In an extraordinary move, which will only serve to confirm the view of many that the newspaper has now given up any pretence of being independent following it's six year £75,000 a year political propaganda deal with the council, the Chronicle printed Mr Slaughter's regular column minus one particular paragraph.
So what could this be, this contentious piece of text, this outrageous heresy that they would rather you not see? In the spirit of providing you the reader with the unvarnished truth I can reveal that the burning nugget, the earth shattering sentence of sin that fell foul of the Fulham Chronicle censors'-pen was thus:
"Sadly, this newspaper is also prey too such tactics, reporting the White City and Shepherd's Bush Market schemes without any critical commentary, and of course carrying the council's propaganda pages, paid for from our council tax."
Why on earth would the Chronicle not want you to read that? I can't imagine. And who is the Chief Censor at the Chronicle? Surely not "talented hack with a passion for turf" Adam Courtney? I think we should be told.
Speaking to me yesterday Mr Slaughter said of the paper's censorship:
This does continue a worrying trend that used to regularly charecterise H&F News, the propaganda paper which the Government called a "Town Halll Pravda" and forced the council too close down. Even in its last issue it was taking money for advertisements, such as from the Parents Alliance for Community Schools, and then censoring the adverts. We now see this practice has followed seamlessly through into the Fulham Chronicle, and is also reflected in their coverage of several large scale stories. The White City regeneration project is a case in point - I wrote it up as a "row" reflecting the conflicting opinions among residents and politicians of different parties. The Chronicle merely described a "major development" as having been "unveiled", quoting only the Council and Boris Johnson. They must have run out of space to quote anyone else."it proves the point I was making that the paper is no longer independent of the council and they are understandably sensitive about that"
Perhaps this is the Chronicle's way of responding to Private Eye's description of the Chronicle as not being a "proper paper" anymore, now that they are in the pay of the spin doctors.
Whether you agree with Andy Slaughter and what he has to say or not - and I frequently don't - surely censoring an elected representative like this is a worrying sign for how this propaganda deal they have signed up to with our council is affecting the local media and therefore our democracy. And that's bad for all of us - remember we are now paying for this censored version of the truth.
1430 UPDATE - Well this has caused quite a stir in amongst the national media it would seem. One seasoned journalist on a national newspaper simply said of the Chronicle's actions "this is extraordinary". While another, media commentator Roy Greenslade of the Guardian has posted this article about the Chronicle's bias following my article. In it he notes that the previous protestations of innocence by self-styled 'talented hack with a passion for turf' Adam Courtney all predated the propaganda contract and were therefore "irrelevant". He goes on to ask simply:
"Can the paper show that it is still an independent publication holding local power to account?
I have pulled up several stories on its website from May and June and can find nothing in the least bit critical of the council.
That's not conclusive proof that it is a propaganda organ. But it is surprising, is it not"?Er, yes. Patsy articles that ask softly softly questions about how democratic the council is, while ignoring opinions that run counter to the Council on the big issues of the day just won't wash. So let's see a little less propaganda Fulham Chronicle and a bit more 'proper paper' - or have we passed the point of no return?
THURSDAY UPDATE - The propagandists at the Chronicle have been furiously tweeting a Press Gazette article that has been published today denouncing my claims and those of other journalists who question the Chronicle's independence. Though the article quotes extensively from the Council and the Chronicle it strangely has nothing to say about
- how the paper censors the local MP;
- why the paper doesn't seek views other than the councils on the big issues of the day such as the White City regeneration, or;
- the fact that both Private Eye and the Guardian have questioned the paper's neutrality