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Newspapers to review ad policy after Tory wraparound furore

Two newspapers which carried four-page wraparound ads for the Conservative Party in the week before the general election are to review their ad policies following public criticism of the move.

The Eastbourne Herald and Hastings & St Leonards Observer are promising a to carry out a “full review” on whether to accept such wraps in future, particularly from political parties, after comments from readers on social media.

Gary Shipton, editor-in-chief of the two Johnston Press weeklies, announced the review in a statement published on their respective websites.

The same wrap also appeared in a number of other regional papers in the days leading up to Thursday’s poll, with more than 1,200 campaigners calling on the Observer to apologise for “prostituting” its front page, pictured below.

Hastings Tories

Said Gary: “It is clear from the comments we have received that some people feel that this type of advertisement, presented as it was by the Conservative Party in an editorial style, gave the impression that the newspaper supported the party.

“That could not be further from the truth. We are proudly and fiercely politically independent.

“Our only concern is to champion this community and all its residents and workers irrespective of their political outlook. We very much regret it if some readers were given the impression that our neutrality has been compromised.

“In those circumstances it is wholly appropriate to review our advertising policy so that we clearly respond to the genuine concerns of our readers and the people in this community.”

The wrap was also carried in other JP titles including the Lancaster Guardian, although a spokeswoman for the publisher confirmed the review would not be taking place group wide.

Among those who criticised the were former Daventry Express and Craven Herald editor Matt Cornish, who described it as “inexcusable” on Twitter, and Labour’s candidate for the Morecambe and Lunesdale constituency, Amina Lone.

31 comments

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  • May 12, 2015 at 9:12 am
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    Too bloody late! Achieved its – and probably Johnston Press’s – aim, didn’t it.

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  • May 12, 2015 at 9:29 am
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    As Sub Up North says, apologies and ‘reviews’ are way too late. The only just response is to offer the Labour Party the same facility in all the newspapers which carried this blatant partisan ad, before the next General Election in 2010 (or sooner if Scotland declares UDI). It won’t happen, of course.

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  • May 12, 2015 at 10:06 am
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    We can throw all sorts of mud at JP and the others but I don’t think there is any political conspiracy here – surely they will take anybody’s money?
    Many people are missing the point, these ads were just one part of the ‘media mix’ devised by the parties’ election teams aimed at target seats. I have seen ads for Labour and UKIP candidates also delivered in the final weeks of the campaign.
    It so happens that the Conservative’s national strategy won the day this time and perhaps we as journalists should bone up on just how sophisticated and contrived these strategies are – and that includes the treatment of the press on the stump.
    Next time it should be for individual editors to decide how these ads are presented – or if they are rejected. Having said that, quite what the local media will actually look like and who it will actually reach come 2020 remains to be seen.

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  • May 12, 2015 at 10:20 am
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    Errr the Labour Party were quite at liberty to advertise, too, Paul.

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  • May 12, 2015 at 10:26 am
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    You believe that, you’ll believe anything.

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  • May 12, 2015 at 10:31 am
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    Paul, by 2020 all that’ll be left of the newspaper industry will be a Twitter account and Janet Street Porter’s glasses.

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  • May 12, 2015 at 10:32 am
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    Bizarre that it should need a formal ‘review’ for JP’s revenue-hungry editor to realise he prostituted the editorial independence of his titles by accepting this cunning wheeze from Conservative HQ. Would he have accepted an editorially-designed wrap from Labour, highlighting such issues as bedroom tax, zero-hours contract and non-doms?

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  • May 12, 2015 at 10:54 am
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    Has anyone thought to question Archant on why the day before and the day of the election itself they carried a four page wrap for the Labour Party around their Great Yarmouth free paper?
    Internally an ad manager when asked said it was done for’ purely commercial reasons ‘ irrespective of the legality of the act or the possible fall out from non labour supporting businesses
    A shocking sign of how quality and ethics have been brushed aside in the chase for a quick buck at Archant

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  • May 12, 2015 at 11:35 am
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    Too little too late. They’ve lost readers and trust for the sake of a couple of grand.

    The Observer article is rather mealy mouthed too, basically saying they’ve done nothing legally wrong and it was labelled as an ad.

    It was labelled, but not very clearly. And as it’s deliberately mimicking the style of the newspaper, it was designed to mislead.

    And even if it was more clear and in a different style, it wouldn’t have been palatable enough to justify how many readers it would annoy.

    JP should just admit they got it wrong, apologise properly and state clearly that it’ll never happen again.

    Short term financial gain which harms the newspaper – this basically seems to be the business model for local papers these days.

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  • May 12, 2015 at 11:46 am
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    At least the Lancaster Guardian’s shameful little ruse failed when the Labour candidate ousted the city’s Tory MP. And though they may have made a quick buck off the wrap the paper’s reader will long remember this shameful editorial decision.

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  • May 12, 2015 at 11:53 am
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    Message to “Confused”. Last time I looked, those papers didn’t have “individual editors”. Where have you been for the last couple of years?

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  • May 12, 2015 at 12:43 pm
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    Employee x i think the editors coughed and looked the other way, wo betide anyone, least of all an editor ( or their many assistant) challenging a commercial decision here these days
    Just wonder what the local non labour business community thought when seeing an Archant freebie keeping the red flag flying high, but to be fair they’d have taken the cash off anyone if it got them a wrap irrespective of party or politics so in that respect it wasn’t strictly supporting labour
    Oh, and labour lost so now watch them sidle up to the blues
    You gotta laugh

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  • May 12, 2015 at 1:02 pm
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    To those who criticise: You have no idea what it’s like to live in the real world of balance sheets and potential job losses.

    And if you think a wraparound would influence any voter you must be dafter than you see,

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  • May 12, 2015 at 1:07 pm
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    Lock the door, someone – I think I can hear the sound of a horse bolting…

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  • May 12, 2015 at 3:15 pm
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    Dave, as ever you make daft points and reveal yourself as someone who’s never been a journalist.

    ‘Balance sheets and job losses’ is a nonsense, as these wraparounds wouldn’t have been enough money to turn around a paper’s struggling fortunes, but would have been more than enough for them to lose credibility as impartial news sources in the eyes of the readers.

    Impartiality is the fundamental principle of journalism, so this is not simply a case of doing something for a few quid, if you don’t understand that already you never will (or, I suspect, your never will).

    People can be influenced by anything, Ed Miliband probably lost the election because he looked daft eating a bacon sandwich. When it comes to the electorate, brains and insight are not usually high on the agenda.

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  • May 12, 2015 at 3:43 pm
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    You’re talking rubbish Jeff.
    I know exactly how much was paid – and it DOES make a difference.
    As for principles, a byline doesn’t pay the mortgage, it’s the adverts around your story that keep the place afloat.

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  • May 12, 2015 at 3:54 pm
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    This sad situation was the inevitable result of the trend now consuming – destroying – the regional press.
    Upper management is now made up almost exclusively of accountants and former ad reps – a cabal of grubby little moneymen who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
    These papers have traded in their hard-won credibility as legitimate news sources for short-term gains. They will end up paying the ultimate price.
    No use arguing the point with the culprits.
    These are the type of people who wouldn’t know a book from a house brick and think Britain’s Got Talent is the height of culture.
    They are crappy little suburbanites, suits without substance, and wouldn’t know a principle from a Big Mac and fries.
    So long, regional papers – once the bedrock of British journalism.
    You are doomed – thanks to trashy, tenth-rate management whose only objective is to turn a fast buck.

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  • May 12, 2015 at 4:29 pm
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    Crackington – that’s possibly the best comment I’ve ever seen on this site.

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  • May 12, 2015 at 4:41 pm
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    Dave, it’s like a hospital opening a McDonald’s on the premises, ultimately self defeating. As I say, if you were a journo you’d understand that, it wouldn’t need to be explained to you, it’s obscene.

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  • May 12, 2015 at 5:36 pm
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    “As for principles, a byline doesn’t pay the mortgage, it’s the adverts around your story that keep the place afloat.”
    Dave shows the bottom-line, bone-headed attitude that has done more than anything else to kill regional journalism over the last 30 years. Crackington, on the other hand, describes the reality.

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  • May 12, 2015 at 6:33 pm
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    Apologise? The way the accountants are destroying once-principled newspapers, most of them will be history by the next election. Some sad night when the presses are finally silence, the obituary will be – ‘It’s a wrap.’

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  • May 12, 2015 at 6:44 pm
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    Dave are you or have you ever been a journalist? or are you from the commercial sector? If you simply judge the worth and credibility of a newspaper title on the £2-3k max the wrap would have brought in you’re showing complete naivety
    The only one clapping with glee at this would be the rep on whose figures the wraps revenue would be accredited, result= helps to hit a monthly sales target, gets a bonus and keep the nylon suits off his or her backs , real result = lack of credibility for the paper, and the editor who allowed this to be published or stood aside and turned the other cheek and alienating a vast proportion of the readership who doesn’t vote for the party in question.
    Only a sales rep or bean counter would try to defend this smash and grab decision to grab a quick buck
    If this is how desperate someone’s become to get ad revenue then it’s another nail in the regional presses coffin

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  • May 12, 2015 at 6:54 pm
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    So typical of JP. The horse has bolted so many times over the years. Dimwits in top positions sadly.

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  • May 12, 2015 at 6:58 pm
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    It is known certain JP editors have let their Tory tendencies get the better of them in the past. Going easy on their favourites. Their staff know who they are.

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  • May 12, 2015 at 7:00 pm
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    Ps Dave
    If you think a wrap around wouldn’t influence a voter then why are you trying to justify it being published?
    Maybe look a bit closer at that balance sheet you refer to and see how many jobs will ultimately be ‘ saved’ thanks to the daring heroics of a rep booking a wrap to get a few quid onto his sales figures at any cost , figures that might trigger a monthly bonus payment which in terms of overall costs will do more damage to the bottom line than if they’d turned this cover wrap down in the first place.
    That’s the real world of costs and finances

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  • May 12, 2015 at 7:10 pm
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    We simply don’t do 4-page wraps. The front page is an important part of the paper and we don’t have any plans to hide it, plus we have some adverts on the front page and they have paid to be on the front page, not on page 3!

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  • May 12, 2015 at 10:57 pm
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    I agree the wrap destroyed the papers integrity and political independence . but it has to be recognised the newspaper industry is so desperate for income it will sell its soul. It might be the decision was made with the best of intentions, to protect jobs, but it was a hugely cynical one politically and journalistically. Or incredibly naive. Best to move on and learn.

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  • May 13, 2015 at 10:26 am
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    We had two political parties express an interest in advertising with a wrap. One – UKIP – decided not to bother. The other – Labour – went ahead. Meanwhile, both parties took out large adverts inside the paper.

    All were obviously signposted as adverts and I fail to see any issue. If the other parties are cheesed off, they could and should have advertised as well.

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  • May 13, 2015 at 1:08 pm
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    The galling part of it all is that the suits and accountants can’t see what there is to apologise for.

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  • May 13, 2015 at 5:39 pm
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    It’s all so short sighted. If the editorial content loses its credibility, so does the advertising content. Result – lower circulation, lower revenue.

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