Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Leigh Times - a poor judgement call?

It has surprised some in the past to learn that my daily newspaper of choice was The Independent. My wife and I bought it from its initial publication and stayed with it through numerous make over’s and changes of editor until earlier this year when it finally stopped being printed in hard copy. I like a newspaper that challenges some of my opinions and we have struggled to find a replacement.

However the one time I almost cancelled my order was in the General Election before last when the paper called on its readers to vote Labour at the polls. I like to think that my annoyance was not caused by the fact that I was being asked to support “the other side” but that a paper which had always sold itself as Independent should think it appropriate to call on its readers to vote in a particular way rather than to present the issues and leave us to decide. I assumed that any regular reader of the paper would be of sufficient independence of mind to cast their vote irrelevant of this call and, like me, would regard it as ridiculous.

I was reminded of this reading the recent Leigh Times leader encouraging readers to vote for Steve Aylen, Dr Vel and Peter Wexham in the recent Southend Council elections. The Leigh Times is a respected local voice and in my view that reputation has been built on providing balanced and informed coverage of local affairs and politics to its readers. To jump to the support of these select candidates was out of keeping with that reputation and raises issues of independence in future coverage. It is also clear that their evaluation of the strengths of the three gentlemen in question was not as balanced as it might have been!

In fact my copy of the paper was received on Friday morning so it would have made no difference but …. If voters were swayed and the outcome influenced in those wards how does that sit with the reputation of the paper, and if not then what was the point.

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