So here we are / I am with one of these blog things.
I want to use it to interact with readers – the Chronicle is (I hope) a transparent newspaper, by which I don’t mean we use cheap paper you can see through. Though we do.
What I mean is, we try to explain stuff in footnotes and editorials, and round-up all our errors from time to time to explain why they happened. We will print fulsome corrections when required. Perhaps a blog can help with this process.
And any readers (though there are none at the moment) can make suggestions, comment and complain via this blog. We’ll see how it goes.
We’re actually on week two of the paper now and I’ve already had staff worrying about libel.
Leo Deen is a colourful local character – for colourful read “misunderstood eccentric Englishman” or “as mad as a hatter” depending on your take. He has a dream of a wildlife park in the hills above Congleton, with various animals that people can pet and stroke.
Cynics suggest he just wants to build a house in an area where he’s not allowed, and if he gets the wildlife park going, he can claim there’s a need for an on-site presence to protect his beasts.
Sadly his dreaming was not of a practical bent and so did not include planning permission, and last year Cheshire East tore it all down. Feral ferrets ate two of his pets while they were in the care of the council. His pets, not the ferrets. (And they could have been stoats).
Now he’s back and the council is not persuaded by the fact that he has put wheels under all his sheds to make them mobile, and so not fixed structures that need planning permission. Council officers are threatening once again to tear down his park and sequester all his furry friends, though hopefully in ferret-proof accommodation.
Now – and I’m getting to the libel, honest – he wants to stand as a councillor, presumably so he can shout at all the horrid people who’ve stopped him getting his park.
The question is: would Leo make a good councillor? He’s a man who once worked as a choreographer for Paula Abdul (no, really) before moving to Congleton, and his protests at officialdom have included a rooftop demo at his bank, dumping a dead goat outside the council offices and trying to run down a police man, for which he was convicted. He’s perhaps not a man for whom committee debate and protocol holds much appeal.
Our star columnist Mr Grumpy says that Mr Deen is a single issue candidate, who would not be of benefit to local democracy. He called him “loony Leo” and a “nutty nuisance” and it is those phrases that caused our subs to fear libel. I don’t think a man who dumped a dead goat at the council offices could object to being called a “nutty nuisance” – indeed, he sets out to be a nuisance and can be a bit erratic in behaviour – but I’ve removed the words from Mr Grumpy’s column.
On the other hand, it’s safe to say that Leo will not be bound by party politics and will never be bullied into toeing a party line so he might be a good councillor, standing up for the rights of his electorate. Trouble is: does he just want to cause a stink over his own issues, or does he really want to stir things up for the common good? He’d certainly be good copy.
Sad news this morning: a local man has been killed in a road accident. We know who it is, though the name has not been released so I won’t say. It’s someone I’ve drunk beer with, and talked to at length. When you read about the failings of the national press, and how callous they are, you forget that the regional press is made up of people who know the people they’re writing about.