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28 November 2019

NMA: Party Political ‘Newspapers’ Damage Trust In Journalism  

The News Media Association has hit out at political party campaigning material dressed up to look like local newspapers arguing that the practise damages trust in both local news media and in politicians during the election period.

Political parties have been accused this week of producing newspaper-style publications which imitate the look and feel of independent local newspapers but are in fact full of political campaigning material. 

The News Media Association said: “Political parties should not be seeking to copy the look and feel of independent local newspapers with their campaigning material. By scrutinising candidates on behalf of the public in communities across the UK, local news brands play a vital role in upholding democracy. Dressing up party political material as independent journalism undermines this and damages trust in both news media and politicians.”

In a letter to the Liberal Democrats, Newsquest editorial director Toby Granville said the party’s Mid Hampshire Gazette “newspaper” was undermining the “relationship of trust and confidence between readers and local newspapers generally.”    

The Conservative Party and the Labour Party have also been accused of producing local newspaper-style publications.

In an editorial on the issue this week, The Yorkshire Post said: “Politicians are the first to cry foul at 'fake news' when they believe the media has not lived up to the highest professional standards of accuracy and integrity demanded of the Fourth Estate.

“Yet here we have someone peddling imitation newspapers around the country in the hope that those reading them will be fooled into thinking the messages are checked and endorsed by the same local journalists who fought for their libraries; demanded their A&Es were saved; exposed that corrupt business person or found out the politician who was up to no good.

“The Yorkshire Post is calling this out because when political movements impersonate us, we are undermined. When ordinary readers realise they've been hoodwinked by the medium that looks just like ours, the next time they come to read journalism produced by us, they will trust it that bit less.

“This all leads to the powerful becoming more powerful; more insulated to scrutiny; less accountable to the public. It has to stop.”