The editor of the Press Gazette has called on journalists including Channel 4 newscaster Jon Snow to boycott Evans Cycles after the retailer’s announcement earlier this week that it was blacklisting advertising on the websites of the Daily Mail, Daily Express and The Sun.
Besides Snow – who also happens to be the president of the charity Cycling UK – Press Gazette editor Dominic Ponsford also named former London cycling commissioner Andrew Gilligan and the BBC broadcaster Jeremy Vine as being high-profile cyclists among the UK’s estimated 70,000 journalists.
“Today I urge this trio and all their cycling brethren in the news media to consider boycotting the UK’s leading bicycle retailer Evans Cycles,” he wrote.
“I for one will be taking my custom elsewhere the next time I need a replacement inner tube or high-vis top.”
Explaining why he was urging a boycott, Ponsford said: “The reason why is that Evans has (in my view) cast itself as an enemy of free speech by placing the Mail and Express titles and The Sun on a blacklist of advertisers who it will no longer spend money with.”
In a separate article published on the Press Gazette’s website, the Daily Mail accused Evans of a “blatant publicity stunt” over its decision to blacklist it.
Evans had made its decision in response to a request from the campaign group Stop Funding Hate after it emerged that adverts for the chain were appearing on their websites.
On Monday, the retailer tweeted: “We’ve now blacklisted any advertising placements on Daily Mail, Sun and Express. Should go through shortly. Happy to #Startspreadinglove!”
It added: “Needless to say, the content highlighted on these outlets go against our core values as a business. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.”
But a spokesperson for the Daily Mail told the Press Gazette that Evans does not advertise directly with it and that the adverts were generated automatically via a third party based on a person’s browsing history.
They added that a screenshot showing advertising from Evans on Mail Online appeared on an article from 15 years ago that had originally been published not by the Daily Mail, but the Mail on Sunday which it pointed out was a separate operation.
Those same points were made by Ponsford in his editorial, leading one commenter to suggest that it read as if it had been “written (or dictated) by senior management at Derry St,” the road in Kensington where the Daily Mail is based.
The Press Gazette editor said that the article in question – a comment piece by Peter Hitchens about Conservative MP Alan Duncan under the headline ‘I'm sorry Mr Duncan. if you're gay you are not a Tory’ as “admittedly fairly vile.”
Similarly, he chose to focus on the individual story appearing with an Evans advertisement on The Sun’s website – a comment piece by Rod Liddle – with Ponsford saying “It’s hardly extremist literature and difficult to understand why it has caused offence.”
He added: “It seems more likely that The Sun is being punished for past sins.”
Many people, including Stop Funding Hate’s almost 80,000 followers on Twitter, would see his – and the Daily Mail’s – focus on the individual story in question as rather missing the point.
To use an analogy from the print edition, which the Daily Mail says Evans does not advertise in, it would be like commenting on an advert appearing say in the sports pages without considering it in the wider context of the newspaper – or in this case, the website – as a whole.
While Ponsford may be talking his business elsewhere, the decision by Evans to blacklist the three outlets from its online advertising was warmly welcomed on social media this week by many past and present customers.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.