Fair and balanced

2 May

Despite the election, the council website continues to promote Sir Robin and his fellow Labour candidates

The small handful of residents that actually open the Newham Mag will have been surprised that the past two editions have been entirely free from pictures of Sir Robin Wales. This is because election rules require public authorities not to do anything that would appear to favour one candidate or party over another.

Strangely, that memo doesn’t seem to have reached the editor of the council website. The homepage continues to display a prominent picture of Sir Robin next to the caption ‘Meet the Mayor’. Clicking through takes you to a page with four more pictures of him.

The latest news section has a carousel of five pictures at the top, two of which feature the mayor. The picture accompanying the ‘Every OAP a ping-pong player’ story (shown above) also features several prominent Labour candidates for council.

But the council website is relatively restrained compared to the Newham Recorder. As an independent publication it is not bound by the election rules that constrain the Mag.

The three editions since the election was formally announced have featured Wales’ picture ten times. He’s been mentioned in stories sixteen times; the other candidates have been mentioned just once each, in a list.

The most recent edition even included a lengthy opinion piece by Sir Robin on why it is important we should vote, accompanied by a large photo of the man himself, just to remind you who it is you are meant to vote for.

The Recorder has pulled out all the stops to ensure maximum coverage for the man they know will be signing off the council’s advertising budgets for the next four years.

There’s nothing illegal about what the Recorder is doing, but readers are entitled to ask where the coverage is of the other candidates? If it’s important that we vote – and it is, it really is – then it’s vitally important that we make a properly informed choice.

Besides Sir Robin there are Tory, Liberal Democrat, Green, UKIP, Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition, Communities United & Christian Peoples Alliances candidates for mayor. That’s quite a range of choices. Doesn’t the Recorder think its readers deserve proper coverage of all mayoral candidates, including opinion columns & pictures?

Local newspaper publishers have been vocal in calling for central government to get tough on council newspapers like the Newham Mag, which they characterise as ’town hall Pravdas’. Their case is undermined when supposedly independent papers like the Recorder fail to be, er, independent.

In the US the utterly biased right-wing ‘news’ channel Fox News has long used the slogan ‘fair and balanced’ to describe itself. The Newham Recorder should consider adopting it too.

Hat-tip to Mike Law for the stats on the Recorder’s coverage

2 Responses to “Fair and balanced”

  1. Southpawpunch (@Southpawpunch) May 2, 2014 at 22:15 #

    What is interesting is that other councils with a mayoral system – including LB Hackney and LB Lewisham – and which heavily promote their own Mayors at all other times, have dropped all the Mayoral publicity stuff from their home page that LB Newham is doing during these elections for all London councils and Mayors.
    I also know (from my work experience – I remember the memo) that all homepage promotion of both Livingstone and Johnson was dropped during ‘Purdah’ (i.e. the pre-election period) from the GLA site when they were up for re-election.

    Maybe Newham has its own legal universe?

  2. Kevin Mansell May 5, 2014 at 23:41 #

    Recorder coverage probably not unconnected to the flattering unctuous profile of the Recorder editor in the Newham Mag ant the end of March!

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