We are in an age of instant information with the online world only a click away. Google is now a verb as much as a noun with its own entry in the Oxford Dictionary. Whatever you want to know, there are usually thousands of results to trawl through and there seems to be no question that hasn’t got an answer. Communication is equally instant and it seems hard to remember a world before mobile phones, emails, twitter and of course Facebook, now the world’s 3rd largest country in population size.
Yet of course there was a time when information was much harder to access and it much more difficult to know what was going on even in your own area let alone across the world. Publications like the Sentinel were key in keeping the community informed and in bringing to life the full story around issues and concerns that may otherwise not have been given any official publicity. The Sentinel also recognised the need for detail and did not shy away from explaining complex matters in order to ensure local residents were informed.
In 1983 Granada TV’s World In Action programme featured the Bison Wall Frame system, raising the concern of building defects and shortcuts affecting the living conditions and safety of properties built using this system. As a result, the Scottish Development Department wrote to 16 housing authorities asking them to check their stock for potential hazards to the public. The programme caused much concern in Wester Hailes where six of the blocks in Hailesland Park were Bison built. The Sentinel responded by producing a four page report full of detailed information and background explanations. They managed to get interviews with many of the key officials and organisations involved including Bison Concrete UK, MacData, Frank Mears and Partners (local architects for Wester Hailes), and local councillors. The newspaper also highlighted the efforts being made by the Hailesland Tenants Association in their quest to determine the truth about their homes and whether anything was going to be done to improve their situation. The special report is comprehensive, technical and wide-ranging. Today, this information would probably have been across the internet. Twenty eight years ago, local people’s only source of proper reliable information in this instance was the community paper. In an age when so much news seems to be in sound bites, it is refreshing to read a piece of well researched detailed journalism that doesn’t assume its readers aren’t interested in the wider implications of the issue . You can read the whole report by clicking here on Bison Report 1983.
The Sentinel retained its investigative brief with regard to the condition of the blocks, keeping readers up to date with the progress of the campaign to achieve improvements. For example in 1984, it highlighted a new report produced by Edinburgh District Council on high-rise living in the city, publicising its recommendations for Wester Hailes. You can read this report by clicking here on The Need For Change 1984.