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OurKingdom's coverage of the #indyref - biased?

Were we biased? #Yes, here's why.

The openDemocracy front page today has a huge Yes poster and we have published considerably more material for Yes than for No. Understandably this has caused some concern and irritation for some of our readers so we just wanted to reiterate our position. Here's Adam, firstly, a few days ago on his rolling blog:

"It was almost exactly a year ago now that I started co-editing OurKingdom. Almost as soon as I did, I had a meeting with Olly Huitson, my co-editor, in which he suggested that we break with our usual refusal to take a line on any issue, and support a yes vote in the Scottish referendum. As he put it to me "we're a site that's about democracy. A yes vote is obviously more democratic. I don't see how we can not support it."


Olly has never lived in Scotland, and at the time I was impressed at his instinctive understanding of the debate. I've come to get used to it. We discussed the idea further, and concluded that, on an issue on which almost all of the local, Scottish and UK press is aligned on one side, the way in which to provide balance is not to sit on the fence, but to go to the other end of the see-saw from them. The fact that, a few days before the referendum, the only London based publication other than us to back a Yes vote that I know of is Red Pepper magazine, whilst many of the biggest papers have backed a no, vindicates that choice, we feel.


We've had a few comments from loyal readers understandably questioning why what we publish leans so much in one direction. Our conclusion in that meeting is the answer. We will be running a couple of pieces from those hoping for a no vote in the coming days, and if you want to read more, then you'll find acres of column space making that case taken up by many of the most brilliant minds of the London media. Many of their arguments are good and should be taken seriously. But we will continue to be unashamed in leaning heavily in our publishing towards yes supporting articles, because that is the more democratic option, and that is the best way to provide balance in our otherwise wonky world."

I haven't much more to add than Adam. There are plenty of good reasons to vote No, but even the most die hard No voter would struggle to make the case that No is the democratic option; the No case is more an issue of economics, history, and social closeness and solidarity. If we try and support any line at openDemocracy, which has numerous sections and editors, the line is democracy. That's the first justification for our coverage.

The second is balance. Not internal balance at oD, but balance in the sense of trying to give people a balanced view in the context of a British media who have overwhelmingly supported the No camp. As James Marriot wrote:

"Arrayed against the Yes campaign has been the US Administration, the European Commission, the Pope, all three of the main UK political parties, the UK government, the Mayor of London, the British civil service, all the UK media except the Sunday Herald, the Bank of England, some of the UK’s largest financial institutions (RBS, Lloyds TSB, Tesco Bank, Clydesdale Bank, Standard Life), several of the UK’s corporations and major companies (Shell, BP, Kingfisher, Marks & Spencer, John Lewis Group, Asda, Timson, Next, The Weir Group), the collective opinion of the UK oil industry, the BBC (over the license fees)… And there’s doubtless pressure coming from behind the scenes in the form of the British Secret Intelligence Services, the Queen and Royal Household, and the British Armed Forces."

Offsetting the biases and failures of the dominant media is surely one of the things people like about independent sites like oD. We have still published some brilliant essays for No, the likes of Greg Philo and Jeremy Fox have made that case superbly on these pages.

I think our coverage of the debate, led by Adam and his epic 42 reasons, has been superb and I'm proud we backed Yes to the hilt. I hope our readers understand why we did it, even if they're in the No camp.


About the authors

Oliver Huitson is a former Co-Editor at openDemocracyUK and a freelance journalist. He contributed chapters to Jenny Manson's 2012 book, Public Service on the Brink, and NHS SOS (2013). He has written for The Guardian, The New Statesman, Vice and the BBC. He is on Twitter as @OllyHuitson

Adam Ramsay is the co-editor of openDemocracyUK and also works with Bright Green. Before, he was a full-time campaigner with People & Planet. You can follow him at @adamramsay.

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