Editors have moved to stress their newspapers’ neutrality after a week which saw party political advertisements adorn the front of many local titles.
As HTFP reported on Thursday, an identical wraparound promoting the Conservative Party appeared on the front pages of a number of papers prior to yesterday’s local elections.
The Chester Standard also recently ran a front page ad endorsing the city’s sitting Labour MP Chris Mathieson.
But after the Tory wrap was run by Brighton daily The Argus, Andy Parkes, Newsquest group managing editor for South London and Sussex, wrote an editorial to remind readers that the paper is “completely apolitical”.
Wrote Andy: “Every time we publish an ad which promotes a particular political party I always get complaints from those of a different persuasion. In fact, when I’m getting complaints from Conservatives, Labour supporters, Lib Dems and even a smattering of others, all saying we are biased and showing favour to a party other than theirs, I know we’re doing something right.
“It’s not that I want to upset anyone, it’s just that if I know I’m upsetting everyone equally and they’re all moaning we must be taking an even-handed and balanced approach.
“So, if you see advertisements in any of our newspapers, including this one, from any political party over the coming weeks please be assured I will have scrutinised it very carefully to see it complies with all our terms and conditions. I will also be checking that it falls within the very stringent guidelines set out by the Advertising Standards Authority.
“We will show no favour to any particular party but are bound to consider all applications for ads, from whichever political group, provided they adhere to our policies.”
The same wrap also appeared on the front page of the Exeter Express & Echo, whose editor Jim Parker said: “We would just like to emphasise that this week’s wrap-around of the Echo is an advertisement paid for by the Conservative Party. The Echo has always been and will continue to be politically independent.”
Patrick Phelvin, editor of Devon Live, the county-wide Trinity Mirror website which provides content for the Express & Echo added: “There is a distinct line between paid-for content and editorial content which we are proud to uphold. All our reporters and writers are impartial and work hard to ensure content is balanced and fair.”
Political advertising has also been carried by the Mansfield Chad, Rhy Journal, Stockport Express, Frinton Gazette, Chorley Citizen, Sutton Guardian, Westmorland Gazette, Derbyshire Times, Bury Times and Scunthorpe Telegraph in recent days.
Scotsman editorial director Frank O’Donnell has also told readers his newspaper will accept political advertising in the run up to the General Election.
In a piece launching the Edinburgh-based daily’s pre-election ‘manifesto’, Frank wrote: “Our first and most important pledge is The Scotsman will not tell you how to vote. Not at the council elections. Not at the General Election. And not at any future independence referendum.
“This title is politically independent and we believe that a quality newspaper should strive to present the facts without this being coloured by a political rosette. And let’s face it, there are many other newspapers who will do this.”
But he added: “As part of the build up to any election there will be a spike in advertising for political parties. The Scotsman will accept political advertising provided it is clearly marked as an advertisement and creates no confusion in the minds of readers with regular editorial copy. Accepting advertising does not indicate support for any political party.”