Council newspaper plan 'cowardice'
A COUNCIL newspaper will be launched this spring in what is seen as a cowardly attack on the free press. The News will be distributed to all 69,000 homes in Barking and Dagenham each fortnight from the end of May. The free sheet, immediately slammed by
A COUNCIL newspaper will be launched this spring in what is seen as a "cowardly" attack on the free press.
The News will be distributed to all 69,000 homes in Barking and Dagenham each fortnight from the end of May.
The free sheet, immediately slammed by opposition councillors as a new council "propaganda machine", will be funded by the public purse.
It will focus on "community news" and "positive" Labour council stories and be written by a team of around three reporters paid by Barking and Dagenham council taxpayers.
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Council chiefs will stop placing adverts and notices in Barking and Dagenham newspapers and transfer them to The News, thereby depriving papers of an important revenue source.
Retired media law lecturer and journalist Tony Richards, 72, of Wilmington Gardens, Barking, said: "This is a council which really cannot tolerate criticism of itself.
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"It cannot countenance the idea of an independent free press. This really is a piece of cowardice."
Tory leader Cllr Terry Justice said: "I have no doubt this will be another politically biased machine I will and other local ratepayers have to pay for."
BNP leader Cllr Bob Bailey said: "This is a complete waste of money. I think local papers are going to suffer badly because of this."
Council bosses hope to reach out to the community and save �75,000 by pulling advertising from newspapers and ditching council publications including the monthly Citizen magazine and Spotlight to focus on The News.
Council chief executive Rob Whiteman said: "We have talked to residents in recent months and they've told us they want one community-based publication that reflects pride in the borough and provides honest, factual and useful information.
"In these tough economic times, we are also delighted to be able to provide an improved and more efficient service.