Today, this newspaper joins forces with local and regional titles across the UK to launch a campaign to fight fake news.
As we approach the most significant national election in a generation, the need for independent local newspapers and their websites to report and explain the issues in an entirely neutral, honest and balanced way is essential.
This approach is in keeping with their ethos of always seeking to provide trusted news, campaigning on behalf of their communities, giving advertisers respected platforms to promote their services, exposing wrongdoing through painstaking investigations, and ensuring the voice of residents and the business community is heard with clarity and authority.
Fake news takes many forms and operates at several levels. At its most extreme and democratically destructive, it comprises deliberately and maliciously contrived statements which are cynically distributed in the guise of real news with the aim of deceiving for political or financial gain.
The great global social media conglomerates have been slow to respond and grudging to intervene. When they do, they give the impression that their intercession is more favour than obligation. They sit outside all normal regulation that robustly holds traditional media to account and they are often immune from actions for defamation or contempt.
You would have thought politicians would have made the eradication of these hoax story sites a top priority, demanding that the global internet and social media giants must be made responsible for what they transmit.
Instead, it is established newspapers and their websites which continue to be the political whipping boys, expected to submit to the most rigorous regulation and the threat of the most pernicious and damaging regime of court costs on the planet while they seek to pursue honest, investigative journalism in the public interest.
Unlike social media and the major digital platforms, this newspaper and its website are accountable for every single word we publish.
We have signed up to a comprehensive Editors’ Code of Practice – which even our detractors have imitated – and we and all our staff have contractually bound themselves to its requirements. This code encompasses everything from accuracy to privacy, harassment, intrusion into grief or shock, protecting children, reporting crime, and the use of clandestine devices and subterfuge.
If we do make a genuine mistake, you can contact us immediately – we are real people, not some digital algorithm.
We are passionate and exquisitely professional about the way in which we hold decision makers to account, represent our home towns, and provide news and information that is suitable for whole families.
We are honest brokers of local information, upholding the values that you share with us, seeking always to do the right thing no matter how difficult that can sometimes be in fast changing times.
That all costs money. When you buy our paper or advertise with us you are supporting the very journalism and quality that keeps integrity at the heart of all we do.
We make a real difference.
Many local newspapers have been in existence for a century or more. They have often been the single catalyst for social change. At heart, they are the conscience of a community and the defender of its truth.
Our title piece is a hall mark for our core value.
With pride, we provide trusted news and honest advertisement platforms and thanks to the tireless diligence of our editorial staff you can be confident that our stories are always exactly what they purport to be: the genuine article. Fact – not fake.