So, thanks to radio journalist Martin Jones and news website Bristol 24/7 we now know that the reason for WordPress’s fritzing of The Bristol Blogger today was due to pressure from ex-University of the West of England vice-chancellor Sir Howard Newby. It seems he didn’t like some reference or other made by TBB. The word ‘defamation’ seems to have been thrown around. TBB is back up now, but WordPress has said the offending references must be gone by daybreak (or something similar).
Still, it makes you wonder exactly what it was that earned the takedown…
Whilst the blog posts in question appear to have been taken down, they can still be viewed via caches. One post, dated 26th May 2007, mentions a “private sector training company” in which both Sir Howard and his wife Lady Sheila held an interest being brought in to work with UWE. Another, from 7th July 2007, reflects on Sir Howard’s departure from UWE for pastures new at Liverpool University and again refers to the Newbys’ involvement with private consultants hired to work at UWE.
Similar points have been raised elsewhere – including the WordPress-hosted blogs Sir Howard Newby Watch and EcoLogics. However, the former appears to have been suspended in the same way as TBB was, and the latter’s blog post about the Newby-connected consultancy going into administration now throws up a 404 error message, consistent with a blog post that has been deleted (such as the Newby posts on TBB deleted under pain of blog deletion). Again, all the missing material is accessible through a cache search. Bizarrely, a different blog post on EcoLogics goes into greater detail about the Newbys involvement in private consultancy at UWE (and Sir Howard’s management style and educational philosophy) than the mysteriously missing post. Additionally, an independently-hosted blog, DC’s Improbable Science, carries similar material but remains up and running.
Outside of the blogosphere, mention is made of all the salient points in reports by the likes of Private Eye, The Guardian, Times Higher Education and others. The THE story refers to a different “private consultancy used by UWE during Sir Howard’s leadership…used by Liverpool for ‘work associated with strategic planning'”.
So what exactly was the beef with The Bristol Blogger (and Sir Howard Newby Watch, and possibly EcoLogics)? Is there something in the scandal pipeline that someone, somewhere, is trying to preemptively draw attention away from?