A regional daily has printed a front page wraparound paid for by the Liberal Democrats the day before the European Union referendum.
The News, Portsmouth, ran the wrap yesterday, which urged readers to vote for Britain to stay in the European Union in today’s referendum.
A journalist at The News took to Twitter to defend the paper’s neutrality after one reader, Scott Harris, accused it of being a ‘Lib Dem Rag’.
Miles O’Leary said on the social networking site he had strived throughout the referendum campaign to be “balanced and sit on the fence.”
Editor Mark Waldron told HTFP: “The editorial of The News remains democratic, relevant, impartial, free of political bias and unswayed by advertising – it always has been and always will. W
“We have remained neutral on the referendum throughout the campaign and this is still the case today despite the advertising wrap around the paper.
“The front page is clearly marked as an advert. And if you look through today’s paper we do actually carry ‘leave’ ads from local businesses on page 13 and across pages 16 and 17.
“We are an independent newspaper but we are also a commercial business and so we do take advertising from a wide range of sources – including political parties – providing it meets legal requirements and criteria laid down by the Advertising Standards Authority.”
Last year two of The News’s Johnston Press sister titles on the south coast, the Eastbourne Herald and Hastings & St Leonards Observer, pledged to carry out a “full review” on whether to accept wraps from political parties.
More than 1,200 campaigners called on the Observer to apologise for “prostituting” its front page after carrying an advert for the Conservative Party in the week of the general election.
Elsewhere, Exeter Express & Echo senior reporter Katie French organised a last minute EU referendum debate attended by, among others, musician Billy Bragg, UKIP chairman Steve Crowther and Labour MP Ben Bradshaw.
Mr Johnson, a former journalist at the paper, said the UK was better off “taking back control” and “starting a new relationship based on friendship, free trade and inter-governmental co-operation”, while Mr Osborne said the EU made Britain “stronger and more powerful” as a country and warned that leaving would mean “less money” for the NHS and other services.
The Petersfield Post, in Hampshire, splashed with a collage of people it had vox popped about their voting intentions, pictured below, as part of 12 pages of referendum coverage inside this week’s edition.
Editor Graeme Moir said: “The fact this decision to stay in or leave really will be the people’s choice when you look at how tight the opinion polls are is what we have tried to reflect with our front page – it really will be down to ‘E-You’, the pun we used in the headline.
“The other message we have tried to push to readers is the importance of voting – our stance on in or out is neutral but it is absolutely crucial people use their right to vote and ensure they have a say on one of the biggest decisions in the history of our country.
“We have also tried to produce an edition which reflects the historic occasion of this referendum and the fact this will be one of the most important days in this country’s history as well as Petersfield and the surrounding area.”