A former editor of the Scottish Sun has accused the Daily Record of hypocrisy after it published an “advertorial” feature on a public health scheme only days after criticising it.
Jack Irvine, now chief executive of PR firm Media House International, called the paper a “disgrace” and accused it of misleading readers by portraying paid-for advertising features as editorial.
On 13 January the Record published an article about a Scottish Executive public health campaign headlined “The Soap Tsars” which read: “Taxpayers will have to fork out £1million ¡ª to teach Scots how to wash their hands.”
A leader column in the same day’s paper said: “The executive are spending £2.5million on telling us how to wash our hands. More than £1million of that sum will go on employing 19 soap tsars to get the message across.
“The Executive have a reputation for interfering in other people’s business¡ but surely this is step too far even for Holyrood standards?”
Five days later the Record published a two-page feature highlighting the value of the scheme, headlined “Hands up if you wash”. A subheading said the initiative, part of the Executive’s Healthy Scotland campaign, was “the best weapon in the fight against health horrors”.
Both pieces in the 18 January edition displayed the Executive’s Healthy Scotland campaign logo, but were not labelled as advertising.
Irvine said: “It’s a disgrace. The Record just cheerfully swallows this money.” Irvine claims his former employer, the Sun, was willing to take the Executive’s ads, but refused when it was told it was not allowed to label the pieces as advertisements.
The Scottish Executive said the same deal was available to every newspaper.
A spokeswoman said: “We discussed the editorial features with all newspapers, including the Sun, but the Daily Record was the first to come back with a valuefor- money offer.”
Daily Record editor Bruce Waddell was unavailable for comment when Press Gazette went to press.
In his column two weeks ago The Guardian’s Simon Jenkins criticised a supplement paid for by the Housing Market Renewal Partnership ¨C which, he said, had looked like it was editorial.
Jenkins said that to present “public relations as journalism… was close to sleaze”.
The supplement carried a small disclaimer on page one: “Produced by the Guardian in association with the Housing Market Renewal Partnership.”
Another supplement in the Guardian, a weerk later, paid for by the Commission for Rural Communities, was clearer about its commercial nature.
A note on the first page read: “Produced for Guardian Professional, a commercial division of Guardian News and Media, to a brief agreed with the CRC.”
¡Ã¶ If you think paid-for advertorial content is being portrayed as editorial, or have a comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org