Picture was ill-judged – but not a sign of bias

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We shot ourselves in the foot with our choice of a picture to illustrate the story last week about the confirmation of candidates who are standing for election to Havant Borough Council on May 5.

We focused on the Bedhampton ward, where Councillor Ann Buckley has stood down, and carried a picture of her together with the colleague who hopes to retain the seat for the Liberal Democrats.

The problem was that the archive picture showed them holding a sign urging people to vote for their party.

That led to cries of foul from some political opponents and claims that we had revealed a bias in our approach.

I’d say straightaway that the decision to use that particular picture was ill-judged.

It was not, however, a selection made in some attempt to persuade people to vote for a certain party.

Even were we to seek to influence – which we don’t – then readers would hardly be likely to switch allegiance simply because a story showed a candidate holding a political sign without any picture being used of his opponents.

Unlike TV and radio, newspapers are not subject to the Representation of the People Act, which requires a definable balance in approach.

But like most regional papers, The News carries no torch for any particular party and, without counting every headshot and paragraph, we seek during the course of any campaign to give equal coverage to the different protagonists.

Whether during an election campaign or not, we will often in our daily leader column support an idea or policy of one of the parties.

Over the years we have done so in the case of the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats. It doesn’t mean that we offer general support to any of them, or would wish to write stories or use pictures with the intention of promoting a particular cause.

In short, we hope very much that people use their vote in Bedhampton and elsewhere next month, but we genuinely do not have a mission to influence how it is cast.