COMMENT: Political parties must stop imitating newspapers in election campaign materials - Press Gazette

Political parties must stop imitating newspapers in election campaign materials

Political parties must stop imitating newspapers in their election campaign material to avoid deceiving voters and damaging the reputations of trusted local news titles.

The Liberal Democrats have rightly come under fire from sections of the news media industry today for publishing pamphlets in the run-up to next month’s general election that ape local papers.

One carried the masthead “Mid-Hampshire Gazette”, which could be mistaken for Newsquest’s Basingstoke Gazette, and used a typical front page layout, complete with strapline, headline, columns and crossheads.

The only official mark indicating its true purpose to readers is an “imprint” showing the name of the printer and promoter that appears as if a picture caption in small font beneath an image of party leader Jo Swinson.

Failure to include this is an offence under Electoral Commission guidelines.

Lib Dem Mid Hampshire Gazette election material.

Another Lib Dem pamphlet in Yorkshire is styled on a tabloid, with a red top masthead identifying it as the “North West Leeds and Wharfedale News”. On this occasion the imprint runs along the top of the page in small font.

The Conservatives have also tried the tactic, publishing the newspaper-style “East Devon Future” in the South West. One local resident told the Sidmouth Herald he believed the pamphlet was a council publication.

The News Media Association and Society of Editors, two bodies representing the news industry in the UK, have both condemned apparent attempts to mislead voters by mimicking local newspapers.

While it has been common practice in the past, and the deception is perhaps obvious to most, in today’s climate where trust in papers is at a low and nearly two-thirds of Britons worry about “fake news” it must stop.

The attempt to deceive voters into believing they are reading a newspaper, however blatant, imperils the professional output of journalists at a time when our industry is under threat.

Local newspapers have long been praised as pillars of the communities they serve, so it is small wonder politicians are keen for some of this to rub off on them, but it is far better they engage with the press than try to copy it.

As such, Press Gazette is calling on all UK political parties to cease imitating newspapers, of any kind, in their campaign material.

We also call on the Electoral Commission to tighten regulations around campaign material, demanding imprints appear more prominently and banning the use of newspaper mastheads and copycat formats.

Picture: Reuters/Hannah McKay



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3 thoughts on “Political parties must stop imitating newspapers in election campaign materials”

  1. Toby Granville would be better off looking into which NewsQuest local editors or commercial heads allowed their papers to be wrapped by four page party political adverts made to look like the NQ papers themselves with fonts layouts and title mastheads mimicking the NQ publication ahead of the last general election, as if that’s not allowing the public to be fooled into thinking what they were holding was the newspapers own copy and comment and therefore allowing the “…dressing up party political material as independent journalism “
    I don’t know what is!

    Their action in taking advertising revenue in this manner “….undermines and damages trust in both news media and politicians.” so
    I think you need to look much closer to home for the real issue here TG and find out who in your organisation allowed misleading but probably lucrative ‘advertising’ in the guise of 4 page cover wraps to be published and why?
    That’s a much much bigger concern than assuming people cannot differentiate between a local paper and a pamphlet

  2. Press gazette and society of editors, can you also call on all regional publishers to stop taking party political cover wraps on ALL local papers too. These blatant attempts at encouraging parties to electioneer under a newspapers own masthead using similar fonts style and layouts are far more likely to mislead readers into believing the ad copy is actually the content and views of the publisher and paper.

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