Community gardens — coverage appreciated but quoting misses much
HIGHLIGHTING the value of community gardens is always a good thing, so the Sydney Morning Herald’s story (10 April 2014) in which Sydney restaurateur, Bill Granger, proposes that local government could do more to expand the number of gardens is welcome.
I’m pleased that the Herald decided to cover the topic and that Bill Granger spoke out. The story, though, has the appearance of being seriously hacked by a subeditor. That’s a speculation, of course. Here’s a little background and a comment or two on what Herald social affairs journalist, Rachel Browne, reports.
Rachel writes that Bill has “thrown his name behind a national campaign to encourage the planting of community gardens on under-utilised council land”. That’s a great idea — but what national campaign is this? The Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network (ACFCGN) has promoted this idea for a long time, but I am unaware of any new campaign around it by the Network or any other organisation. I read through the article looking for detail on this national campaign, perhaps to offer the Network’s assistance, but there was nothing. Perhaps I’m missing something or perhaps that hypothetical subeditor cut it from the story.
Likewise a comment I was quoted as making: “some councils were deterred from approving community gardens because of concern for public safety or creating an administrative burden”.
Possibly true in some instances, but could this be another instance of subeditorial zeal because the public safety comment was only one point I made about the main concerns of councils when considering community gardens. In addition to public safety, the others I mentioned include environmental safety, maintenance, appearance, equity of access and relation to city plans and strategies. I don’t recall mentioning administrative burden at all.
I also said that Bill Granger’s comments about councils doing more are appreciated. I refined it by saying that, rather than go out and build community gardens and hope the gardeners will come, councils are best to adopt policy or some other process that would enable community gardens, publicise its existence, then leave it up to communities to take the initiative in starting a garden.
Journalists reporting for a metropolitan daily paper are pressured by time, by column centimetres (space on a page for the story — fitting copy is where the subeditor comes in to slash stories to fit) and sometimes being assigned stories the subject matter of which they know nothing about. My conversation with Rachel was fairly comprehensive and, being a journalist myself, I understand that she had to wade through all of what we talked about to select what goes into the story. Journalism is a selective process — some things go into a story, some are left out.
It’s good that a restauranteur sees the value of community gardens not only for the food that is grown in them, but for their social value as well.