And so the fight we thought was almost over takes another peculiar turn. Yes, I’m back on about council newspapers. Bear with though, I’ll try to make this one interesting.
In the latest edition of its magazine, the Journalist, the NUJ gives some background to its opposition of Government plans to restrict the number of times a year a council can publish a newspaper.
According to the NUJ, it believes the problems facing the local newspaper industry go far beyond ‘any perceived competition from council newsletters which provide prompt, accurate advice and information not necessarily carried elsewhere.’
While the first part of that statement is true, the notion that just because it isn’t the silver bullet to solve an industry’s challenges it therefore isn’t worth doing is downright bonkers – a bit like a GP telling an obese person that just because chocolate alone isn’t responsible for all their weight gain, they might as well indulge in the £1 mega bars of Dairy Milk next time they’re in WH Smith.
The second part of the statement, however, is the bit which should frighten any journalist – the union which represents journalists claiming that council newsletters carry ‘prompt, accurate advice and information.’ What they actually carry is ‘prompt, accurate advice and information as the council sees it.’ It is therefore not journalism to put a council newspaper together, it’s an act of PR.
And in committing that act of PR, those who describe themselves as journalists working on them do cause real harm to a regional press industry which employs people who chase stories without fear or favour, and who always aim for their stories to be fair and balanced.