Several months ago, I read a small story about a female celebrity who'd been foolish enough to appear in public wearing the same dress two days in succession. This "style slip-up", the article stated, was "the ultimate celebrity faux pas". It described how a crowd of expectant fans was "taken aback" when the star "turned up in exactly the same dress again, accessorised with the same black skyscraper heels." The piece was illustrated with two photographs showing the celebrity sporting her incriminating outfit on two separate occasions, accompanied by the caption 'Looks Familiar'.
But interestingly, the clothes weren't the only familiar thing in the frame. If the dates were to be believed, the strands of hair from her fringe had fallen across her forehead in precisely the same way, two days running. I don't know much about haircuts, as anyone who's ever glanced at my head can tell you. But I know that looked suspicious.
Fortunately for all mankind, I knew someone who'd been present on both occasions. So I asked whether the same dress had been worn on both days. No, it hadn't. Both sets of pictures had been taken on day one.
Presumably what happened is this: rather than sending a reporter to attend the event itself, the paper had received a batch of photos from a picture agency and interpreted them back in the office. But tragedy struck when someone got the dates muddled up, and a "style slip-up" was subsequently believed to have occurred when it hadn't. Easy mistake to make. But hang on: what about that description of a crowd of "expectant fans" being "taken aback" by "the ultimate celebrity faux pas"? That was just a cute detail the reporter had invented. Some people they'd wished into existence.
No prizes for guessing the 'small story' in question is on the website of the Daily Mail.
Mail Online editor Martin Clarke has said:
News is far more important to us that showbiz. News is what drives our site.
No doubt that explains a made-up story about the wardrobe of someone on The X Factor. But what of the rest?
Blogger Atomic Spin has asked whether a MailOnline article about a woman dropping her phone while walking in London is the most pointless celebrity story ever published by the Mail.
Yes, the woman in question is Karen Gillan from Doctor Who, and the Mail have managed to find a snap taken at exactly the moment she bends over the pick it up. But still, this is the 'story':
Doctor Who star Karen Gillan nearly broke her mobile phone after getting over-excited during a shopping trip in London yesterday.
The Scottish actress, 22, was chatting on her mobile in busy Oxford Street when she spotted a friend across the road.
After dashing across the road to greet her pal, the redhead dropped her phone in the path of traffic in the excitement of it all.
The excitement, indeed.
But is it the most pointless story the Mail website has ever run? Well, there is so much competition it is hard to tell.
After all, they managed to write two articles within a couple of days about the number of toes on a woman with, err, ten toes.
And let's not forget essential stuff like woman goes out in low cut dress, woman does yoga and boy has same colour hair as his dad.
During the time period all this rubbish has been written, the Mail has managed only one article about the floods in Pakistan.
The good folk at the Mailwatch Forum have been keeping note of pointless Mail stories for quite a while. They have spotted such Pulitzer Prize-worthy gems as:
- Rain turns grass green.
- Swimwear model wears swimwear.
- Woman laughs.
- Woman gets wet in rain.
- Woman doesn't take price stickers off shoes.
- Woman buys yoghurt.
- Woman goes to petrol station.
- Woman wears a T-Shirt.
- Woman dyes hair.
- Woman wears shorts in hot weather.
Almost all of these articles are essentially for the Heat crowd. The Mail has bought pics of some celebrity that they think will attract visitors to their website. There is no news value - usually the Daily Mail Reporter (or sometimes Georgina Littlejohn) will describe what the person is wearing, make some snide remark about whether they have got thinner or fatter or older, and the rest will be re-heated stuff from an earlier article.
And sometimes, as with Brooker's example and the one with the toes, the story isn't even true.
The Mail's website is the most visited UK newspaper website.