The National:

This week’s Behind the Headlines comes from managing editor Stewart Ward. To receive the newsletter direct to your inbox every week for free, click here.

I DON’T care about being impartial as a journalist. And why should I?

It’s an insult often levelled at The National by our critics and one that was put to us again this week – “oh, you’re not very balanced, are you?”

A quick glance at the BBC's coverage on climate change will expose the danger of seeking balance for balance's sake. 

In reality, what is grating is that we take clear stances on major issues. I want to conclude this piece with a question to those frustrated by this – but first, let me say that I’m well aware of the requirements on The National as a newspaper. I have spent years dealing with IPSO's requirements! It is absolutely essential that our journalism is accurate and fair.

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We strive towards these values and our journalists know how crucial they are.

That does not mean we can’t have a news agenda. We’re simply open about ours and this fact has resulted in praise for our transparency, too.

News flash: Other media titles also have agendas.

The National: A stock image of a pile of newspapers including The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Daily Express and The Sun. Picture date: Saturday February 20, 2021.

If there is a good news story about Scottish achievements, it is higher on our agenda. We’re not sorry for that. We also want to amplify those whose voices are kept at the fringes.

And I’m well aware of the history of impartiality in the industry. A radical press is very much part of that fabric, challenging the dominant structures of society.

But I’m not going to be impartial. When the Home Office calls me at almost midnight to rubbish a story about someone sent to the horrific Dungavel House immigration removal centre, forgive me for sticking to my guns and being sceptical about their claims.

I simply can’t help but remember the sheer number of outrages produced from that UK Government department and its hostile environment. That shapes my journalistic decisions – and in the case I’m referring to, that was very much justified as our story turned out to be entirely accurate and the Home Office was in the wrong.

The National: The Home Office faces a ‘huge challenge’ to clear the asylum backlog by the end of the year, a committee has said (Alamy/PA)

It is, of course, valid to be an “impartial” newspaper. Indeed, a Newsquest-owned title based in Enniskillen, the Impartial Reporter, trades off that value and its readers know what to expect from it. The key is being transparent with our stance and accurate in our reporting.

So, my question to the critics of our partiality: Do you actually care about balance in the news industry?

You make it clear that it’s a source of much ire to you that The National takes a clear and loud stance on the big issues of our day. We lack “balance”.

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Does that not also apply to the fact that 50% of Scots who want independence have only one newspaper to represent them? Is that not an issue of balance? Does it not concern you that us taking a stance on independence means being boycotted by advertisers who have no such qualms about being in Unionist newspapers?

If that doesn’t concern you, then spare us the faux outrage about our lack of “impartiality” and let us keep focusing on the work our readers want us to do – fighting for a better future for Scotland outside of a toxic Union and condemning oppression.

We’re proud to be for Scotland and to do things differently.