Stephen Glover: Guardian offering editorial influence for cash

Independent media commentator Stephen Glover today criticises The Guardian for inviting advertisers to pay money to influence editorial in sponsored supplements.

He has received a copy of a letter sent out by Wendy Miller, public sector manager of the Society Guardian supplement, offering sponsorships of a supplement on the future of public services at £15,000 each.

She says that the sponsors would get “significant branding space as well as input into the editorial direction and content of the project”.

The Guardian’s editorial guidelines for sponsored supplements state: “The sponsor will have input into the planning (ie synopsis) for the supplement; they will be able to suggest themes, angles and information that they would like to see highlighted; recommend experts for interview; and request certain information be included. The commissioning editor will consider all such suggestions but is not obliged to accept any.”

Glover suggests that “someone should look into the practice of public bodies buying editorial content”.

The Guardian tightened up its editorial guidelines after a row in 2007 when its own columnist, Simon Jenkins, condemned the paper over a supplement about Housing Market Renewal Partnerships. He said the paper was taking government money to portray “public relations as journalism”.

Journalists who take money for editorial not only step into an ethical mine-field, they can also fall foul of the Advertising Standards authority – which has repeatedly rapped the Express over the knuckles for this.

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