Edit 11 June 2009: the Bath Chronicle has resolved this issue. Please see this post on the further reporting that has been done.
They shouldn’t take the BNP’s ads, but how should papers report on the BNP? They’re a legal political entity (inexplicably, but there you are) and a matter of interest to your readership – both good arguments for publishing stories about them, and that’s before you get into the idea that it’s better to address their arguments publicly than drive them underground. So, let’s say you’re an editor with news items about the BNP’s council election campaigns and the controversy among the mainstream parties about how to engage in debate with a racist organisation. What are you going to do?
Well, how about definitely not doing what this week’s Bath Chronicle did on page nine:
Top story: “Mum, dad and son to stand for BNP”. Bottom story: “Meeting change to avert MEP hopefuls’ walkout”. Not featured: any response to the BNP’s policies, although the top piece helpfully informs us that the party “only lets white ethnic indigenous people join” – a catagory so meaningless it’s surely come straight from the BNP handbook.
From this page of newsprint, you’d get the impression that the BNP is some sort of loveable family concern squaring up to the grey suits of mainstream politics with a bit of underdog spirit. If you’re going to read about the repatriation policy or Nick Griffin’s criminal record, it won’t be in The Bath Chronicle. Sam Holliday, editor of the Chronicle (edit 11 June 2009 to remove email, as Sam has resolved this issue) has decided that his readers need to be informed about the jolly face of the BNP and not their despicable principles. The writer of the “Meeting change” story, Laura Tremelling (edit 20 May 2009: Laura would prefer that her email not appear here, although it is published in her byline in the paper) has spoken to representatives of Labour, the Tories, the Lib Dems and the Greens and either not questioned them – or not quoted them – on the specific reasons they refused to share a stage with a BNP candidate.
That’s lousy journalism anyway, barely adequate to the coverage of a flower show. But when the subject is the BNP, it’s lousy, tacitly racist journalism. I don’t have a local paper anymore.
Edit 20 May 2009 to clarify that Tremelling is only responsible for the “Meeting change” story. The family profile is uncredited.