This week’s diary is by a council social services press officer

Just back from maternity leave and everyone tells me I’ve picked a
bad time to return. Our joint review report is out this week and
I’m preparing for the media’s worst. The press release is approved
and ready to go. Local papers are already claiming the report is

Handle a variety of queries about delayed discharges, a young
people’s pantomime, a partner agency in great difficulty and the
success of our customer services officers.

A television company calls first thing asking to film at a council
establishment tomorrow. Eventually they persuade me it won’t be too
intrusive. A local paper reporter phones about the joint review
report. He’s got it mixed up with another one and I set him
straight. I barely have time to breathe before the local radio
phones to request a joint review interviewee for tomorrow’s
breakfast show. The report is embargoed so I promise them someone
for the drive-time slot instead. Take a call from the BBC. They
also want to film at a council establishment and in the cabinet
meeting. I e-mail the cabinet asking if they object to being
filmed, stressing that their discussions won’t be recorded. Hope I
can hold the BBC to this tomorrow. Finding a suitable establishment
for filming is easier said than done. I try a learning difficulties
centre in a rural area. The first TV people don’t want the extra
travelling. I get permission from the mental health manager to try
a day centre but they’ve already closed by the time I call. A local
paper has got hold of an embargoed copy of the joint review report
and shared it with the other paper. We intended to send our press
release out to coincide with the cabinet meeting but this seems
rather pointless now. Instead I send an embargoed copy of the
report to all the local media, local government publications and
Community Care.

I arrange a mental health day centre visit for the BBC crew. Our
cabinet spokesperson does a radio interview and then the cabinet
meeting starts. The report is presented objectively but the
negatives stand out. Every time I wince, I look at the press
benches and see them all scribbling away enthusiastically. The BBC
arrives to film at the day centre rather late and the other TV crew
don’t make it at all. Typical. The chief executive, director and
cabinet members all give a media briefing. People from the TV are
reasonable but the papers are desperate for us to say we’re going
to take services away from people. I arrange for our spokesperson
to do her drive-time interview, take another TV crew to film one of
our offices and go back to my own to collapse. Pick up the local
paper and see we are a “disgrace”!

We’re still on the front pages. It is quiet and I deal with nothing
more complicated than an adoption press release. I’m exhausted but
glad I came back when I did.


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