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Editor slams Lib Dems over ‘free newspaper’ with similar name to weekly

A weekly editor has hit out at the Liberal Democrats for publishing a an election pamphlet with a similar name to the title she runs.

Katie French, who edits the Basingstoke Gazette, has criticised the Lib Dems over the party’s publication the Mid Hampshire Gazette, which has been produced in support of Paula Ferguson, its election candidate for Winchester.

The Mid Hampshire Gazette describes itself as a “free newspaper” covering several local districts, with the words “Liberal Democrats” appearing in very small print at the top right of the front page.

The distance between Basingstoke and Winchester is around 18 miles.

Lib Dem Gazette

Katie told Channel 4 News: “It is deeply worrying that despite much debate about transparency and honesty, the Liberal Democrats here in Hampshire have shamelessly exploited the trusted format of a local newspaper for their own political gain.

“This is nothing more than a political advertisement dressed up as a newspaper. The look and feel of this advertisement is very convincing and readers will have to spot the small print in the top right corner to see the so-called Mid Hampshire Gazette is published by the Liberal Democrats.

“This is a flagrant attempt to manipulate voters by presenting them an advertisement in the form of a front page news story. Frankly it is insulting to the public who deserve better from one of the leading political parties.

“It is also offensive to local journalists, including my team, who work very hard to be the trusted and balanced voices in the community.

“As non-broadcast political adverts are largely exempt from regulation, we will be writing a letter of complaint to the Liberal Democrat party.”

The Lib Dems have defended the publication. A spokesman for the party told Channel 4: “Liberal Democrats pride ourselves on working hard locally all year round on the issues that matter to local people.

“During an election period this even more important and we are committed to informing people about the issues that matter to them.”

Last month HTFP reported how the Kentish Gazette had been forced to distance itself from a publication called the Canterbury and Whitstable Gazette, which had been produced by the Canterbury Constituency Conservative Association.

4 comments

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  • November 26, 2019 at 10:28 am
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    Interesting that the comments from the Lib Dem spokesperson to Channel 4 news in no way address or answer Katie’s basic assertion that their political advert is clearly trying to masquerade as an independent newspaper.

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  • November 26, 2019 at 10:52 am
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    I’m firmly on the side of the BG here but isn’t it ironic that a publisher is concerned ( quite rightly) that a political Party publication looks like an established weekly when prior to the last general election many publisher and editors welcomed their title being wrapped using the papers own mast head by whichever political party was prepared to pay the price.

    The big concern many of us voiced at the time was the blatant attempt to fool the public into believing the paid for political wrap message was written by the weekly papers staff and was being psssed offf as news, with the editors trying to justify the clear cut compromise of their brand rather than taking a stance and turning the money away,even under pressure from ad staff to allow it.
    I appreciate this is different but the door to this kind of party political stunt has been well and truly opened and needs, in my view, an industry wide directive to refuse any political wraps around any local paper, particularly in the run up to a general election.
    allow them to advertise inside as a clear advert but attempting to mislead the public in this way must be stopped

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  • November 26, 2019 at 11:37 am
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    Good luck to the Gazette in their attempts to stop this and in highlighting the level of false news some parties are prepared to go to to mislead potential voters but I am with Employee x ‘ on the wider issue.

    The number of editors prepared to allow a four page party political message to be published under the papers own name as a wrap in a thinly disguised attempt at convincing voters this was the papers own ‘front page news’ was incredible.
    Quite why an editor would allow themselves and their paper to be bought by the highest bidder is beyond me and needs to be stopped, it also shows that when all else fails integrity and credibility can be bought, it’s just a matter of agreeing a price..

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  • November 26, 2019 at 2:32 pm
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    It’s double standards ,correct me if I’m wrong but I’m sure some NQ free papers along with other titles produced by the bigger boys in regional publishing ,took four page cover wraps prior to the last general election?
    It’s all very well grabbing the lucrative revenue and one week sales spike this may give but you can’t then complain about it when the political parties use the same or similar tactic when producing their own party publications.

    Stones and Glass houses come to mind here

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