The publisher of a regional paper has vigorously defended inviting two local council leaders on to an editorial advisory panel.
As part of a major overhaul last weekend, Kent on Sunday laid out a set of guiding principles for the paper and unveiled a group of eight key local figures to act as editorial advisers.
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These included the leaders of Kent and Medway councils, sparking a reaction from Press Gazette readers on Twitter, questioning whether the Archant title would maintain its editorial integrity.
But publisher Simon Irwin told Press Gazette that the panel, which also includes the bishop of Dover and Kent’s police and crime commissioner, would have no influence on the day-to-day running of the paper.
“There will be no interference of any sort at all,” said Irwin. “The point about this panel is that we have set out our guiding principles that we think we can stick to.
“Anybody who thinks the council leaders will be telling us what to put in the paper needs their head looking at.”
He explained that the panel, which will meet once a quarter, would look at the paper “retrospectively” to ensure it is sticking to the principles to which it has committed.
Asked whether any members of the panel would be able to veto stories, Irwin responded: “They won’t see it at all until they see it in the paper. It’s all retrospective.”
He added: ”We will listen to people but only as we would with any other member of the public. What we are saying is that we want to engage with people, but we won’t be governed by them.
The eight-member panel will meet for the first time in November or December. Irwin said the membership would be refreshed “as often as it needs to be” and said the paper was looking at how it could include a readers’ representative on the board.
Kent on Sunday, which has a free circulation of around 40,000, relaunched last weekend with a new picture-led front page and revamped features section.