South of the River – Media Bias

Compass-SouthComment logo 2I was pulled up by a comment on the blog this week, a sarcastic reference to the ‘unbiased editor’. Who knew editing a local news blog would be so tricky?

I knew from an early age that ‘the media’ was biased. My (Australian) mother railed against Rupert Murdoch when he came over here in the sixties, she read the left-leaning Guardian as a matter of principle. To this day I won’t have Sky in the house to the bemusement of their salespeople.

Newspapers are generally owned by rich families or businessmen who set their agendas. The BBC are good, but not be trusted. They are too establishment, when it comes to the crunch they will always side with the government.

We set up this blog, because the mainstream media weren’t reporting our news, especially not our good news. We’ve resisted the business model that says you should focus on the most popular news stories. We know that our most read stories are about planning, jobs and crime. We cover those stories, but we’re not going to sit in Leeds Magistrates Court every day churning out depressing stories – you can read those in the Yorkshire Evening Post.

South Leeds Life’s ethos has been about participation. We want to inform people of opportunities locally, encourage them to get involved in their community and to write about what they’re doing or about issues that are important to them. South Leeds Life does not support any political party, and we discourage party political comments. That all seems straightforward.

There is a bias at South Leeds Life. We believe South Leeds deserves greater resources, we have a chip on our collective shoulder that we are an unfairly unpopular part of the city. I think it’s a bias that’s shared by our readers if not the entire population of LS10 and LS11.

We don’t expect Simon-pure objectivity – the journalist coming in from outside the situation. We appreciate the knowledge that hands-on writers bring. Whilst we’re covering community gardens and local history groups it’s really not a problem. When the issue is as contentious as the Aspiring Communities planning application, which has split the Beeston community, it’s a mite trickier.

The problem is that whilst South Leeds Life hasn’t taken sides, I as an individual resident have.

So, for example, I found myself having to report on a public meeting that I’d spoken at. I thought long and hard and came to the conclusion that I had to write two pieces. The first was a news report of the meeting setting out what happened and what was said on both sides. But I also wanted to comment on what had been said, so I used this ‘South of the River’ column to write my personal views.

I thought it was a neat solution, but apparently expressing my opinions has led those who disagree with me to suggest that all of my writing is biased. Do you know, they might be right.

Everyone sees the world through a political prism. I don’t mean Labour and Tory necessarily, but we all have an idea of how the world works, who the good guys and bad guys are. Our views are all subtly (or not so subtly) different from one another’s. So two people describing the same event may well use different language and mention different facts. Neither is wrong, they’re just different perspectives.

I can see the headline now: ‘South Leeds life is biased shock!’ But here’s the thing: we publish comments. If you don’t like what I or any of the writers say, you can tell us your view. We do check all comments to make sure they are in line with our guidelines (nothing abusive or disrespectful please) and aren’t going to get us into legal difficulties. But we don’t censor fair criticism of South Leeds Life, in fact we welcome debate.

My final point is that over the last two years that I’ve been writing this column I have revealed a lot about my world view, the prism I look at events through. There are no unbiased news reports in this world, but at least when you read mine, you know where I’m coming from.

I’ll be back in next week with more of my views from South of the River. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow me: @BeestonJeremy.

3 Replies to “South of the River – Media Bias”

  1. Hi Jeremy

    Just thought I’d say I always look forward to reading your blog every week and receiving updates in South Leeds Life about the area in which I happily reside.
    Keep up the good work!
    Kind regards
    Stella Wallace (‘adopted’ Beestonite!)

  2. South Leeds Life is promoting all the positive work being done in the community.

    Your blog makes a difference to people and to the diverse communities, recognising contributions and encouraging others to become more involved and working together to make South Leeds better.

    Thank you

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