Wednesday, 31 October 2007

An end of media bias in Cumbria?

I have my fingers crossed this morning. They are crossed in the hope that after a near five year campaign of peddling a deceitful anti-BNP campaign within their pages, our local newspapers in Cumbria are at last reporting on the British National Party as they should do - fairly, truthfully and without political bias.

The reason for this guarded optimism is this report published online yesterday:

I must stress that it is just an online report which might not appear in this form, or at all, in Friday's actual newspaper.

My only quibble with the report is the paragraph:

"At the Allerdale council elections earlier this year, he failed in his bid to be elected to the Broughton St Bridget's ward, when he came fifth out of five candidates. He polled 137 votes, 386 behind the fourth placed man."

It's a strange way to report the result and the only purpose of the "386 votes behind the fourth placed man" is to try to imply that Nigel had little or no support in the ward when he in fact polled a commendable 10% of the vote at his first attempt.

The full result in Broughton St Bridgets was John Ardron, Lab, 638, Eric Nicholson, Con, 659, Adrian Davis-Johnston, Con, 637, Kenneth McDonald, Lab, 523, Nigel Williamson, BNP, 137.

Any journalist trying to give their readers a true picture of the impact of Nigel's effort would have reported that he finished 501 votes behind the winner. By saying he finished 386 votes behind the fourth man is deliberately misleading and an attempt to give the impression that he must have been a mile behind the winner.

OK, it's a minor point, but I see similar doctored reporting to denigrate the BNP day-in, day-out, and it just makes me cross.

Back in May 2003 when Paul Stafford was the first and only BNP local election candidate, on the day before polling day there was an editorial in the News & Star, north and west Cumbria's evening newspaper, telling its readers not to vote for the BNP. The then editor started his leader with, "I wouldn't dream of telling you how to vote . . . " and finished it by saying, "vote for any party but the BNP". What was significant about the editorial was that on that Thursday there must have been nearly 100 candidates standing for election across the circulation area of that newspaper, yet the editor used his immense influence in a community newspaper to pick on one candidate because he personally didn't support the Party he was standing for.

That was bad enough but it wasn't the lowest point for the newspapers in Cumbria.

The following story appeared on the front page of the Cumberland News in its final edition before voters were due to go to the polls in the European Elections in June 2004.

Shock, horror, Nick Griffin coming to Carlisle and there's going to mayhem! The words "BNP" and "HATE" were big and bold. The report was a non-story and the whole front page was designed around putting its readers off voting for the BNP list of candidates for the Euro Poll by indicating that the threat of Nick Griffin coming to Carlisle would in some way cause trouble.

Now some might think I'm being over-sensitive and although the report was hostile, it does have news value especially if Nick Griffin was going to visit Carlisle. Well , Nick wasn't going to visit Carlisle, so the story was based on a lie, but what is worse is the newspaper's deceit over the whole episode.

Just five weeks earlier Nick Griffin HAD VISITED and spoken in Carlisle at a Saturday afternoon meeting in a city centre pub to an audience of over 50. Before the meeting I had spoken to the political editor at the Cumberland News and invited him along. He said he couldn't come because he was watching Carlisle United play!! After the meeting I sent a press release with three photos to the Cumberland News which they completely ignored.

Why was an actual visit to the city by Nick Griffin not considered newsworthy at all, yet an imaginary visit from the BNP chairman just five weeks later made front page headlines?
The answer has something to do with polling day and influencing voters.

The newspaper's pre-election front page story was completely fabricated just so the editor could use the words BNP and HATE in a banner headline to influence voters.

Nearly four years on I still feel anger recounting the story because of the blatant misuse of the power of a community newspaper for a party political purpose. It's a shocking example of the manipulation that a handful of editors can exert over a large readership and yet who are never called to account for it. And that's not the end of it, I have another two dozen examples of disgraceful anti-BNP bias at election time from the same newspapers, but I shall be here all day if I get started and December's issue of Freedom will never make the news stands.

I am an editor of a newspaper and I do try to influence my readers in party politics. But the difference is that my newspaper clearly states that it is the newspaper of the British National Party, so readers will know what to expect when they read its content. The newspapers in Cumbria are meant to be regional and community based and should be straight-forward in their reporting and certainly have no party political axe to grind. Sadly, for the past four years that hasn't been the case.

But I'm hopeful that there might finally have been a change in policy by one of the county's newspapers. I shall keep you posted.

1 comment:

Ken Booth said...

Oh, the wonders of the biased media. I think they are coming round, but only a little bit at a time. I’m sure they will attempt to spout their venomous bile and BNP myths nearer the next election.

The editor will know there is an average 15% core support in Cumbria for the BNP and the same 15% of Cumbrian’s will buy and read his paper and know the truth about the BNP because of our hard work on the doorsteps during elections, our regular newsletters, our members engaging in community politics and our high profile street stalls. He can’t alienate those readers by keeping up his anti-BNP style reporting forever, as his credibility will drop and sales will plummet if his factuality and impartiality cannot be taken seriously. His play on the previous election result was about as low as he could go.

The latest BNP Maryport newsletter was very good and is to be delivered to ever household in Maryport. When the editor received his advance copy he would then be in a position to cover or ignore the story. I think this prompted the editor to cover the story in a factual way - the same as our newsletter. I suppose twisting the old election result helped him to sleep a little that night.