After a week of extolling readers to understand the value of local press and quality journalism, yesterday the Express & Star’s Walsall edition proved the value of good local journalism, as exhibited by dedicated, conscientious reporters.
The front page of the edition delivered in Walsall carried a small teaser insert, top right, describing the plan from the Labour group on Walsall to attempt to gain control of the authority at full council on 22nd May.
Although Labour taking control isn’t likely, it’s an important local story and deserves coverage. This is a classic example of a story that may slip below the radar but for an active local press, and I believe that a duty exists to bring this stuff to the public, and explain it to people who may not be politically fully engaged. In this respect, the Express & Star was doing its job.
Sadly, they blew it. The image featured in the article (and also in an online version, subsequently deleted) of the smiling, besuited man is not the leader of Walsall Labour. He’s actually another Tim Oliver, a Business Services Manager from AB Sustain, a food and agriculture supply chain analysis and management company.
This particular Tim Oliver – who’s apparently based in the West Country – clearly came to the attention of the writer via Google image search. If one types ‘Tim Oliver’ into the search engine, one of the images that pops up is this one from a press release from Harper Adams University:
Our highly valued and conscientious local paper doesn’t, apparently, know what the Labour group leader of the town it serves looks like, or possess a picture of him. When required, a beleaguered hack does a Google image search, grabs the first likely looking image, and crops it down to suit. This then, presumably, passes editorial control. Oddly, this isn’t the first time this has happened.
The original online article was deleted, and recompiled after extensive ribbing on Twitter, this time with the correct man featured. But it does leave an odd taste in the mouth. The reporters on the paper clearly don’t recognise our politicians – whilst I’ve ruminated on the refractive properties of the Labour Group previously, this is pretty piss poor, and makes you wonder what else is routinely fudged by hurried hacks with little local knowledge.
It seems that when it comes to internet images, there’s also an interesting approach to property rights and permission being exhibited here. Janine Heath, Video Journalist at Harper Adams, tweeted the following in response:
This puts the good old Express and Star on the same footing with magpie Facebook groups who don’t know their local patch, either. Nobody from the paper publicly acknowledged the error.
Remind me again about the integrity of local newspaper journalism?