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Portal Die or Do PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Eager   
Monday, 01 October 2012 10:39

The Ledbury Community Portal was offline for most of the second half of September because of server errors.

These errors followed a hostile attack on the Portal that ocurred in August.

Technically the Portal has had a difficult year. The Portal has been limping along since last December when changes to scripts affected the Portal and we realised it could not be fully repaired.



The Portal will need to be recreated, if it is to have a future. Its readers and contributors are there in sufficient numbers for the Portal to remain relevant and viable. However, is there a real and clear desire for the Ledbury Portal to exist?

Marcus and I started the Ledbury Portal back in 2007 to promote local citizen journalism. Not only has the Portal been successful in activating local writers and commentators, but it also had the unpredicted consequence of changing (improving) the Ledbury Reporter, particularly its online version.

Before the first Portal was published the Ledbury Reporter had a website that only published its news content once a week and that was just a copy of the previous week's old news. And there was no facility to allow comments by readers. One week after the Portal was launched, the Ledbury Reporter was updating its website daily and comments were not only allowed, but were actively signposted in its printed hard copy version.

By its mere presence the Ledbury Portal has impacted on journalism in Ledbury and improved it.

The Portal disappears for a month and what happens? Gary Bills-Geddes writes in the Ledbury Reporter describing John McQuaid's and Derek Durham's latest military flop festival, the Battle of Britain Memorial Day, as 'a soaring success'. Is this the sort of dumb-downed, sycophantic, plastic journalism you want really in Ledbury?

Maybe it is; it is exactly what some people want.

Since the Portal first landed there has been an absolute revolution online. There are many more people online and many more have the confidence to publish on the Internet. Facebook, Twitter and mobile phone technology have been the keys to this revolution giving the public both the gadgets and the platform to text, twitter and 'facebook' about homely banalities and local issues alike. I would hazard a guess that most people who facebook, don't even consider that they are in fact self-publishing.

It's easy to forget the world had a digitally different landscape five years ago.

Back then I was accused of being a communist for starting up the Ledbury Portal; for promoting citizen journalism and providing an online platform for people's thoughts and ideas. Such activity is now considered the norm.

So, back to the question: Is the Ledbury Portal still a necessary local platform?

If your answer is yes and you are willing to help recreate, administrate and/or actively manage the Portal or a newer version of it, please This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

If your answer is no then I suspect the Ledbury Portal will just ride along as a culture-themed, non-interactive adjunct to the very successful Visit Ledbury website.

Last Updated on Friday, 05 October 2012 20:22
Comments (18)
18 Saturday, 13 October 2012 18:16
Rich Hadley
Dave, I hear what you say and genuinely appreciate your sentiments concerning the need for listening, diplomacy and patience. Thanks for all of that. I take my fair share of blame for the things I've done wrong, the people I've upset (not deliberately), and the harsh words I've uttered, mostly unwittingly. Though, all of those things are matter of perspective, and I suspect my version of events might be very different to those of my adversaries. It's been a tough old eighteen months, and things get said and done in the heat of conflict that shouldn't have been. But one thing is sure, we have to let go of the bitterness and enmity, if only for our own health and well-being.

I would genuinely like to sit down sometime and talk through what happened, what went wrong, what we all learned, how we might do things in future. Talk is infinitely better than scribble for arriving at peaceful solutions.
17 Saturday, 13 October 2012 17:50
Dave Goodman
Rich, Feels a little like we are going round in circles again. Lets be clear, I have nothing against you personally, I did find you somewhat dismissive on the logos group. That said I know that in written text we can all be perceived in ways that perhaps we didn't intend. We clearly both have opinions and are prepared to be both vocal and robust in the defence of those, possibly frustrated with the others assumed stubbornness to listen to the actual questions/points being made, potentially we both have what might be described as an aggressive style of debate.

I have said both publicly and privately, that some of the comments that on times made to you, on VoL, were unreasonable, out-of-order, personal in nature and did/do nothing to further debate. So with that I am disappointed you feel I personally "attacked" you, because its not something I have ever wished to do, even if I disagreed with your entire stance, personal attacks simply devalue the debate. My only comment to you is that sometimes the way you write can be seen as arrogant and antagonistic, that is my view and you are of course free to disregard it, but I suggest you read your last paragraph of your last post and ask yourself "how would I take that in a posting to me?" However by way of an olive branch I will let that one go, though I feel it mightily unfair, without further retort.

In terms of the supermarket debate, it is for now at least redundant, though I don't feel I ever received coherent answers to my questions, and finally on balance I would probably favour a Sainsbury's provided certain assurances were undertaken to support other areas of the town. I do understand the points against, but I think the geography of Ledbury doesn't altogether fit a like-to-like comparison. Regarding the campaign itself, and the dismissal of opinion, I think you need to ask those who opposed you, but also ask yourself, why you might have attracted so much personal "hostility".

I maybe wrong about the basis of the divide, in fact I hope I am, but the nature of the comments made, lead me to hold that same opinion, of course however no-one would ever admit that was the point, so I guess it also ultimately is redundant, however I am still entitled to that opinion.

Finally, I have always wanted an open debate, but if you are prepared to be "robust" in defence of views, you have to allow for the same robustness of defence from those that oppose you. That said for the most part if you read my posts on VoL they are intentionally non-personal and at least in my own view endeavour to be tolerant of views I disagree with. Who annoyed who first I guess is a matter of perspective, that we arent ever going to agree on, so I suggest we just draw a line under it?
16 Saturday, 13 October 2012 14:53
Rich Hadley
Dave, I don't have the transcripts of the exchange we had, and Logos as was, in now no more. My recollection is feeling incredibly frustrated at what I perceived to be an aggressive and personal attack from you, yet another in a long summer of hatred and abuse. I think we kind of ended on an 'agree to differ' position. There's absolutely nothing to be gained from 'you said this, I said that debate'... however, I'm prepared to concede that I probably adopted an unfriendly tone which as I said felt justified in response to yours, especially against the hostile backdrop of the LATS/LESS campaign at that time.

So far as the questions matters of town centre impact, jobs lost or gained, and changed shopping habits, to be honest we have spent months and months, thousands of words, and hours on the street making those arguments. Those arguments were accepted by a majority of people who expressed a position on the matter (in terms of number of written objections submitted to HCC) and were accepted by the Planning Committee. There were no less than five independent retail impact studies that showed that an OOTS would have a highly detrimental effect on Ledbury town centre and a mountain of comparative evidence from other places in the UK. Put simply there is simply not enough trade in this area to support a development at the scale proposed by Sainsbury's. And out of town retail developments drain footfall (trade diversion) from town centres. I made that point to you on Logos, I make it unashamedly to you again. Our position was evidence based. Some agreed, others didn’t.

However, that's not really the point here. What we're talking about is whether it was six of one, half a dozen of the other that prevailed when it came to muck slinging and abuse. It was not. And if you'd like to meet sometime and review the computer evidence, I'd be more than happy to show you, painful though it is to revisit. I do not propose to go over all that ground on this public forum.

So far as the 'two communities' argument goes - no. I completely disagree. You are invoking a dangerous class war element into this debate. There were many less well off people (many born and bred Ledbury) who feared an out of town retail development. And there were many affluent, middle class types, who wanted a Sainsbury's. They had their reasons. It wasn't a rich v poor, incomer v native debate, however much certain political elements wished to present it as such for their own purposes.

Meantime to insinuate that our anti OOTS campaign regarded local people as 'village idiots' is both insulting and outrageous. To be honest, it is you that is doing most of the stereotyping.

If I ended my discussion with you on Logos with a parting shot of "I cant be bothered to waste my time discussing this with you!', then, with apologies, I am inclined to say the same thing again. You profess to want social cohesion and peaceful debate, yet you seem unable to resist poisoning your remarks with malicious and spiteful diversions. Good luck to you Dave, but unless some kind of olive branch is possible between us, some glimmer that you genuinely want to engage in reasoned debate, there's really little to be gained by taking this any further.
A little Inventive
15 Saturday, 13 October 2012 12:37
Dave Goodman
Rich in a previous post you previously mentioned evidence... "accusing me of being a NIMBY and an out of touch snob, who didn't have a grip on the realities of ordinary people's lives" because that is a flat out lie! I have never called you or anyone a snob! regards NIMBY the only time I have used the word was in generic post on VoL a few weeks ago! In terms of bullying, your attack on the lady on VoL was simply just that.

I also don't think you will find that I attack anyone personally, as it simply detracts from the debate. The point was I was undecided on the whole supermarket issue, I read the links, however I simply questioned your core arguments
1) Was the internet not already a bigger threat than a supermarket not least as the town already has two.
2) If our town was this vibrant hub of unique shops, why would a supermarket compete with those "unique" offerings.
3) Other than butchers perhaps, the primary competitive stores were already chains - i.e. Boots and Greggs.
4) Why would people switch from shopping in a town they believe in and actively support to suddenly deciding to go to the supermarket more than they do already.

The fact remains that you never actually answered those, nor the questions on increased jobs, nor the ones on my suggestion that perhaps local store keepers, in some cases, needed to rethink their approaches to customer services. Each time I asked, you increasingly implied I must be stupid, because I simply didn't agree with you or fully with the links you chose to post.

I think your parting shot was something along the lines of "I cant be bothered to waste my time discussing this with you! You will see...". Lets also be clear, I was not a part of either campaign, and though you appear to be mixing up some chronology and my involvement, we are talking about a time BEFORE LOST/LESS. My point to you, as bourne out in your posting above, is the same as with Andrew H, this the LOTS campaign was whiter than white, and it was all them and not us (or in the case of your post it was all me and not you) doesn't ultimately help either the debate or to close the divide. I think you will also find on VoL I have tried to remain non-personal and largely tried to see both sides of the argument.

Finally again, I will make the point, which seems to be lost, this debate isn't really about a supermarket, its about two different communities and how they interact and share a direction for the town. The issue is that both camps seems to have created this sterotyped opinion of the other. How to break that is the question, treating all "native" people as "village idiots" wont help anymore than assuming that all "incomers" are rich, arrogant, detached snobs.
Re Shame Really
14 Saturday, 13 October 2012 11:28
Rich Hadley
Dave, thanks for the reply. I do well remember the exchange we had on Logos, but I'm surprised you felt I was 'belittling' you during that discussion. Actually, I can remember being shocked at the aggressive and hectoring tone of your initial comments towards me, accusing me of being a NIMBY and an out of touch snob, who didn't have a grip on the realities of ordinary people's lives - par for the course during that period (Oct-Nov 2011). I responded fairly robustly and suggested that you needed to get up to speed with the evidence of the impact of OOTS on town centres before making unsubstantiated and ill-informed comments of a personal nature. If that was belittling, perhaps, but it came in response to your attack, and felt perfectly justified. When you attack people personally, what do you really expect? The exchange seemed oddly inappropriate in the context of the Logos forum which was all about respect and striving towards a more peaceful future.

What I want to say is that amid all this conflict and poison, I certainly never set out to bully or belittle anyone. We confined ourselves mostly to the issues of the campaign over many long months. I - with colleagues - was continuously harassed, vilified and demonised by some pro-superstore elements to such an extent that the police were called in. Things were extremely ugly. That's the context.

Added to which we had a ruthless, corporate giant on our backs, running a sly PR operation with huge financial resources at their disposal. This wasn't an equal fight. It really was David and Goliath.

I completely and unreservedly regret the social conflict which arose. But I'm afraid I would not flinch from again in standing up for my principles, for what I believe is right: Local independent shops that make up our High Streets are worth fighting for. They represent a hub of the community, provide friendly, responsive service and serve to maintain the historic fabric of the buildings in old towns like Ledbury and Leominster. Boarded up shops lead to festering crime, decay and social alienation.

People who want to do all their shopping in supermarkets are freely able to use them - god knows we have enough (not including the internet). But those that want the choice of supermarket and local independent traders operating side by side would lose their choice if a vast, oversize out of town retail development were to be approved.

I appreciate that others have differing perspectives and priorities - and that's fine. All I would ask is that the debate takes place on the basis of facts - not bigoted attitudes and personal animosity.

So, if we can have a measured discussion, without malice and anger then I would genuinely be prepared to do so.
best wishes
Comments Status Change
13 Friday, 12 October 2012 14:29
John Eager
Dave, your first two recent comments were unseen by admin - that is why they were not published sooner. This is a glitch is the Joomla software - if you make a comment reply to an existing comment, admin is not notified. I am only alerted to comments made to the main article.
In order to stop this happening, I am allowing comments to be published immediately. This is a return to the scenario before abusive comments were made by two individuals.
I hope that Ledbury Portal users will respect a return to this freedom, and that abusive comments will not be made again.
Such comments will not be tolerated on this website, and users will lose their registration and all Portal rights, if abuse does take place.
Shame really
12 Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:15
Dave Goodman
ok I will try a new post rather than using the reply link,

Rich Hadley - You seems to have forgotten our "discussions" of the logos group prior to the whole LOTS/LESS campaigns getting under way? I will also refer you to your attempts to provoke/portray, through some linguistic manoeuvres, someone into saying some thing the really had not said or meant on VoL, simply so you could substantiate your own article on here about how VoL was effectively backing the BNP! which given that most members are just ordinary normal people was simply ridiculous.

But whst is a real shame is that you (intentionally perhaps?) ignored the context of my whole posting, which was again about closing the divide and focusing on gaining the views and opinions of Ledbury people. Whilst you not always agree with them, you cannot simply dismiss them because they don't agree with your own.

Going back to the original question, one issue with the portal as it stands is that cannot be logged into, and hence contributed to, via a smart phone (or at least I have been unable to).
Are posting being received
11 Thursday, 11 October 2012 20:04
Dave Goodman
I have used the "reply" link now 3 times and nothing is being displayed - is that part not working?
10 Saturday, 06 October 2012 16:39
Rich Hadley
Dave Goodman says: "Neither does belittling other people because you believe you are better educated than them, please don't try and tell that didn't happen either because I know full well that it did." Please could you let us have the evidence for that statement?
And so it goes on...
9 Saturday, 06 October 2012 09:59
Dave Goodman
Andrew H, again this to me is the problem, given a Facebook group already exists for LESS and/or that some of the people on VoL stood on a UKIP platform (it being a legitimate political party) is something of little importance other than to those that wish to denigrate it. It should be about the community it serves surely?

Please don't kid yourself that only those in the LESS campaign, were in some way underhand, devious or out with a vested interest because you know full well that members of LOTS said and did things to fuel the situation further. So lets be real here. This, it was all "them" not "us" attitude, doesn't in the end help anyone debate anything. Neither does belittling other people because you believe you are better educated than them, please don't try and tell that didn't happen either because I know full well that it did. As someone who for much of the time was undecided on the issue, the constant mud slinging and underhand games (then and since) did and does nothing to encourage interactive debate, in fact it just alienates most people, leaving only those that wish to engage in egotistical personal battles.

Back to the question, if you read my post, my point is that the debate forum should be the one that reaches and INCLUDES the largest cross section of Ledbury people. I have said the same thing on VoL, the constant sterotyping of "native" ledbury and of "outsiders" is just going to widen the divide, not bring the community together. That is what the whole supermarket debate was really about, it was not really about a supermarket per se. Oddly enough why can't we hear the same level noise about the massively reduced, critical public services in this growing town?? why? because its doesn't fuel this ridiculous pseudo class war.
Support for portal
8 Saturday, 06 October 2012 08:35
Andrew Harrison
I certainly missed the portal when it was down.

I find the LR is too Malvern based to be a real local source of news and certainly found talking to people during the supermarket debate that many many people in Ledbury do not read it.

I have the same (probably not too surprising) views as Andrew on VOL, which was set up by LESS and UKIP (no bias?). I even agree with Mr Lever that FaceBook is not sufficiently accessible to be the sole forum.

The use of pseudonyms on the LR (who can forget Maurice Mole, drewbreath, Fairy Fairy and AgainstBS) I find merely allows the airing of poisonous, cowardly and libellous views, rather than encouraging free speech.

I have not found that LP's filtering of comments has led to less rigorous debate.
Well Perhaps...
7 Friday, 05 October 2012 17:27
Dave Goodman
I can tell you that as someone who was at the time undecided on the whole supermarket debate, was quite vehemently shouted down, by a very prominent member of the LOTS campaign, because I simply questioned some of the arguments against. Although to be fair to you, that wasn't on here because I had not know of the portals existence prior to near the end of that debate. Certainly from the point of what I saw from about 2/3 of the way through, it did appear that the portal had taken sides, however I do accept that it might be an unfair point, given the lack of back history. For what its worth, the LOTS/LESS debate really isn't truly about a supermarket at all, its actually about how the growth in size of a small market town and how to integrate long established communities with newer, often commuter based, people and how to create a cohesive society in which all groups have an equal footing. The supermarket was actually simply something both groups (more or less) could use as a virtual punchbag.
Keep it up
6 Friday, 05 October 2012 12:52
Andrew Warmington
I have neither the time nor the IT skills to help but I do hope that the Portal keeps going in some form similar to what it is now. There is a real need for an alternative to the local paper, whose merits I won't get into discussing for now.

As regards the 'civil war', John Eager's own views on the proposed OOTSs are a matter of record. However, it simply isn't true that the portal was just a mouthpiece for LOTS. Look back at the many articles there and you will see a large amount of argument, sometimes vitriolic, most of which was between three people (all men) in each side. I was one of them.

To say the very least, the LESS supporters gave as good as they got. There was no censorship from John. If there was more from the LOTS supporters, that's just because they posted more and more often.

After two (one under a pseudonym, though his identity is perfectly obvious) got banned from the portal, large numbers of LESS supporters decided that the portal was biased and largely opted out. The result was much less argument, though some of it shifted to the comment section of the LR - which promptly removed some comments and/or closed streams to comment on, very much the same as happened here.

Voice of Ledbury could function in a similar way (though the most vicious abuse I ever got during the whole saga was posted there; I still have it). Again though, it is just a slightly different forum, which is also moderated. What we get out of that, as with any other, is what we put in and that will be the case whatever the forum is.
Shooting the Messenger
5 Friday, 05 October 2012 10:42
John Eager
Dave, this is a classic case of shooting the messenger.
During the supermarket debate both sides engaged, often passionately, sometimes too passionately, which put some commentators off. But the pro-supermaket lobby and supporters were hardly 'shouted down'.

The worst that happened was two Sainsbury's supporters being banned from the Ledbury Portal for making obscene abusive remarks. The named banned man expected to be banned and said so himself. The argument had seemingly been lost and his abuse took the place of reasoned discussion.

The banned man then used his Facebook page to persuade pro-supermarket supporters to stop using the Ledbury Portal.

The banned man wrongly accused the Ledbury Portal of being biased. Why? Because the editor had a view? Editors have views and often publish them. But there was no editorial bias on the Ledbury Portal.

As I remember, every article from both sides was published, there was only minimal editing of articles, but mostly no editing of content at all, and all but three or four comments were allowed to stand. I do remember editing the comments of a LOTS supporter, who I believed overstepped the mark once.

There was no bias - only unsubstantiated accusations of bias by a sore loser.

If you leave the room, you cannot take part in the debate.

It wasn't the Ledbury Portal, or its editor, or even LOTS that ultimately rejected Tesco and Sainsburys - it was Herefordshire Council planning officers.
An uphill struggle
4 Thursday, 04 October 2012 10:43
Dave Goodman
I am curious to know (in order to join the debate) how does one in some way not have to "register" for either the portal or reporter on-line at least? regarding facebook I understand the point being made, but who you register as, your interaction with it and the amount of personal information you add to it is entirely in your own hands. No one forces you to expose your bank account numbers nor what you have had for dinner for the last three nights. Is not every new medium some experiment in social engineering from the printed media, through TV to Facebook, but surely that is the least "controlled" of any of them. However my point really is that which mechanism reaches the biggest contingent of Ledbury residents, should be the right way to go - to misquote a certain phrase "you cannot please all of the people all of the time - or in some case some people any of the time".

Regarding Mr Eager's points, this is my issue with local politics generally, whilst there are exceptions, it is predominately about personal agendas, self grandising, vested self interest, personal self importance and ego trips. Because at the end of the day they have very limited powers to actually do anything, but it makes them feel important.

However I do agree that the portal caused considerable damage to itself and its credibility as it basically became an outlet for the LOTS campaign and that certain members would simply attempt to shout down or in other ways denigrate anyone who dared to question their viewpoint or perspectives.
The Puerile and the Influential
3 Wednesday, 03 October 2012 11:44
John Eager
Mr Lever's comments are revealing when he notes that Ledbury's 'influential' believe that the Ledbury Portal is puerile. Oh the damning criticism! A waspish and naive generalisation that serves to denigrate the Ledbury Portal, the citizen journalist project and myself.

It's a neat trick to devalue a project by claiming some authoritative anonymous block look down their noses at it and scoff.

Who are these 'influential'? Herefordshire Council executives who waste tax payers money and refuse accountability? Our local MP who got caught with his hands in the tax payers coffers, threatened to sue the Ledbury Portal, but then backed down because the Portal was actually publishing the truth? West Mercia police who will mete out justice without reference to the courts? A town mayor who has secret meetings and then lies about them? Local councilors who refuse the democratic process when it is offered to them, and prefer to follow their own selfish vendettas against individuals, rather than act as they should for the community's greater needs?

Are these the 'influential' Mr Lever refers to, who would rather see the end of the Ledbury Portal, than see uncomfortable versions of the truth published about the institutions that govern and control? Versions that the Ledbury Reporter will not publish because they are too hot to handle? Too hot because its establishment connections block its critical thinking and ability to do real investigative journalism? Fears it will lose advertising revenue. The 'influential' would rather you read bullshit, and then throw mud at those with alternative views with their childish, playground taunts and namecalling. Off print this denigration is called slander.

In the grand scheme of things, Mr Lever, the Ledbury Reporter is part of the problem. It profits itself and it serves your 'influential', and cares not for the rest of us. It may be small and relatively inconsequential, but it plays its deceptive roll, with its veil of political invisibility, perfectly - as part of an establishment that protects the elite that is shafting us all.
2 Tuesday, 02 October 2012 12:55
Michael Lever
With respect to Dave Goodman, Facebook as a medium is not a particularly good idea because one has to sign up and register on Facebook. I appreciate millions of people are okay about signing up and taking part in what could be viewed as a global social experiment (and many imparting all manner of personal stuff), but I'm not, (personally I regard Facebook as akin to feudalism).

The main difference between commenting on the Portal and Ledbury Reporter is that during the 2011-2012 'Civil War', the Portal took it upon itself to check and moderate comments before they can be posted, whereas on LR one can post freely, any 'unsuitable' comments are removed later. Personally, I dislike anything I might want to comment being subject to approval/censorship beforehand, so i'm less likely to contribute.

Something I don't particularly care for about the Portal is a tendency to pour scorn at Ledbury Reporter. I don't know what the Portal hopes to gain in doing so but I feel it does the Portal disservice because regardless of what one might think about LR it (LR) is at least held in a higher esteem which is more than can be said for the Portal; amongst more influential in Ledbury the Portal's comment on local issues is considered puerile. Where I think the Portal does succeed is in featuring the alternative scene in Ledbury and I should've though there is room for the Portal as a forum in its own right without the Portal having to stray into whatever takes its fancy.

Would it matter if the Portal died? Yes. It was set up to promote local citizen journalism and in the absence of an alternative surely that is on-going? If it were to die would anyone miss it after a short while? No. Maybe a few for a while, but after that it would be just one of those ideas that had its day and ran its course.
Put the personal agendas to one side
1 Tuesday, 02 October 2012 09:04
Dave Goodman
If people can put the personal agendas and local politics to one side and actually concentrate on what Ledbury wants and needs then a forum, wherever it might be is actually very useful tool. Personally I think the Voice of Ledbury group on Facebook is a better forum for comment and debate. Names can be changed if its that big a deal, but what actually needs to change is the personal agendas being pushed and personal attacks, if these can cease then everyone can actually debate things (not everyone should or need agree) in an adult manner, that way we can all move forward decisively rather than become entrenched in all too common tit-for-tat verbal warfare.