Friday, 18 February 2011

Mail: Nothing excuses the sexual assault but...

From Daily Mail diarist Ephraim Hardcastle:

Nothing excuses the Cairo sexual assault on CBS TV reporter Lara Logan, 39, the former swimwear model but...


...she does have ‘form’ for dressing provocatively in inappropriate locations.


In 2002, she was rebuked by British military officers in Afghanistan for ‘flashing her cleavage’.

As the New Statesman remarks, that 'clearly explains why she was sexually assaulted nine years later. Doesn't it?'

In the words of ITN's Mark Austin:

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Littlejohn and 'non-jobs'

Richard Littlejohn dedicated the main part of his column on Tuesday to moaning about 'council non-jobs':

For the past 20-odd years, this column has made a decent living documenting the insanity and waste in Britain’s Town Halls.

That's an admission that he has been churning out the same old stuff for two decades. He said much the same on 21 September last year:

For the past 15 years, this column has made a good living out of elf 'n' safety.

His second sentence is equally telling:

If all else failed, there was always the Guardian jobs pages on a Wednesday to dig me out of a hole.

Quality investigative journalism there. In any case, who'd be so silly as to advertise in that newspaper?

(Read some of the applications for the above here and here)

Littlejohn then launches into a tirade against 'non-jobs', including such claims as:

These days, ‘climate change’ is the new Aids.

Yet, as Primly Stable has pointed out, regular readers of Littlejohn might recognise a lot of this, as he's said much of it before.

For example, he first mentioned 'community walking co-ordinators' on 18 August 2009, then put it in his 2010 book Littlejohn's House of Fun. They got another mention when the book was serialised in the Mail on 28 March 2010 and once again on Tuesday.

Once again on Tuesday in a column about people being paid lots of money for doing pointless jobs...

But one of Littlejohn's claims really stands out:

Haringey hired someone to give hopscotch lessons to Asian women.

Did they really? Full Fact gives its verdict:

Back in 1995, former Conservative Party Chairman Brian Mawhinney regaled his Party’s Conference with a story of how taxpayer’s money was being similarly spent on hopscotch for Asian women.

In fact, it later transpired that the public money had been given to the Hopscotch Asian Women’s Centre, a well-respected voluntary organisation that deals with domestic violence, language and integration issues in Camden, which neighbours Haringey.

So could a similar misunderstanding have been made by Richard Littlejohn?

We contacted Hanringey Borough Council to ask about the mysterious job, who weren’t aware of one fitting Mr Littlejohn’s description. We’ve also tried to get in touch with Mr Littlejohn himself to find out more about how he came across this vacancy, but have yet to hear back from him.

But the Hopscotch Asian Women's Centre did advertise for a management position in May last year.

So whilst as yet we’re unable to say with complete certainty that Haringey haven’t been engaging the services of Asian hopscotch specialists, given the claim’s history and the proximity of an Asian women’s voluntary centre named Hopscotch to Haringey, you might be advised to treat this particular “non-job” with some scepticism.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Platell needs to learn more about Moore

In her Mail column last Saturday, Amanda Platell sneered:

The rabid anti-capitalist film-maker Michael Moore, director of the global warming propaganda movie Fahrenheit 9/11, is suing his backers, Bob and Harvey Weinstein, claiming they cheated him out of £1.67million in profits. And there was me thinking he did it to save the planet.

In this latest example of the fine research undertaken by Mail columnists, she appears to have confused Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 with An Inconvenient Truth.

As Mr Mordon at the Mailwatch Forum notes, she 'probably got thrown by the word fahrenheit.'

(Hat-tip to Mailwatch Forum)

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Not out

An 'exclusive' from the Sun's cricket correspondent John Etheridge:

And the reaction from Pietersen?

(Hat-tip to Kevin Marsh)

How the Mail's 'report a comment' system 'works'

The PCC have posted the details of a case where a complaint against a comment on the Mail website was ignored:


Diocesan Director of Communications, Gavin Drake, complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the newspaper had published an online article about a vicar's prosecution for downloading child pornography which was accompanied by an inaccurate comment from a reader. The reader had asserted that the Church had been aware of the vicar's crimes for years when this was not the case. The complainant contacted the website moderator with his concerns but was aggrieved that no action was taken.


The newspaper explained that the comment had been post-moderated and the moderator was aware of the abuse report logged by the complainant. It acknowledged that there had been a lapse in moderation on this occasion. While the complainant remained disappointed that the newspaper had not responded when he first reported the problem, the complaint was resolved when the newspaper permanently removed the comment in question.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Twisting words to fit an agenda

Today's Daily Star story Egypt 'flight' to UK claims:

Thousands of illegal immigrants will flee riot-torn Egypt and flood to Britain, the leader of Nato has warned.

Paul Robins' article continues:

Many refugees are desperate to escape and head here to milk the benefits system.

Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, 58, said the riots will fuel an “illegal migration wave” across the EU.

And the majority will head straight to Britain on the promise of free housing and better jobs.

In the first two sentences, the terms illegal immigrants and refugees are used interchangeably. And the claims about milking benefits and getting jobs and free houses are the usual inflammatory tabloid-fodder.

But did Rasmussen actually say that 'thousands of illegal immigrants' from Egypt were going to 'flood to Britain' in an 'illegal migration wave' as the Star states? Here's NATO's transcript:

Having said that, I do not consider the situation in Egypt or Tunisia, or elsewhere as a direct threat to NATO allies or the Alliance as such. But obviously the evolving situation in the Middle East and North Africa may have an impact on the Middle East peace process, and instability in the region as such may also, in a longer term perspective, have a negative impact on economy, which might lead to illegal immigration in Europe, etc. So of course indirectly there may be a negative impact on Europe caused by the evolving situation in North Africa and the Middle East. But I do not consider the situation as a direct threat to NATO.

Rasmussen didn't mention Britain. It's also clear he's not singling out Egyptians, but saying long-term instability might lead to illegal immigration from the region. He didn't mention any number. He certainly didn't make reference to benefits or jobs or houses. And he did say 'might' rather than 'will'.

So the Star have turned Rasmussen's words from this:

instability in the region...might lead to illegal immigration in Europe

Into this:

Thousands of illegal immigrants will flee riot-torn Egypt and flood to Britain

They were helped in this by yesterday's Mail, which is why the story only appears in the Star today. The Mail's original headline claimed Hosni Mubrarak turmoil 'will fuel illegal wave UK migration' warns Nato - a slightly random collection of some of the paper's favourite words.

This has been changed to Egypt's turmoil 'will fuel illegal migration wave', head of Nato warns. Since NATO's transcript of the press conference contains no mention of the word 'wave' it seems that Star have put it in quote marks simply because the Mail did.

Actor sneezes

More groundbreaking 'news' from the Mail website.

Sunday, 6 February 2011


Richard Littlejohn said on Friday:

Gloucester City Council is sending out census forms in no fewer than 56 different languages.

Technically, they're leaflets to help complete the census not the forms themselves, which are in English.

But then he adds this charming statement:

...why waste time and public money printing leaflets in 56 ­different languages, many of them scribble?


From Roy Greenslade:

The Irish edition of the Mail on Sunday published several thousand copies today with a spoof wrap-around as if it was the Sunday Tribune, the title that went into receivership last week.

It masqueraded as the Tribune by reproducing its masthead, as the picture above illustrates. Unsurprisingly, it outraged the Tribune's editor, Nóirín Hegarty, who called it "pernicious" and "a false representation".

And here's a response to Roy's article from Frederico01:

I speak as one of the poor suckers who was duped into buying it this morning. On the run I picked up a copy of the Sunday Business Post and the Sunday Times....I saw "The Tribune" there and thought that it must have been a creative initiative by the journalists at the paper to keep the flag flying for the next few weeks. As a friend of mine works there I picked it up.

When I got home I almost spewed when I realised the con, and let's face it that's what it was. I will never buy a copy of the Mail in any form after this, nor a single of chips that is wrapped in it. Disgusting.

UPDATE (7 Feb) - Thanks to Liz Church for highlighting the latest development on this story:

Ireland's edition of the Mail on Sunday faces prosecution over its cover that bore the masthead of the rival Sunday Tribune.

The Irish republic's National Consumer Agency confirmed it was investigating complaints against Associated Newspapers' Irish operation.

In a statement released on Monday the agency said: "Following further consideration, the National Consumer Agency is now considering a prosecution for a breach of the Consumer Protection Act. Accordingly, the agency will be making no further comment on this issue."

Friday, 4 February 2011

Union Flag not banned from police stations

Yesterday, the Mail reported:

The Daily Mail Reporter article said:

Police chiefs have come under fire today for flying the rainbow flag for lesbians, gays and bisexuals outside its police stations - when they are forbidden to display the Union Jack.

The multi-coloured 'Freedom' flag adopted by the gay pride movement in the 1970's is now flying at Suffolk Police's Ipswich HQ and its stations at Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft.

The flags - which include the force's badge - are to mark lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history month.

But there was fierce criticism of the move after it was revealed that stations were not allowed, under force policy, to fly the Union Jack or the Cross of St George.

Inevitably, Richard Littlejohn mentioned this story for his column today. He added:

No one would mind that much, I imagine, if Chief Constable Ash didn’t also ban the flying of the Union Flag outside ‘his’ police stations — presumably on the grounds that it’s ‘racist’...

...he refuses to fly the Union Flag even on the Queen’s birthday — or any other special occasion, for that matter.

He has no idea what the 'grounds' are but thinks this is what Mail readers will want the reason to be.

But it's a big presumption because it seems the Mail's claim that the flags are 'banned' or 'forbidden' isn't true.

On ITV Anglia Tonight, a police spokesperson was asked about the accusation that these flags were not flying because they had been banned. She replied:

'This is not accurate. Both flags are flown from our headquarters.'

(Despite the Mail claiming the raising of the rainbow flag was met with 'fierce criticism', the Anglia Tonight reporter said 'most residents we spoke to supported the decision'.)

The view of the spokesperson seems to be backed up by the Suffolk Constabulary Policies & Procedures document on the Use and Maintenance of Police Buildings. It says:

11 Flags
11.1 Police Headquarters and other stations with facilities for raising flags will fly the Union Flag on the following dates and on any special occasion notified:

6 February Accession of Her Majesty The Queen
19 February Birthday of Prince Andrew
10 March Birthday of Prince Edward
21 April Birthday of Her Majesty The Queen
23 April St George's Day

So Littlejohn was wrong about the 'ban', wrong about the 'grounds' for the 'ban', and wrong to say the Union Flag doesn't fly on the Queen's Birthday.

Moreover, a reader who asked Suffolk Police about the 'ban' has forwarded their response to this blog. It says:

...we would like to clarify that Suffolk Police, like every other force in England and Wales, does hoist the Union and St George Cross flags on appropriate days of the year...

On other days, the force flag flies outside police stations and at force headquarters, but it is at the Chief Constable’s discretion as to when and if other flags are hoisted.

There has never been any ban on flying the Union Flag on Suffolk Constabulary buildings as has been reported.

So did the Mail check the story out with the police and ignore what they said? Or did they just not ask?

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Police dismiss Mirror front page as 'garbage'

Today's Daily Mirror front page asked:

Steve White reveals in the accompanying article:

Crossbow Cannibal Stephen Griffiths is being urged to make a dramatic deathbed confession.

As he enters the fourth month of a prison hunger strike, detectives are quizzing the 41-year-old monster about the disappearance of seven women – including chef Claudia Lawrence, 35, who vanished in York two years ago.

A senior police source said: “There isn’t much time left to get the truth out of him.”

He continues:

Teams of detectives have spent hours at his bedside, hoping to hear him whisper the terrible secrets of his grisly murder spree before he takes them to the grave...

Now, as he enters the fourth month of refusing to eat, police are questioning him about a string of other unsolved cases.

They include the disappearance of university chef Claudia Lawrence, 35, who vanished in York in March 2009.

So how did the local police respond to the Mirror's claim? The York Press explains:

North Yorkshire Police and West Yorkshire Police have dismissed reports as [a] "load of garbage".

A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police said: "This is simply not the case and whoever has provided the information is wrong.

"The reality is that neither West Yorkshire Police or North Yorkshire Police have spoken to Griffiths about the disappearance of Claudia Lawrence as he has refused to be interviewed since he was imprisoned.

"And as North Yorkshire Police has stated previously, there is no evidence to connect the two investigations together."

Some things never change...

Tabloid Watch began two years ago today.

The first post highlighted an article in The Sun which was plugging Sky HD as the best way to cure the winter blues.

Two years on, the Sun is still at it. Yesterday, Rupert Murdoch launched 'The Daily' - his iPad-only newspaper. Unsurprisingly, Sun Digital Editor Derek Brown was impressed:

Some are calling it as significant as the day in 1788 that the first issue of The Times hit London's streets...

The American football coverage, ahead of this Sunday's Super Bowl, is presented brilliantly. There is a feature about what it's like to stand in the tunnel, accompanied by lovely 3D-style images.
There is also a section on top plays which has video running through tactics. The prospect of using this technology with proper football is mouthwatering.

Fashion also works well, with the ability to click on outfits for a more detailed look...

The Daily runs smoothly, downloads quickly and is a promising glimpse into what the future holds.

And it's not just them doing the cross-promotion. Richard Desmond's Daily Star continues to give free advertising to Richard Desmond's Channel 5 - the latest being this puff piece about some upcoming programmes, including the TV show linked to Richard Desmond's OK! magazine...

Churnalism to sell...films, Botox

Last Tuesday, several of the papers printed a 'story' that was designed to sell an app and get a recruitment agency's name in print.

A day or so later, the Mail, Express and Sun ran stories about a piece of (as yet unexplained) research on belief in the afterlife which coincided with the release of the film Hereafter.

Then yesterday, another dodgy bit of PR nonsense got the same treatment. It was also designed to sell something and was treated very seriously by some papers. It seems to have started in the Evening Standard in an article by their Health and Social Affairs Correspondent Sophie Goodchild. She wrote:

Young women are developing premature wrinkles from staring at their smartphones all day...

Really? Who says so?

...says a top cosmetic doctor.

Ah. The article goes on to name the doctor, reveal where his clinic is, and let him get away with saying stuff like this:

"The natural tendency is to squint at the screen when reading messages and as a result some people develop this area of tightness/small frown lines between the brows, which is easily rectified with the light use of Botox by an experienced doctor."

Who could he have in mind?

There's no evidence provided, no explanation as to how he knows the wrinkles are caused by using smartphones, nor any reason given as to why this doesn't seem to affect men.

But he's backed up by a beauty therapist, who claims to have:

noticed a huge difference over the past 18 months in my clients' faces

Unsurprisingly, she recommends a slightly different treatment which she can provide.

The same 'story' then ran in the Mail and the Sun with the same terms, the same quotes and the same 'experts' - all in the same order - to describe what all the articles called a 'phenomenon'.

There's no scepticism, no challenging - just lazy Phil Space churnalism.

Star blatantly lies to try to sell papers (shock)

'Jordan and Pete kiss and make up'.

It comes illustrated with a photo of the two together, looking very friendly.

It's a Star 'exclusive'.

But the article by Emily Hall doesn't, as usual, back up the headline. In fact, it tells a different story entirely:

Caring Kate Price last night issued a heartfelt plea to exhusband Peter Andre: "Please call me."

The glamour girl offered her old flame an olive branch, saying: "I’m just a phone call away. Enough is enough."

Right. So this 'kiss and make-up' has happened without them actually meeting or speaking?

Later in the article, Hall refers to the latest tedious developments in their lives as 'the latest spat'. That's an odd way to describe a 'kiss and make-up'.

Unless, of course, the 'kiss and make up' claim is a complete lie, cynically splashed across the front page to try to sell extra copies of this desperate rag - if you can imagine the Star doing such a thing...

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Challenging the Daily Mail

No Sleep 'Til Brooklands has published an interesting guest post by Juliet Shaw. She explains how she challenged the Daily Mail over an article that:

...made me a laughing stock. I earned a reputation within my community for being a fantasist and a liar, and spent the next two years learning the intricacies of the laws of defamation and in order to try and salvage what was left of my reputation.

She was forced into taking legal action when her original complaint to the Mail was met with a familiar, dismissive tone:

Obviously, I wrote to complain. They responded that they were happy the article was an accurate reflection of what I’d said and were standing by it. I wrote again, pointing out in detail the discrepancies. Again, they stood by their article and told me that they would not enter into any further correspondence with me and considered the matter closed.

I certainly didn’t consider the matter closed. My name, image and brief details of my life had been used to fabricate a story which bore no resemblance to me or my life, then presented as fact, said by me, in my own words. It was damaging to me, my children, my friends and had a significantly negative impact on my life.

It's a lengthy post but well worth reading, especially for her line-by-line breakdown of the way the article was embellished and the attitude and tactics of the Mail when challenged.

And, as Paul Bradshaw points out, several of the comments below the article reveal similar experiences.