Debate is so important if you want a free press

PUBLISHED: 17:33 08 March 2018 | UPDATED: 20:01 08 March 2018

Norwich Evening News and Norwich Advertiser editor David Powles. Photo : Steve Adams

Norwich Evening News and Norwich Advertiser editor David Powles. Photo : Steve Adams

Copyright Archant Norfolk 2016

There are often periods doing this wonderful job where you don’t get much time to switch-off.

That has certainly been the case this last week or so as myself and our teams have tried to keep readers in print and online informed of the disruption caused by the snow.

Thanks to the internet, news literally never sleeps so when you have a story like that it is easy for it to become all encompassing.

Going into last weekend, therefore, I looked forward to a couple of quieter days - but of course life is never as simple as that. As those who have been following closely will know, what then happened was wide scale reaction to Saturday’s column on homelessness by Steve Downes.

However, prior to that I had been dealing with two email exchanges that ironically came at the same time - one of which accused our publications of being too pro-Conservative and the other too pro-Labour. Just to make it clear we are neither and take pride in the fact. Our only bias is towards Norfolk and Suffolk and what is best for the region.

In case you missed it, Steve’s column covered the debate around whether handouts to the homeless are the best way to help them in the long-term, a view shared by many, among them Big Issue founder John Bird.

But I’m not using this column to debate that particular issue, more to raise my own personal concerns that we live in a society where it is so much easier for people to have their voices heard, undoubtedly a great thing, yet people seem so much more intolerant of people having an opposing opinion.

I stand by the fact Steve’s column raised important issues. But some of the attacks on him by those who disagree and some of the claims made about this paper have been unfair.

Take a reasoned look at our coverage over the last 12 months of issues such as homelessness, Universal Credit, care, domestic violence and more and surely being uncompassionate and uncaring, as we have been accused, is an unfounded charge?

What we are, however, is the portal for important debate and a free press has the obligation to present all sides of an issue, even if it may be unpalatable to some.

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