Timely warning from Steve Dyson on his blog reviewing regional newspapers, hosted by HoldtheFrontPage, about the dangers to the credibility of newspapers willing to sell front page ad-wraps to political parties in the run-up to the General Election.
He shows how the Newsquest-owned Croydon Guardian carried a front page wrap headlined 'Labour's Tax Bombshell' with only a minute script pointing out it was an advert.
Dyson condemns it as "blatantly biased political garbage masquerading as an article" which "made the paper feel like a Tory weapon, despite the tiny 'Advertisement' line."
He adds: "I understand that free newspapers have to incorporate ad-wraps to make their P&Ls work.
"But someone senior in an Ivory Tower somewhere should surely be insisting on minimum design standards, taste and, especially at this pre-election time, political neutrality. I reckon this responsibility is the publishers, in this case a Newsquest director, and that he/she should lay down rigorous expectations to would-be advertisers."
Dyson's opinion seems to be shared by posters to his blog. Johnston Press Fan Club comments: "When jumped-up little ad reps take the controls, whaddya expect? A poor, poor example of journalism being trampled all over in exchange for a fast buck. Sadly, the know-nothings don't realise a shell of paper cobbled together by a skeleton newsroom is noticeable to readers." Roy: "A paper crying out for a senior editorial figure with the balls to kick up a stink over this kind of wrap (Ok, much easier said than done, I know, but I hope at least they put up a fight). And Steve, 40 pages of property advertising will only make the opposing MD salivate if it's being sold at a decent rate rather than being given away as a loss-leader, which is the case at some of the other Newsquest South London titles." AndyP: "And what if the BNP wants to spend 2k on a wraparound? Surely they can't accept one blatant propaganda sheet while turning down the next. It'll all end in tears..."
I am a freelance journalist based in the UK and was deputy editor of Press Gazette, the journalists' magazine, from 1993 until 2006. I want to give an independent view on media matters.
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