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Friday, 1 November 2013

Slough Express editor protests but some say its crocodile tears

Are political interference worries ignoring the Slough Express' normal journalistic practises ?

Report and photographs: Paul Janik

This week's Slough Express' front page is visually appealing. It is an artistic improvement on years of dull, boring and not worth looking at front pages. The new style suggests a better and more aggressive style of professional news reporting.

This week Slough's free newspaper (cover price 75p), said to be distributed to 25,000 households in Slough, enticed readers' attention to sensationally interesting news about failing and sub-standard Slough Unitary Authority (SUA), better known as Slough Borough Council.

Once again the Express' news was second-rate waffle. The Express reporter had done no research into the significant issues which aware locals can not forget despite attempts by vested interests to hush-up and prevent more damaging details entering the public domain. For example

  • the District Auditor's £30,000 or more extra charges
  • the 'dodgy' contract awarding with amounts of £4 million and possibly more
  • ex-council finance chief Julie Evans (also known as Julie Kennealy)
  • multiple secret payments of £1/4 million or more which Labour executive councillors claim they were forced to approve in total secrecy.

It you are beginning to smell the cesspit, then you are on the right trail.

Add ....

  • the strange vanished £7 million Castleview money and the disappearance of all the council's papers - the entire file.

There is lots for dedicated and tenacious reporters to dig-up at Slough's Labour council, providing their editor agrees and is not afraid of upsetting the powerful and very persuasive personalities entrenched at Slough's monopoly supplier of local government services.

The Slough Express is run by the Maidenhead Advertiser from their Maidenhead offices at 48 Bell Street. Both newspapers share the same editor the elusive Martin Trepte.

Slough Express Editor complains about press clean-up

On this week's Letters Page (which used to be be 3 whole pages before the Express was brought for a claimed 'knock-down' sum by the Maidenhead Advertiser), half of the single page is devoted to Martin Trepte protesting about the non-political attempt by Tories, Labour and Lib-Dems to clean-up England's often gutter press. Some will remember David Mellor's famous quotation from December 1991:-

the press - the popular press - is drinking in the Last Chance Saloon

22 years later the national popular press still have not cleaned-up their self-created mess. Some top journalists are currently appearing in a criminal court; years of jail awaits them - I feel sorry for them despite what they are alleged to have done.

If only the gutter press had embraced elementary standards of decency a long time ago, none of this current nightmare would have happened.

A newspaper (News of the World) closed-down in an attempt to cover-up the press' disgusting behaviour.

Is this the style of professional journalism that Mr Trepte wants to protect from justified public retribution ? Obviously I hope not.

Mr Trepte's article refers to local newspapers being

threatened by the crippling costs of paying for every complaint to be independently arbitrated ....

The obvious answer is buying an insurance policy and not printing lies or distortions out of malice or political spite. Having a clearly visible internal complaints handling procedure mentioned prominently in each edition of the newspaper would restore public confidence in a fair investigation of their complaints. It will save a lot of the money Mr Trepte describes as crippling costs.

National newspapers have deliberately ignore complaints because the extra sales revenue generated by their publishing of sensational stories was more important than fairness, decency, respect for privacy and telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Should local newspapers have a different code of conduct ?

One wonders why local newspapers have not distanced themselves from the national and often sleazy press. Had they done so, they could have had their own code of conduct with less onerous conditions. Local newspapers have only themselves to blame for the imposition of national standards primarily designed to tackle the national presses' abuses.

Politicians must not be allowed to control the press

Everyone knows Slough Unitary Authority (SUA) (better known as Slough Borough Council) is political, employs de-facto spin doctors, and has always tried to manipulate what is published in the Slough Express.

Over the years, SUA staff had taken Slough Express staff out for drinks and meals - including at Tummies Bistro in Cippenham - in tenacious attempts to prevent newsworthy stories detrimental to SUA, its political leaders (i.e. Labour) and its top management's professional reputation. My direct personal experience is SUA frequently succeeded in stopping good newsworthy stories appearing in Mr Trepte's Slough Express newspaper.

The Slough Express newspaper, before and after Mr Trepte became its editor, has always done a cut and paste of news stories carefully written by de-facto journalists employed at Slough Unitary Authority (Slough Borough Council).

Nothing can be easier for lazy or brain-dead journalists than filling-up newspaper columns with Slough Council's version of the truth whilst often ignoring opposing opinions. Perhaps the blame belongs on the newspaper's management for chosing the cut-and-paste style of journalism - a preference for dumbing-down the news ?

cut-and-paste journalism is easy and quick. On a computer keyboard it is as simple as 1 2 3

  1. CTL-A to highlight the text to be copied.
  2. CTL-C to copy the selected text.
  3. CTL-V to insert the copied text.

Hey Presto. A news story has been written. Is this really genuine journalism ?

Consequently I have personal doubts about Mr Trepte's articulated concerns. For years his newspaper has been a passive and often insipid public voice and nothing like a good and respectable local newspaper should, in my opinion, be.

If Mr Trepte believes the Slough Express' output is good journalism rather than simple page-filling waffle with all the local government scandals ignored, then aspiring journalists of merit need to find a better quality newspaper or they may stagnate at the Maidenhead Advertiser's Slough Express.