Monday 14 April 2014

The Loss Of The Fulham And Hammersmith Chronicle Is Bad For Democracy In Hammersmith & Fulham

The news on Friday that the Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle is to close in just two weeks time is bad news. All democracies need a strong independent press to hold them to account. Look around the world at what happens when there isn't one.

The excellent journalism
of Camilla Horrox
Local government particularly requires the cleansing spotlight of an independent local media. In recent weeks The Chronicle worked with us to force a U-turn on Conservative councillors' planned baby burial tax. Over the years it has played a similar role in holding to account the administrations of both the Borough's political parties ever to have won or likely to win control of Hammersmith and Fulham Council.

As reported here
It was a coincidence that yesterday's Sunday Politics programme featured Hammersmith and Fulham Council's approach to producing council tax-payer funded political propaganda. The programme took the example of how H&F's Conservative councillors mislead residents with several council magazines and leaflets (one leaflet costing £20,000) that said they had "saved" and "secured" Charing Cross Hospital when they had actually voted for a plan that keeps just 13% of it for the NHS and that's only as a GP-led clinic. The majority of the ground site will then be sold off as flats for overseas property speculators. You can watch the BBC's Sunday Politics here - the H&F bit starts at 48:17.

Read the story here
The full truth of what's actually happening to Charing Cross Hospital has been regularly featured in The Chronicle. It's arguable that without the Chronicle the first many residents would have found out that their hospital was being demolished would have been when the bull dozers arrived.

Many will remember how in 2008 Hammersmith and Fulham Council threatened The Chronicle and demanded a retraction because it reported that Conservative councillors had began secret talks with developers to sell off and demolish homes on the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates. The Chronicle stuck to its guns and within six months Conservative councillors admitted that The Chronicle story was true and began the process of doing precisely what the paper had reported.

Read here
Contrast that type of hard reporting and tough editorial backing to let residents know what their local government has planned for them with the awful propaganda produced by H&F Council and it's easy to see what all of us will lose if this paper really does close.

There have been many excellent journalists on The Chronicle over the years, Poppy Bradbury and Camilla Horrox are amongst the best. I think Trinity Mirror should look again at this publishing decision and consider how they might better sell enough advertising, sponsorship and promotions in what is a vibrant part of West London to ensure they are able to keep shining that spotlight into all what goes on in this Borough no matter who is in administration.

More here
If my fellow Labour candidates and I are elected to form the Borough's new administration next month we will cut all propaganda and end all tax-payer funded political adverting.

There needs to be a wider debate about how local newspapers should survive. A free press is important for a free society and for people to freely make up their own minds what they think - based on independent information. That is as important locally as it is nationally.

The prospect of local government continuing to hang vanity banners pushing false statistics and featuring large pictures of local councillors from almost every lamp post while producing leaflets that are plainly untrue and churning out misleading guff innocently consumed by residents is not only a terrible waste of money, it is also a terrible prospect for the future.

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