Guard against political parties mimicking local newspapers, the Chron says

Comment

Monday, 25th January 2021, 11:37 am
The front page of the Northants Citizen

Some of you may have received a copy of a new "newspaper" through your letterbox in the last few days.

We have used the quote marks around the word newspaper deliberately. It is anything but.

The Northants Citizen describes itself as a "Free local newspaper covering the villages and towns in and around Northampton, Daventry and South Northants".

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Let's be clear. It is nothing more than a political propaganda sheet masquerading as local news.

Nowhere on the front page does it identify itself as a party political freesheet produced by the Liberal Democrats. Only in tiny print on the back page sandwiched between a picture story showing a number of local Liberal Democrats and a page lead does it state that it is published by West Northamptonshire Liberal Democrats.

Instead it uses a design and layout familiar to local newspapers. There's even a comment piece inside, mimicking the traditional leader column of quality newspapers.

The articles are blatant political grandstanding with no attempt to offer any balance or right of reply.

So why is the Chronicle & Echo calling this publication out and not just ignoring it?

Some politicians are the first to cry "fake news" when they believe that newspapers have not lived up to the high standards we set ourselves for accuracy and balance.

Yet this "newspaper" is doing exactly that.

Our journalists, regardless of what some may think, have no political bias and neither does our newspaper. We are regulated by IPSO - the Independent Press Standards Organisation - and our newspapers answer to them should members of the public believe we have breached the Editor's Code.

None of this applies to the Northants Citizen.

It is not the first time the Liberal Democrats as a political party have done this. There are examples across the country where they have produced so-called "newspapers". The public can decide for themselves why they choose this tactic to put across their views.

We will repeat the same message others in our group have done.

When political movements try to impersonate us, we are undermined. When members of the public realise they have been fooled by a medium that looks like ours, the next time they read journalism produced by us, they may trust it that bit less.

This all leads to those in power becoming more powerful, more protected from scrutiny and less accountable to the public.

It has to stop.