

SK - ph or vee of no matter - certainly was card carrying SWP back in the day. Don't know about now.

I give SS and SK a lot of credit on one level, and none at all on other levels.

They ran an unchecked and inaccurate and damaging story about IDEA which was trying to bring all the things they wanted to Salford. But they're nihilist.

And lots of the other stuff does not come close to proper journalism. Pranks.

And a very expensive glossy format with extremely low frequency is probably not the right solution.

They could have burned the same amount of money with many many many more issues with a more rustic format. Hubris and bad judgement.

This morning's Hazel story is very flat I thought. Nothing in MEN.

Chris Paul said...

PS They have sort of found SK a job. I'd guess that he is in danger of breaching the conditions attached to that. But I doubt he'd be able to work direct for SCC. On various levels.

susan press said...

Chris, Hazel Blears should have been sacked. I worked with Stephen on the MEN for many years and he's an excellent journalist. Many in Salford CLP are deeply unhappy, not with Kingston, but with their MP freeloader.

Chris Paul said...

Perhaps Hazel Blears should have been de-selected, perhaps not.

That is of course a matter for her CLP and/or for the NEC. The former voted 3-1 to keep her. That is party democracy for you.

Her main sins IMO are (a) cheque waving, which affects the broad population, the voters and for which she has apologised, and (b) a Labour Party internal matter of stomping out on the eve of an election which would have less affect on the general public.

She has picked up a far more negative response than MPs of the LP and other parties who have done the same or equal "within the rules" gaming of the allowances system. Why is that do you think?

There is no doubt that MPs faced a generous allowances scheme as part of their package. Historic reasons.

Most of them helped themselves towards the top end of what they could seeing it as part of their salaries. It has been overblown IMO. There is silliness from many. And some very serious abuse from a few. But most, including Hazel you might argue, simply responded to the system offered to them.

I agree that on his day SK is a good journalist. As I said in the post I'd have rathered that he won the City Life auction orchestrated by Mr Hill.

Don't know about excellent though. I think he has agendas that overcome fair reporting. The IDEA story was plain wrong. It was motivated IMO. It also came from a breach of trust. And rather than offering anything to put it right he dug deep in attempts to make the damage worse.

So I think he needs a strong editor.

If "many in Salford CLP are deeply unhappy" as you say then how did Hazel (a) win the selection? they already knew her politics and style and (b) survive the no confidence vote so comfortably?

Is it just sectarian? And sexist?

Linders said...

Some interesting comments Chris. Stephen Kingston's main beef with Salford City Council appears to be that they won't grant him Community funding for Salford Star. I wish the publication well but as a glossy and highly-political production I fail to see how it would be suitable for Council funding.

I (obviously) hold no candle for Hazel Blears, she has long since lost touch with local people and Salford & Eccles would be much better served by a hard-working Conservative MP, but looking at the pictures from the Hazel Must Go meeting it does rather seem to be full of people who weren't going to vote for her anyway. I noted Steven North from the Salford branch of the Socialist Party as well as two already-declared Independent candidates in Alec McFadden and Richard Carvath. Stephen Kingston himself seems like an unlikely Blears voter even before the expenses scandal hit.

Chris Paul said...

In the BBC TV interview Stephen N links to Stephen K - identified as the editor of the bankrupt Salford Star - goes on at length suggesting "our" (SWP?) anti-Blears protests have been going on for three years.

But Linders, were you actually there at the meeting. Or can you see those three characters in the limited gallery of pictures of the "50" who turned up at Pendleton?

Linders said...

Wasn't at the meeting. Spent the evening at the Irlam and Cadishead Community Committee.