Thursday, 24 September 2009

Local newspapers are not biased lackeys. Honest!

Every editor of every local newspaper ever will at some point, (and usually quite frequently), be accused of being biased.

Because we live in a world where everybody has an opinion on everything, a lot of people assume that local newspapers (and their editors) are equally one-sided in their views and will do everything in their power to persuade others to follow it.

Well, guess what, – you are half right.

Yes, we journalists are as opinionated and passionate about causes as the next man but we are also a pretty professional bunch in the local media and we all subscribe to the view that the only bias we can ever exhibit is to our readers.

Opinions can be made in columns, blogs like this or in our Comment piece (and we are not shy of launching campaigns on issues we care about) but the news is 100 per cent untainted and totally free of bias.

I say this today because last Friday Bath (and the Bath Chronicle offices) had a visit from David Cameron.

The visit of the Tory leader provoked a lively debate on our website,, and it didn’t take long for someone to accuse my erstwhile opinion-free deputy Paul Wiltshire for being akin to a Tory lackey.

This, we found particularly amsuing, as a few weeks ago he had been called a Lib-Dem lackey as well. He is clearly therefore a lackey – albeit one who is awfully confused about his politics

I suffered the same at a previous newspaper I worked at in Tamworth, in the Midlands. That was a very tight Labour/Tory marginal seat and I was frequently told by the Labour lot that they knew that I was a Tory while the Tories equally said that they knew I was a Labour man. This to be proved that I was doing my job right – if all politicians think you’re against them, then you’re probably putting the interests of the readers above the parties. And that’s how it should be.

Returning to Mr Cameron, I can’t deny that I was very grateful to our local Conservative hopeful, Fabian Richter, for bringing his party leader into our office where I was able to chat to him about issues of concern in our industry and our community. He was kind, generous with his time and tried to meet and talk to as many of our staff as possible.

Even one or two dyed-in-the-wool Labourites (for yes, shock horror, our office is the same as every other in covering all political persuasions!) were quietly impressed I think.

I then went to hear Mr Cameron address the people of Bath at his very interesting and informative public meeting. He was put on the spot by local people on a wide variety of important issues and he handled himself extremely well to my eyes.

It says a lot, I think, about how politics has become so centerist that I mentioned to my colleague Paul (he’s the Tory/Lib-Dem lackey remember) that I think if you analysed what was said , you would not have heard anything from David Cameron that Tony Blair would not have said. I’m sure both Mr Blair and Mr Cameron would be pretty aghast by that comparison but the truth is there is a consensus in our politics today that means that sometimes it is different suit, different party – but the same words, themes and ideals.

Friday’s visit also showed that Bath is very much in the Tory’s sights. We already have a very good sitting MP I think (oh my God I’m being biased again!) but we also have a very strong Tory challenger too now (oh my God more bias!) and so next May/June's elections suddenly looks very interesting indeed ...

Please send all your accusations of bias in this article to

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