Grey Cardigan

The perils of the political wrap

SO YOU’RE the editor of a weekly newspaper, sitting at your desk fighting off tears of exhaustion as you clock up your 40th hour of the working week even though it’s only Wednesday, and the ad manager wanders in with a big smile on his moisturised face.

Great news,” he says. “We’ve sold a wrap for next week’s paper.”

You inwardly sigh, because crap like this goes against everything you’ve always stood for – a strong front page packed with great stories and pictures that will fly off the newsagent’s counter. But needs must when the devil drives.

OK,” you say. “Who’s it for?”

UKIP,” says Mr Smarm.


Oh, for fuck’s sake. This is shit you really don’t need at the moment. And this is the dilemma. Your newspaper is politically neutral and always has been. You can’t turn the wrap down unless you’re prepared to ban all political advertising from your pages – the equivalent of a commercial suicide note when editors are regarded as instantly dispensable by newspaper managements. And you can’t ban UKIP just because you find some of their policies abhorrent. You are not judge and jury in this matter. UKIP is not a proscribed organisation. They have equal standing with the main political parties and enjoy the exposure of party political broadcasts on BBC and ITV.

On the other hand, you know that this won’t play well with most of your readers. Not comprehending the intricacies of the situation, many will see four pages of purple and yellow bile as some kind of endorsement of the party. The letters page is going to go mad. All the other candidates will publicly denounce you, even though they are quite able to buy the same exposure should they wish. And there is little you can do to defend yourself beyond a desperate explanation in your leader column. You’re trapped, and there’s no escape.

This is not a fictional scenario but one that has afflicted editors across the country this week, from Lincoln, where the Conservatives bought a wrap, to parts of London, where UKIP ‘bought’ the front page of the News Shopper series. I also happen to know that the BNP are planning to advertise on the websites of some of Archant’s London titles.

It’s a difficult issue, but one that could be instantly resolved if newspaper managements showed real integrity and respect for their readers and had the bollocks to introduce the aforementioned ban on all political advertising, or at least restricted what could and couldn’t be bought. Unfortunately, we’re run by the kind of people who’d sell their sister for a shilling, so don’t hold your breath on that front.

ANOTHER bloodbath at Newsquest last week, with some excellent editors booted out of their once-excellent newspapers. Amongst the dearly departed were Malcolm Warne at the Darlington & Stockton Times while the Craven Herald, which I’ve always regarded as a brilliant example of what a local weekly should be, is set to lose its third editor in as many years.

I won’t recite the usual nonsense quotes from management, but bear in mind that this is a company that thinks that one single editor can run 18 of its southern titles. Utter madness.

And I have bad news for other Newsquest centres. I’m reliably informed that the Grim Reaper is on his way, with further massive cuts in the pipeline.

Still, it’s not all doom and gloom. At Gannett HQ, where CEO Gracia Martore recently pocketed an eye-watering $12.4 million pay packet, time, energy and money was spent on producing a bizarre in-house video, featuring top execs and the boss herself as lead singer. If you can stomach it, you can watch it here:

Now turn that frown upside down.

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Grey Cardigan

Written by Grey Cardigan

The Grey Cardigan has been in newspapers since the days of hot metal and expense accounts. After a lengthy career as chief sub on several regional newspapers, plus a multitude of shifts on the nationals, he was appointed editor of the Evening Beast in 2009 before being ignominiously 'rationalised' last year. He is currently collecting gas in jam jars in case the Russians cut us off. @thegreycardigan

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