By Bob Cartwright - 6th November 2008 3:50pm
A new Forum discussion has been proposed by that regular but anonymous correspondent "Jethro". He suggests AudlemOnline may be getting less interesting. As the website's main writer of news, my first instinct was to pen a vitriolic rebuttal but then, after some reflection, concluded that Jethro might just be right.
OK, we can defend ourselves by pointing out that over the past three years AudlemOnline has attracted widespread coverage in the local press. We've campaigned on issues ranging from the ambulance service to reducing the plague of too many HGVs on the village's narrow roads. The spoof April Fool story about joining Wales attracted news coverage around the world and, at the latest count, five TV appearances. Not bad for a small village website, you might think.
So, why might Jethro have a point? In part, it's because so much is going on — just look at the Calendar of Events on the Homepage. That means a steady flow of solid news. It may not excite the likes of Jethro, but it's what many want from a local news service.
But perhaps the main reason he may be right is that rather than attacking organisations head-on in recent months, AudlemOnline has been working hard behind the scenes. Along with other village representatives, we have met the chief executive of the North West Ambulance Service to agree better ambulance response times; separately, the NHS is considering a major investment in the village; British Waterways is trying to find funding for the Hydro-electric scheme we have advocated; the Weaver Valley team is trying hard to improve tourist facilities here; the de-priming of the A525 might just be achieved more by diplomacy than a media onslaught; locally, Audlem Parish Council is taking vital village issues like 'sustainability' seriously.
Hopefully, some of these 'projects' will come to fruition, creating real improvements to life in Audlem and the surrounding area. If, while progress is being made, it means slightly less strident campaigning by Audlem Online, so be it. Rest assured, however, if stridency is thought more effective, it will be used.
Fortunately, Jethro, new 'targets' are looming. Cheshire East, foisted on us by that ministerial genius Hazel Blears, takes over on, yes, you've guessed it, 1st April 2009. Already, Audlem Online's top team of investigative journalists, Avril Fouliere and April Dompkopf, is hard at work, seeking out those nuggets that might otherwise be overlooked in the new local authority.
In the meantime, Jethro, there's little point kicking the out-going Crewe & Nantwich Borough Council, despite their first letter saying "that will be a matter for the new Cheshire East" being received eighteen months before the change-over!
Meanwhile, it's good to know Audlem's profile is so high that Cheshire East's new chief executive Erika Wenzel has singled out the village in this week's Chronicle. She says "In the coming months I am hoping to visit areas such as Audlem and see if we can improve their services."
The webteam is also working hard on a new look to Audlem Online. More pictures, more news, new features, more fun. It's taking many months because we are a team of volunteers. Fortunately, we are encouraged by comments by local journalists and others that AudlemOnline is probably the best village website in the country. Our only argument is with the 'probably'.
So, Jethro, I hope your criticism has been answered honestly. If not, let us have more detail. The webteam wants to rise to the challenge of providing a lively, campaigning, informative website, every day of the year. In return, Jethro, a challenge to you — reveal yourself. We'd love to know who you are.
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