Last week's Riverside CAF meeting promised to have it's fair share of controversy and political sniping. And it didn't let those present down, with some rather enjoyably acerbic exchanges between councillors John Anglin and Jane Branley.
However, there was no Gazette reporter present. The Gazette had been forewarned that the Riverside CAF meeting would be an exceptional one. Unfortunately the Gazette declined to send someone. Perhaps the Gazette's ace reporters were on holiday.
This is just one example of a local journalistic decline. The Gazette prints (copies and pastes?) council press releases without question, making the newspaper appear part of the local New Labour PR machine. It's difficult for the Gazette to deny this when you consider South Tyneside MPs Miliband and Hepburn, and Labour council leader Waggott, all have regular spots in the Gazette.
It would be naive of me to expect no political bias. However, the feeling that the Gazette is excessively council-friendly was reinforced in the run-up to the local elections when the paper was bursting with Labour councillors gurning in photo ops and taking credit for mediocre successes, which coincidentally all happened to be resolved just before the elections.
The Gazette has started to fill space with stories from Sunderland. Page 2 of the Gazette should be referred to as the 'Sunderland Echo Echo' page, since that's where the pieces are lifted from. There's no shortage of news in South Tyneside, just a lack of willingness to dig out the stories. Tuesday 24th July's Gazette is a case in point. There are massive issues currently facing the borough, but the centre pages feature an airhead two-page spread plugging the Gazette 'spook' reporter's (if there is such a thing) new book on imaginary friends.
We get the basic luck news stories, but there's no real accounting taken of local politicians and comment is left to the letters page.
If the Gazette fails to adequately cover what's really going on politically in South Tyneside then it's failing it's readership. The paper's editor should be ashamed that local bloggers are reporting and analysing the news that the Gazette can't be arsed to do.
A free press is important to democracy - but only when it fully reports on the actions of those we put into positions of responsibility. Otherwise it's just fluff and marketing.
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