View all newsletters
Sign up for our free email newsletters

Fighting for quality news media in the digital age.

  1. Publishers
  2. Regional Newspapers
November 26, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 8:39am

Political parties must stop imitating newspapers in election campaign materials

By Freddy Mayhew

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.

Content from our partners
MHP Group's 30 To Watch awards for young journalists open for entries
How PA Media is helping newspapers make the digital transition
Publishing on the open web is broken, how generative AI could help fix it

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

Topics in this article :

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

Websites in our network