It’s not election bias it’s just red ink

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The election campaign got officially under way this week as Parliament was dissolved, but for politics geeks, the campaigning started months ago.

Thanks to the five-year fixed term system the coalition introduced, we’ve known the date of this election for, well, five years and that has led to a career record for me.

In 45 years in journalism, every newspaper I have ever worked for has been accused of bias at election time, but the Bury Free Press takes the record for the earliest accusation. Political fans on Twitter were accusing the paper of bias six months ago for publishing an interview with a then newly chosen candidate (not going to say who or I ‘ll get accused of bias for not mentioning the rest).

People have also whined about the lack of election coverage in local newspapers for months, ignoring the fact that in any previous election we would not even have known we were going to have one and no normal reader ever asks for more election coverage.

One assured me that if we ran ‘engaging articles’ about politics, more people would get involved and vote. This would require finding ‘engaging’ politicians to talk to and I’ve seen more giant pandas.

Whatever we do, someone out there will say it was biased. My first newspaper was accused of bias in favour of their rivals by all the candidates in a by-election. Only one apologised after we published all their letters together.

Another paper was accused of ‘nailing its political colours to its mast’ when it used red spot colour beside the title to say ‘Still only 50p’.

I thought my first evening paper had sorted it by telling candidates beforehand what coverage they would get and measured the columns to ensure they were the same. But one claimed bias because his piece was on page seven, because it was late, when his rivals’ had been on page five .

Even a car magazine I was on in the 1980s got accused of bias. Okay, it was the then little known Jeremy Clarkson writing, but the election had been called as the magazine was being printed. At least now we get five years warning.