An editor and reporter have left a weekly newspaper after being suspended following the publication of a controversial column on transgender issues.
HTFP reported last month how Kentish Gazette editor Bob Bounds, left, and reporter Alex Claridge were suspended from duties pending an investigation by parent company the KM Group into the column, which ran earlier in October.
The Gazette apologised for the piece, written by Alex under the pseudonym ‘Harry Bell’, which mentioned a “very obvious transperson” living in Canterbury and described as a “bloke with a feminine haircut who wears women’s clothing”.
Harry added he had showed a picture of the person to five women, who had “correctly” said they were looking at a photograph of a man.
The column had also mentioned the case of convict Jessica Winfield, who underwent gender reassignment surgery while in prison after being sentenced in 1995 for a double rape while living as a man named Martin Ponting.
Winfield was reassigned to a women’s prison after the surgery, but in September The Sun reported she had been segregated from the main prison population for making inappropriate advances on other female prisoners, although a report in The Independent has disputed the reasoning for her segregation.
A statement apologising for the column’s publication appeared in the 12 October edition of the Gazette, while its letters page was given over to comments criticising the piece.
The statement read: “The Gazette has come in for heavy criticism over the publication of last week’s Harry Bell column, which included an item about transgender issues.
“When you get things wrong, the best course of action is to hold your hands up and say sorry. Last week’s column did get it wrong – badly wrong. We feel it is appropriate to dedicate our letters pages to the many messages we have had criticising the comments contained in the article.
“Harry Bell has never purported to be the Voice of the Gazette, nor to represent the views of anyone other than the author. However, we must take responsibility for providing the platform for such opinions to be aired.
“Over the course of its long history, the Gazette has prided itself on fighting for the community it serves. That includes all those who help make the Canterbury area such a diverse and wonderful place to live. Over the coming weeks we will be attempting to rebuild links with those upset by last week’s column and will ensure we learn from our mistake.”
Bob took over the Gazette’s editorship in February following the departure of Leo Whitlock, and was also responsible for the Whitstable Gazette, Herne Bay Gazette, Faversham News, Thanet Extra and East Kent Mercury.
KM Group has declined to comment further on Bob’s and Alex’s departure.