The national newspaper market is under pressure from new media as never before, and one would expect editors would want to keep the reputation of their publications as clean as possible.

Clearly the phone hacking and bribery allegations the industry has faced have not helped, and while I have some sympathy with their chorus of complaint about statutory regulation imposed by the government, it is tempered with the knowledge that they have brought the problem down on their own heads.

“Perhaps marketers assume the measure of quality is weight”

My point, however, is on a more subtle level albeit one that on the face of it is less serious. I refer to the ever-increasing use by national journalists of stories purporting to be news that are in fact based on spurious surveys placed by PR companies.

In every case, the company ‘conducting’ the survey is prominently referred to and receives free editorial coverage on the back of these so-called news stories.

Perhaps one could understand, if not approve of, such matters in the tabloid press, but these are now appearing regularly in supposedly more serious papers of record. Whatever you think of Rupert Murdoch, The Times is generally regarded as such and is one source of my frustration.

I have recently taken to counting instances of such adverts masquerading as stories and on a typical day, The Times often has four or more such stories. Recently, these have ranged from a department store survey on the relationship of geography to handbag size, a bedroom company survey on wardrobe contents and even to a travel company survey on the sorts of people you will encounter on your chosen airline.

I can only assume that the marketing teams continue to assume that the measure of quality in the industry is the weight (in its literal rather than figurative sense) of the product - an issue that is certainly a cause of annoyance and frustration to independent newsagents and their home news deliverers.

I certainly now struggle to keep up with the avalanche of news, and feel that a smaller newspaper with better more concise and genuinely newsworthy content would be preferable to such nonsense.

It is certainly arguable that I am simply aggrieved that we have not achieved such cheap coverage, but I am not alone, in our sector at least, in failing to buy into this questionable habit.

Perhaps the Federation of Wholesale Distributors needs to do a survey about the relationship between how often wholesalers change their socks and the prevalence of crime in our sector - it would be just as valid, although perhaps not as widely taken up.

Steve Parfett is chairman of AG Parfett & Sons