From ‘Moaning Marcus’ to ‘Lying Laura’
Look, I’m not daft. I knew when I agreed to take part in this programme that it was a bit of a send-up and I’m fine with that, just as a long as some of the very real achievements that have come as a result of my complaining are in there.
I actually quite like the feature – the main picture is brilliant and the speech bubble made me laugh. Most of the write-up is a true account of what’s gone on.
Less understandable is why the reporter, Laura Armstrong, has chosen to lie about certain aspects of it.
The statement underneath the main headline reads: “Marcus moans to council every day for a year.” This lie is then repeated in the opening paragraph.
My telephone interview with Laura, conducted around the middle of last week, lasted about an hour. During that time, we covered a lot of ground: My complaints as a child about children’s TV programmes and the privatisation of children’s music services; My experiences of life as a student in Liverpool, especially the dreadful quality of street lighting in most residential areas; My work as co-ordinator of my local Neighbourhood Watch; The things I’ve done in my career as a journalist; My complaints to all layers of government, and so on.
As an aside, I discovered that Laura, an NCTJ-trained journalist, as am I. We were taught by the same legendary Public Affairs tutor, David Kett, though she obviously didn’t pay much attention in class, because I had to spend a fair amount of time explaining to her where power lies in post-devolution Wales.
Here’s where it gets extraordinary: Following our phone conversation, I had an exchange of emails with Laura where she asked me to clarify how many complaints I’d made to the council. You can read it for yourself by clicking on the three scans below:
There you have it! Lying Laura completely made up the ‘every day for a year stat’. It’s blatantly obvious it’s not true anyway. That screenshot of a map is taken from the FixMyStreet.com website, which is my main means of complaining to the council. That screenshot dates back to June 2009, FOUR MONTHS BEFORE I EVEN MOVED TO THE AREA.
As you’ll see from the email exchange, I counted 72 acknowledgement emails from FixMyStreet.com. If I’ve counted the dots on the map correctly (you have to zoom in to take a proper look), 42 are from the area in the newspaper’s screenshot. The others will mostly come from the area in and around where my elderly grandmother lives on the other side of Cardiff, while the remainder will come from other parts of Cardiff Bay. When asked how many emails I sent between myself and the council, I said more than 100 over a two year period, and that includes letters and phone calls. As you can see, this is well short of the claim that I ‘moaned to the council every day for a year’.
Other less serious untruths in there include:
- I have never reported a ‘stolen bollard’ in my life.
- I do not report something ‘almost every time I leave home’.
- The ‘dead fox’ refers to something that happened at least four years ago, when I lived at my old house. It wasn’t in a garden, it was next to a main road which hundreds of children going to the biggest secondary school in Wales walked past every day.
It’s a shame that Laura has chosen to ruin what should’ve been a fun and interesting feature with these lies.
The irony is that I’ve come full circle with my complaining. The article mentions one of my very first complaints about the privatisation of music lessons in Wales. One of my first letters was to David Hunt, the then-Welsh Secretary. He is now Lord Hunt, and is now chairman of the Press Complaints Commission. He’ll be hearing from me soon.