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Local newspaper costs tax payers money

Our guest blogger writes about how the Express and Star’s biased stories are costing tax payers money.

Guest writer Dave Taylor writes about how the Express and Star are costing Wolverhampton tax payers money in order to write biased and negative stories about the city:

I’m not going to pretend that I am a fan of my local newspaper. The Express and Star on many occasions seem to revel in the negativity that blights my local area. With the recent riots still in the memory I do feel that people like the Express and Star don’t help matters by keeping the amount of positive stories about an area to a minimum. How can we expect kids to have respect for an area when the so-called local media will almost exclusively focus on the negatives.

A perfect example of this happened yesterday when the Express and Star front page was dominated with a “recycling story”. The Twitter feed reads:

Amount of food waste collected in slop buckets in Wolverhampton falls every month since introduction http://bit.ly/p2liwi

So let’s get a few facts out of the way. I am a resident of Wolverhampton and since the introduction of this scheme the Express and Star have maintained the biased stance of referring to this food recycling scheme as “slop buckets”. The negative connotations here are obvious. It is, therefore, no surprise that the Express and Star were also quick to pick up on the slow uptake of this scheme. Of course, it’s hard to say if there was slow uptake or if it was just the E&S bias coming into play. It’s also hard to say if the “slow uptake” was actually caused by the amount of negative press the E&S have given this story.

It is this cause and effect that is the reason for this rant. The E&S have filed a freedom of information request to get this information, which has cost the council money to process (reportedly £100 per request). Maybe the residents of Wolverhampton need to ask if this bastion of local journalism has done nothing more than waste public money and massage the facts to fight their own little battle.

The problem here is critical thinking. Even if less food waste is being produced why does this story imply that this is a bad thing? The issue is that the food recycling scheme deals with “food waste”. The key word here is “waste” and while the E&S would like to imply that a reduction is about the failure of the scheme and a waste of public money I would like to present a different hypothesis.

As a Wolverhampton resident I partake in this scheme and while I was initially sceptical I gave it a go and our household discovered an interesting thing. It makes you more aware of the food you are throwing away. Separating it almost makes you look at it and go, hang on, we bought that and never used it. Combine this with the belt tightening every household is going through and it’s no surprise that my household has seen a reduction in food waste. Is it beyond the realms of possibility that his is happening in other households in Wolverhampton? That others are wondering around supermarkets and thinking, “Don’t buy that, we threw the last lot away” and putting it back on the shelf. If this is the case then it’s a great thing. A wonderfully positive thing. A thing that should be celebrated. We are wasting less. Go Wolverhampton… you’re great. You waste less. Well done. Of course, that’s not something I’d expect the E&S to publish.

Now unlike the E&S I will present another hypothesis. It could be that people are now thinking, “I can’t be bothered recycling” and throwing the food waste into their main bin. It could be that this scheme has been a waste of public money but the problem here is that the information presented by the E&S doesn’t suggest that. It suggests that they’ve taken a “statistic” which could have a positive or negative angle and immediately jumped on the negative. Surely, residents of Wolverhampton, if this newspaper is forcing our council to spend money answering Freedom of Information requests we should at least expect them to write a balanced story as a result?

I’ll repeat that:

If this newspaper is forcing our council to spend money answering Freedom of Information requests we should at least expect them to write a balanced story as a result?

It seems obvious that the answer to that is, “yes”.

Of course, I’m not naive. The E&S is not the only media outlet to focus on the negative for sales. Most of them do it. And neither are they the only media outlet to be biased. Most of them do that as well. But if we can all think a little more critically about the information presented to us we wouldn’t fall for these tricks and maybe it would influence our decision on if we should buy their products.

I will also point the E&S to this page. It will be interesting to see if they are non-biased enough to retweet my message to them. I doubt it, but I do hope I can make one journalist there think before sending off for Freedom of Information requests and then writing a biased article. By all means file Freedom of Information requests but the subsequent article should be “fair” and “non-biased” otherwise they are wasting the money of the local council and therefore the local people. And if local journalists are not there to help local people then they really have to question if they are doing the job they should be.

Thanks to Dave for allowing us to re-publish his blog post. You can read the original on his blog.

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