Media: How to Stay Ahead of the Pack ; in the West of England, Fox-Hunting Is a Topic That Fiercely Divides Communities. TERRY MANNERS, the Editor of the Western Daily Press, Warily Treads a Neutral Line to Keep the Hounds off His Tail
Manners, Terry, The Independent (London, England)
From the moment I walked across the newsroom of the Western Daily Press for the first time two years ago, I knew in my heart that the most sensitive and difficult content issue to be faced was the Hunt.
For a very long time, the newspaper had trodden a neutral line. It was, I quickly discovered, such a passionate subject that every line of copy had to be carefully considered, whether it appeared in a news or features page, in the letters column or even in our Saturday magazine.
I realised that we had to stay steadfastly neutral. There was no alternative, otherwise protagonists on one side or another might stop buying the paper - or worse, persuade others to go against us. So, it has been a hard, unforgiving exercise. For the Daily Press circulates throughout the heart of the West of England countryside... home to the Hunts of Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Somerset... the Beauforts, the Berkeleys and many more.
Communities in some of the towns and villages are bonded in one way or another to horses and hounds... making or supplying saddles, foodstuffs and boots. Or running stables and kennels. Many people have taken over this cottage industry tradition from fathers and grandfathers and some can date their businesses back to Henry V.
It is not surprising therefore that we have a large number of pro- hunt supporters in our readership. And yet very many of the anti- hunt letters we receive come from people stressing they, too, are born and bred countryfolk dating back generations.
That is why the Daily Press must sit on the fence and tap dance its way across the kennel sand. But we can never, and will never, ignore the argument. For the hunting debate is as much a way of life in the West as the hunt itself.
The West was split over the recent House of Commons vote to ban hunting throughout Britain. The next day and for the rest of the week, hunt supporters wrote to us vowing to fight the ban across the woodlands and meadows of our region. Meanwhile, anti-hunt protesters and many families in towns and villages celebrated the historic parliamentary move with parties. …