Tuesday, 31 January 2012

'Not about cannabis, smoking or schizophrenia'

A Mail article about the dangers of cannabis has been awarded the 2011 Orwellian Prize for Journalistic Misrepresentation (of scientific research) by Dorothy Bishop, a professor of developmental neuropsychology at Oxford.

The Mail's story originally carried the headline: 'Just ONE cannabis joint 'can bring on schizophrenia' as well as damaging memory'. Although this headline was (slightly) modified later, Parker points out that the academic paper this article was 'based on' was:

not about cannabis, smoking or schizophrenia. Rather it is about an artificial compound that is not present in cannabis, which was injected into rats, and which led to changes in their brain waves.

The article was debunked at the time, including by Neurobonkers and Clear. In the latter, it says:

Dr Matt Jones, lead author of the study in question...told me that he was “disappointed but not surprised” at the Daily Mail’s coverage of his work. He gave me permission to quote him in saying that “This study does NOT say that one spliff will bring on schizophrenia”.

(Hat-tips to Craig Silverman and Kevin Arscott)

Not such a positive solution

George Monbiot's column of 26 January about Positive Weather Solutions (PWS) is well worth reading.

PWS had become favoured weather forecasters by certain tabloid newspapers - both the Mail and Express were quoting them up to a couple of weeks ago. As Monbiot wrote on 2 January:

PWS boasts that it "has made the front page of the Daily Express thirteen times; the Daily Telegraph seven times; and the Daily Mail and the Sun once". Between 26 September and 1 October, it says, it "was quoted every single day in the Daily Express".

In the earlier column, he talked about both PWS and another minor outfit, Exacta (source of the Express' '-20C to hit us in weeks' front page headline), and noted that the scorn poured on inaccurate Met Office forecasts by the tabloids was not repeated when these other forecasters got it wrong:

Unlike the Met Office, the alternative forecasters are neither roasted nor frozen out when they get it wrong. In 2010, for example, the Daily Mail announced that "the country really is on course for a barbecue summer". This time, it told its readers, the prediction "comes from a forecaster with a somewhat better record on the subject than the poor old Met Office". This was PWS – which has no published record at all. PWS told the Mail that "there will be stifling temperatures, making it possibly the warmest UK summer on record". In fact it was an unremarkable summer, but there were no "red faces" at PWS.

Yet it turned out that many of the 'staff photos' on the PWS website were stock pictures taken from elsewhere. When Monbiot asked PWS chief Jonathan Powell if he could speak to a couple of these other forecasters, Powell hesitated. Two hours later, he told Monbiot:

"Quite frankly, the filing system I have is a mess and I cannot put my hands of the information you require … Your column which was understandably critical of us at Christmas made me face a few things about the company and where it was going, and now as I can't find anything to back anyone up then quite frankly PWS is now more trouble than its worth and in debt. Therefore, I have taken the decision after six years to close the business forthwith."

These were not questions the tabloids that so favoured using PWS bothered to ask. And, for once, this is one PWS quote that the tabloids haven't bothered to repeat.

(Many thanks to Mark S)

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

'At Last'

As spotted by Simon Ricketts:

Monday, 23 January 2012

Recommended: A year of headlines

On 31 December 2011, Ned Morrell listed every front page headline published by the Daily Express in 2011.

Inspired by that effort, Scott Bryan has now done the same for the Daily Star.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

The Express, the EU and plastic bags (cont.)

In May 2011, an Express front page headline claimed the EU had said 'ban shopping bags':

The sub-head clarified that this was plastic bags, not all shopping bags. But either way the EU hadn't actually 'said' this. They had, however, launched a public consultation 'asking the public how best to reduce the use of plastic carrier bags.'

The front page of today's Express carries a similar headline, albeit not as the main story:

'Daft EU want all plastic shopping bags made illegal'.

The article, by Dana Gloger, begins:

Plastic bags could be banned in Britain and across Europe in a move by the EU to cut pollution.

Ah: 'could'. How strange they didn't include that caveat in the front page headline.

According to European Voice, there were 15,500 responses to the two-month public consultation (500 from 'public authorities, industry associations, NGOs and academic organisations', the rest from citizens) and 70% of these favoured a ban on plastic bags.

So does the EU want all plastic bags to be 'made illegal', reflecting the results of its consultation? Well, it hasn't said - as the Express' article admits mid-way through when it quotes the EU's environment spokeswoman Monica Westeren saying:

“We are still discussing it internally and seeing what our next steps will be.”

The European Voice article echoes this:

A Commission official said the consultation will feed into an impact assessment planned for this year. But no decision has been taken on the way forward, and no new action is likely to be proposed in the forthcoming green paper.

So it appears that, not for the first time, the Express has, in a front page headline, attributed a point of view to the EU which it hasn't expressed, simply because it fits the paper's agenda to do so.

Yet it was only last week that editor Hugh Whittow told the Leveson Inquiry:

we don't twist anything. We just present the news of the day.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Drake/Leon Best

In an article in the 'sport' section of MailOnline, a headline claims:

Rik Sharma reports:

not many people will have harboured the desire to appear identical to Newcastle United footballer Leon Best.

Nothing against Best of course, but let's be honest, he's not what you would call a household name - although if he continues to score goals like his winner against QPR on Saturday, maybe that will change.

But this girl not only wants to look like Best, her 'favourite soccer player eva', but she'll show you how to as well. Just in case, you know, you ever wanted to.

Using a variety of cosmetics like hair lotion, eyeshadow and eyeliner, she talks you through her creepy transformation from a regular looking girl through to a carbon copy of the striker.

'Add a silver necklace if you wish,' she says. 'And then the transformation is complete.'

The Mail has embedded the video from YouTube at the end. What it hasn't done, however, is read any of the comments under it (or, it seems, any of the comments under its own article). The vast majority are pointing out this isn't really about Leon Best at all. This version of the video is a spoof.

The 'girl' in question is Promise Phan, who has posted lots of videos on YouTube of her using make-up to make herself look like other people - Angelina Jolie, Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian among them.

Leon Best would certainly seem an unlikely addition to that list. Indeed, what Promise Phan was actually doing was transforming into a rapper called Drake.

Sharma would also have known this if he had read an article (about the 'real' video) which appeared only six days before on...MailOnline:

If Sharma hadn't read the Mail, it is possible he had read Mirror Football's 3pm Extra, which highlighted the video an hour or so before his article was published. It appears the Mirror hadn't realised it was a joke, either.

There is now a link to a second clip embedded in the video, in which someone pretending to be Best speaks to someone pretending to be a journalist about the coverage:

All because you couldn't spare some common sense to do a background check on where this video had come from.

MailOnline clarifies story on Dale Farm lawyers

In November, an article published by the MailOnline carried the headline:

Dale Farm lawyers scoop MASSIVE £6m of taxpayers' money to fund gypsies' legal battle

Last week, the PCC announced that following a complaint from Dr Keith Lomax of law firm Davies Gore Lomax, the Mail had added the following correction to the article:

A previous version of this article said that lawyers for the Dale Farm Travellers had "scooped" £6million of taxpayers' money to fund the Travellers' legal battle and that Davies Gore Lomax "pocketed more than £1.1 million in legal aid in 2008", and "then received a further £1.1 million last year". We also reported that Dr Lomax, the founding partner of the law firm, had stated that the work the firm did for Gypsies only made up a tiny "fraction" of their lucrative business.

We are happy to clarify that the £6million referred to was for the entirety of the firm's legal aid costs from 2006 until October 2011 including court fees, expenses, and VAT. The work the firm did for the Dale Farm Travellers was only a fraction of the firm's legal aid funded work. Dr Lomax did not say that the firm's work was a lucrative business. We regret any distress caused by the original story.

It has also changed the headline, which now reads: 'Revealed: How lawyers acting for Dale Farm gypsies have scooped £6m of taxpayers' money in the last five years'.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

What's wrong with this picture?

An apology from the Daily Mail, published today:

A picture published on January 4 which was captioned as showing convicted murderer David Norris at Deansfield Primary School in fact showed another young boy of the same name. While the picture was published in good faith, neither the individuals pictured nor the school had any connection with the events reported and we apologise for any distress caused.

An apology from the Daily Mirror (spotted by Regret the Error on 16 January):

On Friday 30 December 2011, as part of an article concerning a drugs test investigation at Hull FC, we published a picture of a man we said was Ben Cooper who has been suspended for his role in the affair.

In fact the picture was of Stuart Donlan, the assistant coach of Castleford Tigers, who has never been involved in any way with any drugs testing incident. The photo was supplied by an agency. We offer Stuart Donlan, his family and friends our sincere apologies.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Richard Desmond and the McCanns

At the Leveson Inquiry on Thursday, there were intriguing exchanges about the McCanns between a clearly unimpressed Robert Jay QC and Richard Desmond, owner of the Daily Express and Daily Star. Desmond coughed up £550,000 in damages for a relentless barrage of defamatory articles and all his papers published front page apologies which read:

The Daily and Sunday Express have taken the unprecedented step of making a front-page apology to Kate and Gerry McCann.

We did so because we accept that a number of articles in the newspaper have suggested that the couple caused the death of their missing daughter Madeleine and then covered it up.

We acknowledge that there is no evidence whatsoever to support this theory and that Kate and Gerry are completely innocent of any involvement in their daughter's disappearance.

We trust that the suspicion that has clouded their lives for many months will soon be lifted.

As an expression of its regret, the Daily Express has now paid a very substantial sum into the Madeleine Fund and we promise to do all in our power to help efforts to find her.

Kate and Gerry, we are truly sorry to have added to your distress.

We assure you that we hope Madeleine will one day be found alive and well and will be restored to her loving family. 

Here's how some of the exchanges went at the Inquiry:

Q. But isn't it fair to say, Mr Desmond, that if you look at the hard facts, I think the McCann litigation involved 38 defamatory articles. It is right, and Mr Ashford has drawn to our attention that there are other newspapers who also perpetrated defamations, but not to the same extent as your papers.

A. Is that -- I'm not sure that's right. I'm not sure that's right at all.

Q. If it's wrong, Mr Sherborne here, who -- the McCanns are his client -- will demonstrate that in due course, but it's certainly my understanding that we're talking about 38 defamatory articles over a four-month period and that your paper was guilty, if I can put it in those terms, of the most egregious and serious defamations, and other papers were guilty of defamations of perhaps less severity in terms of quantity. Do you accept that?

A. Once again, I don't wish to minimise it, right? But four months is -- let me see now, it's 12 weeks?

Q. It's 17 weeks, on my reckoning.

A. 17 weeks, thank you. 17 weeks times 6 -- you have to help me again.

Q. 102, is it, Mr Desmond? I don't know. You're the businessman.

A. Well, I don't know. 102, very good. Is 102.

Q. Yes.

A. And there were 37 --

Q. 38.

A. I'm not trying to win points here, because we did do wrong, but I could say there were more, if there were 102 articles on the McCanns, there were 38 bad ones, then one would say -- and I'm not trying to justify, please, I'm not trying to justify anything, but you could argue there were 65 or 70 good ones.

In other words: yes, we may have accused the McCanns of 'selling their daughter for money and hiding her body in a freezer', but hey, some of our other articles were 'good'.

Yes, you 'could argue' that, although it's hard to see why you'd want to.

Moreover, just because the stories weren't defamatory doesn't make them 'good'.

Desmond continued later:

A. At the end of the day, the McCanns, you know, as I understood it, although I've never met them, were perfectly -- if we ran it for four months, you know, it took them a long time to get involved in a legal dispute with us. They were quite happy, as I understand, in articles being run about their poor daughter, because it kept it on the front page. I think it was only when new lawyers came along, who I think were working on a contingency, that the legal --

Q. I can't --

A. Well, that's the facts. I'm sorry, that is the facts.

Q. Mr Desmond I'm going to interrupt you.

A. I'm sorry, that is the facts.

Q. That must be a grotesque characterisation.

A. I'm sorry, that is the facts.

Q. Your paper was accusing the McCanns on occasion of having killed their daughter. Are you seriously saying that they were sitting there quite happy, rather than entirely anguished by your paper's bad behaviour?

A. I'm sitting here --

Q. Just think about the question before you answer.

A. I'm going to answer your question, and I've already answered it. We ran -- on your suggestion, we've run 102 -- your figure, 102 articles. For four months you say we ran it, right? Nothing happened, to the best of my knowledge, until a new firm of lawyers were instructed, who were on a contingency, that then came in to sue us.

Clarence Mitchell, spokesman for the McCanns, said in response to Desmond's evidence:

"Mr Desmond's memory is apparently doing him a great disservice. For him to suggest that Kate and Gerry were happy with Express Newspapers' coverage, he must be living in a parallel universe." Desmond's portrayal of the McCanns' reaction to his papers' coverage of their daughters' disappearance was "grotesque in the extreme", he added. He said that the coverage, some of which was just "lies", had added to the suffering they endured.

Still, at least Desmond's many apologies to the McCanns sounded genuine. Didn't they?

But once again, please, I do apologise to the McCanns. I'm not trying to -- I am very sorry for -- you know, I am very sorry for the thing and I am very sorry that we got it wrong, but please don't, you know, try and -- every paper was doing the same thing


once again I do apologise to the McCanns, you know, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, but there are views on -- there are views on the McCanns of what happened. And there are still views on the McCanns of what happened.

Somehow, ending an apology with 'et cetera, et cetera, et cetera' doesn't suggest it's entirely heartfelt.

Friday, 13 January 2012


From the Leveson Inquiry yesterday:

Robert Jay QC: What interest, if any, do you have in ethical standards within your papers, or is that purely a matter for the editors?

Richard Desmond, owner of the Daily Express and Daily Star: Well, ethical, I don't quite know what the word means, but perhaps you'll explain what the word means, ethical.

Richard Desmond and the Daily Star

In November 2011, Richard Desmond was trumpeting the circulation figures of the Daily Star:

The Daily Star was selling 400,000 when we bought it, it now sells around 800,000.  

As this blog pointed out at the time, his figures weren't accurate. The Daily Star was actually selling 627,317 copies per day in November 2000, when he bought it. The October 2011 ABCs showed the figure was around 658,690 at the time he spoke.

In fact, the Daily Star's circulation hasn't been above 800,000 since September 2010.

When giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry yesterday, Desmond admitted:

We see the figures daily

So surely he would be able to give Lord Leveson a more accurate picture of the Star's circulation? Not exactly:

We've invested more in the Daily Star than, you know -- just look at the product. It's fantastic. At the end of the day the reader decides, and 11 years ago we were selling about 400,000 copies a day and now we're selling 700, 800,000 copies a day in a mature newspaper market, shall we say. I think it's fantastic what we've done on the Daily Star, but the readers have decided, you know, they can't get enough of it.

If someone genuinely believes the Daily Star is 'fantastic', it's hard to take much else they say seriously.

Not unsurprisingly, he simply repeated the same incorrect figures he'd used before. If he does see the figures so often, how can he get them so wrong?

Moreover, the latest ABCs - released today - are even worse news for Desmond. They show that in December 2011, the Daily Star's circulation was 616,498 copies per day.

That means the Star is now selling, on average, 11,000 fewer copies per day than when Desmond acquired the paper just over eleven years ago.


I think it's fantastic what we've done on the Daily Star, but the readers have decided, you know, they can't get enough of it.

(Meanwhile the circulation of the Express has dropped from 985,253 in November 2000 to 596,415 in December 2011 while he's been owner.)

(More on Desmond's evidence from Steven Baxter and The Guardian, while Roy Greenslade looks at the media's reaction to it.)

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Neesom and Whittow give evidence to Leveson

Today, the Leveson Inquiry heard from Dawn Neesom, editor of the Daily Star, and Hugh Whittow, editor of the Daily Express.

Neesom asserted:

we write stories to be as accurate as possible.

Regular readers of this blog might find that claim rather surprising. So might Rockstar Games, who the Star accused of planning a Grand Theft Auto game based on Raoul Moat. In their apology for that story, they admitted:

We made no attempt to check the accuracy of the story before publication and did not contact Rockstar Games prior to publishing the story. We also did not question why a best selling and critically acclaimed fictional games series would choose to base one of their most popular games on this horrifying real crime event.

Neesom was given the front page from 2 June 2011, which carried the headline 'Telly King Cowell is dead'. As we know, Simon Cowell is still alive. Robert Jay QC said 'it's wrong, isn't it?'

Neesom replied:

Um ... it's dramatic. Eye-catching.

She attempted to justify the clearly inaccurate and misleading headline like this:

"Telly king Cowell is dead" in particular was a quote from Gary Barlow, and obviously -- you only have a finite amount of words you can fit on a page 1 as a headline. The subject explains as far as a TV show is concerned, I believe the exact quote was -- and obviously Gary Barlow was only joking, because that's the nature of their relationship -- "As far as we're concerned, Cowell's dead", as far as the show was concerned, and that is explained in the sub-deck and the copy. But yes, it was designed to be an eye-catching headline.

Which might, might, be fair enough if the headline had been in quote marks and if the quotes she attributed to Gary Barlow in her evidence had actually been said by Gary Barlow. Or, indeed, anyone else.

But the original article made no such claim. In fact, the word 'dead' appears nowhere other than in the headline. What Barlow had actually said was 'Simon who?' when asked if he had taken any advice about being a judge on The X Factor.

Jay then asked Neesom about the Star's scaremongering 'Terror as plane hits ash cloud' front page headline of 21 April 2010. This appeared just after planes had started flying again after being grounded because of the ash cloud. Only inside the paper did the Star reveal this was actually a picture - and a story - from a televsion reconstruction of an incident that happened in 1982. Neesom claimed she was unaware that Gatwick and other airports had removed the paper from newsagent shelves overs fears it could create panic. Three months later, the Star published an apology. What was Neesom's view of the headline now?

It maybe overegged the pudding and occasionally headlines go too far. Maybe this was one of them.

Yeh. Maybe.

She was also asked about the 7 September 2011 front page headline 'Sex tease Amy get BB boot'. This was one of the Star's many front page headlines about Celebrity Big Brother and included the sub-head 'Eviction shock for sobbing telly babe'. At the time of the headline, Amy Childs had not been evicted from, or booted out of, the Celebrity Big Brother house.

Was this another bit of 'overegging'? Maybe, but Neesom's memory had suddenly gone blank:

I honestly don't remember this story, I'm sorry. I don't know what the "boot" refers to. It could have been from The Only Way is Essex, from her agency. I'm not familiar with the story, I'm sorry.

In fact, it couldn't have been from The Only Way is Essex - she left that programme to appear on Celebrity Big Brother. In any case, the wording of the headline was pretty clear.

Jay persisted:

Q. ...it is being suggested that the boot is the eviction from Big Brother, isn't it?

A. As I say, I'm not familiar with this story, so I don't know.

Jay questioned Neesom about another front page headline: 'Muslim thugs age just 12 in knife attack on Brit schoolboy'. Her response?

I must confess I am not familiar with this particular story.

Part of the problem with this headline was that there wasn't a 'knife attack' but threats made on Facebook. Jay asked:

Q. ...but the wording "Muslim thugs aged just 12 in knife attack", that does suggest to one objective reader, at least, that there was a physical attack on whom you describe as a Brit school --

A. Yes, I agree it could be interpreted that way.

Q. Could be or could only be interpreted in that way?

A. I said I'm not familiar with this story and I didn't write the headlines, so ...

Q. Again, it's the tendentious language. The Muslim thugs are British, yet it's the "Brit schoolboy". So you have the very uncomfortable juxtaposition and a tendentious message you're transmitting, would you accept?

A. I think it could be interpreted that way. As I said, I'm really not familiar with this story, which is a bit frustrating.

Q. You're resisting, or you're entitled to resist, the interpretation I'm putting on it, but it might be said that you are overresisting an interpretation which is the only interpretation you could fairly put on this story; wouldn't you agree?

A. I think -- yes, you can interpret it in the way you've interpreted it, and obviously people have done, you know, for which is -- you know, is not good.

Q. It's not good, but what, if anything, is being done about it to address this bias, Ms Neesom? Because you're the editor, you're the person responsible for this sort of message.

A. Yes, absolutely. We are not biased against Muslims.

This may seem a questionable claim from a paper that has published front page headlines such as 'BBC puts Muslims before YOU!' and 'Christmas 'nicked' by Muslims' - among many other stories. When pushed on some of her paper's coverage of Islam, she maintained:

We do have a balanced agenda.

This from the editor of the paper that was told off by the PCC for their untrue 'Muslim-only public loos' front page. She promised to provide the Inquiry with examples of this 'balanced agenda'. Whether that file will include a copy of the scrapped-at-the-last-minute Daily Fatwa page remains to be seen.

But what, overall, is Neesom's view on the headlines on the front page of her paper?

The nature of the Daily Star is we are a very young tabloid newspaper. We don't have historic readership, we don't have subscription, we don't have home delivery. We do rely on people picking up the newspaper off the news stands, which is why our front pages have to be as eye-catching as we can make them.

Those who remember the disgraceful 'I know who killed Jo Yeates' front page - based on the (incorrect) claims of a psychic - will know 'eye-catching' very often seems a far more important consideration that accuracy.

And what about the stories?

I think the Daily Star has a certain style of writing that appeals to the readers and stories are written in the way we know appeals to the readers. 

Jay asked, in response to that:

Q. There might be a kernel of truth in the story, but in order to make it more appetising and entertaining to its readers, which obviously you are plugged into you spin, embroider and weave around the edges of the story. Does that happen?

A. It's -- I wouldn't quite put it in those words, but as I say, it's written in a style that we know works for our readers.

That wasn't a 'no'. 

After Neesom, Express editor Hugh Whittow gave evidence. He was asked about the Express' blatantly untrue 'Salt banned in chip shops' front page headline. Despite lots of huffing and puffing about rigorously enforced 'diktats' in the story and editorial, there was no such ban.

Jay asked:

Q. Is this right: three chip shops in Stockport took part in a voluntary trial scheme in which extra salt was left behind the counter rather than on it?

A. Yes.

Q. The headline suggested that there was a ban and that it was wide scale, when it was neither; is that correct?

A. It says so: ban in chip shops. So there were three shops and it was an experiment and it would have been -- it would spread out if it was successful or not. It was a good story, everybody was talking about it. Salt in the diet is always an issue, isn't it?

Q. I think the point is that there wasn't in fact a ban. The extra salt was left behind the counter rather than on it --

A. I -- I accept that.

So he accepted, eventually, the headline and thrust of the article was wrong. But it was still 'a good story'.

Whittow added:

I'm not going to say it's the most important story in the world, but it's certainly a talker.

Jay replied, witheringly:

It's certainly not the most important story in the world, but it's found its way to the front page of the Daily Express.

Jay then asked him about another untrue Express headline, this one from 22 October 2011, which stated: '75% say: 'Quit the EU now''. Deliberately inflated to fit the paper's anti-EU agenda, the 75% figure was made up of 28% saying quit and 47% saying renegotiate. Jay explained those figures and asked if the headline was, therefore, misleading. Whittow replied:

I accept that from what you say.

Both of these admissions from Whittow came just after he told the Inquiry:

we don't twist anything. We just present the news of the day.

Evidence of the Express 'twisting' things - especially on Europe - is not hard to find.

But perhaps Whittow's 'finest moment' came when he was asked about the decision of the Express and Star titles to withdraw from the PCC. Jay asked:

Q. So is this right: your feeling is that it was right to leave the PCC because the PCC let you down in failing to stop your paper publishing defamatory articles about the McCanns; is that your evidence?

A. That's one of the reasons, yes.

The rumour mill

The Leveson Inquiry, 9 January 2012. Robert Jay QC questions Sun editor Dominic Mohan:

Q. Wasn't the true position something along these lines: that there were rumours going around in the press, which you well knew about, which were suggesting that phone hacking was occurring on a fairly systematic basis in the Mirror's titles?  Is that right or not?

A.  There were rumours in the industry.  There's always rumours in the industry about various methods, but this wasn't based upon any evidence at all.  It was just the Fleet Street rumour mill.


Q.  Did those rumours encompass the Sun, for whom of course you were working in 2002?

A.  I can't remember.  It was a very long time ago, clearly. I can't remember the specifics of the rumours.

The Leveson Inquiry, 20 December 2011. Robert Jay QC questions former Mirror editor Piers Morgan:

Q.  Do you remember an interview in which you said: "As for Clive Goodman, I feel a lot of sympathy for a man who has been the convenient fall guy for an investigative practice that everyone knows was going on at almost every paper in Fleet Street for years."

A.  Yes.

Q.  Why did you say that?

A.  Well, that was the rumour mill at the time.  I mean, it was exploding around Fleet Street...I was hearing these rumours like everybody else.


Q.  Did the rumour mill you're referring to embrace your newspaper as being amongst the perpetrators?

A.  Not that I remember, no.

Re-heating old quotes for front page news

On the day that Daily Star editor Dawn Neesom was giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, her paper came up with this front page story:

The Guardian's Media Monkey notes:

Gripping stuff too, as actor Benedict Cumberbatch tells of the terrifying moment he was carjacked in South Africa while filming mini-series To The Ends of the Earth. "The actor, 35, and his pals were ambushed when their car blew a tyre in an isolated spot in South Africa, he revealed for the first time last night." First time? Not quite. 

What the Star omits to mention is that Cumberbatch spoke at length about the 2004 incident in an interview with the Prince's Trust, back in 2010. He also spoke about it in an interview with the Guardian's Weekend magazine, also in, er, 2010

What the Star also omits to mention is that all the quotes it uses today appear to have been lifted - entirely - from an interview published in October 2010.

Despite this, today's splash has also been picked up and repeated by the Mail, Sun, Metro, Telegraph and Mirror.

Neesom told the Inquiry that the front page of her paper has to be as 'eye-catching' as possible so people pick it up on the newsstands. That obviously includes re-heating 15-month-old quotes about an incident from seven years ago.

Mail pays damages to Neil Morrissey

The Daily Mail has paid substantial (five-figure) libel damages to actor Neil Morrissey after a lengthy dispute over their 19 March 2011 article 'Homme behaving badly: TV star banned from bar near his idyllic French retreat after locals object to 'le binge drinking''.

MediaGuardian explains:

The Daily Mail apologised to Morrissey on page 2 in its new corrections and clarifications column and on its website last October.

However, the actor was not satisfied with the apology and applied for permission to make a statement in open court. In the statement read out at the high court in London on Thursday, Morrissey said he now felt "fully vindicated" over the claims.

"The Mail alleged that [a] poster had gone up and Mr Morrissey had been banned because his behaviour had made him unwelcome to the proprietors and staff as a bad influence who encouraged the antisocial and offensive binge drinking for which English settlers had become notorious and were resented by local French people," Peter Crawford, solicitor for Morrissey, told the judge Richard Parks QC.

"Those assertions were not true. Most significantly, Mr Morrissey had not been banned from the bar. Nor had he been drunken or rowdy in the bar."

The 21 October apology published by the Mail said:

An article on 19 March suggested that actor Neil Morrissey had been banned from a French bar for drunken behaviour and encouraging binge-drinking, and that his property was worth £500,000.

While we were shown a poster which indicated that he had been barred, we now accept that none of these allegations are correct. We also accept that local property valuations were overstated. We apologise to Mr Morrissey.

Roy Greenslade highlights Morrissey's statement following today's court proceedings:

"The paper was told before publication that the allegations about me were completely untrue but it went ahead and published anyway."

The Mail's response to my solicitor's complaint took an age but the paper would not back down and I had to issue proceedings.

Eventually, the Mail admitted that the allegations were false and damaging to my reputation. It proved impossible to agree the wording of a suitable retraction and apology but the Mail published its own tiny version of an apology which bore no relation at all to the eye-catching space given to the original article.

The apology, such as it was, won't have reached anything like the same number of people who would have read the original article.

My solicitor read a statement in court today in the hope that the Mail's apology would reach more of its readers."

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

I'm dreaming of a ...oh

Daily Express, 17 December 2011:

Daily Mail, 17 December 2011:

Bookmakers have slashed the odds on a white Christmas with temperatures set to remain below zero across much of the country in what is expected to be the coldest snap of the winter so far.

Daily Mail, 21 December 2011:

Britain enjoyed near-record temperatures on Tuesday - and Wednesday is predicted to be warmer that spring. The sudden mild spell, which is forecast to last into 2012, has led to bookies slashing the odds on this Christmas being the warmest on record.

Daily Express, 23 December 2011:

(More on the Express' weather reporting here)

(George Monbiot has written about the tabloids' forecasting for Comment in Free)

Daily Star on thin ice

On 26 November, a front-page article from the Daily Star said:

David Beckham a contestant on Dancing on Ice? It sounded very unlikely. The first sentence of the article then stated:

David Beckham is considering an offer to star in Dancing On Ice.

So not definite, but 'considering an offer'. Was there an offer? That's not exactly clear. But there was an interview with Torvill and Dean in the Daily Record the day before in which the latter said:

"We did talk about David Beckham. He likes music so hopefully he has rhythm.

"We like the idea of an athlete from a different sport.

"You assume they are going to be good physically, but they aren't always co-ordinated as far as dancing goes. Beckham would be great."

The Star also claimed Justin Bieber was 'urging' Beckham to accept this 'offer'. But it appears the Star's Aaron Tinney dug up this quote from Bieber in OK! in March 2011 and included it to bolster the story:

"Next time I see David Beckham I will say that if he agrees to do it then so will I. I love all kinds of skating."

The Dancing on Ice line-up has now been announced.

David Beckham's name is nowhere to be seen.

Un-Dressed to Kill

The Mail has decided to start the year as it means to go on - by publishing an attack on the BBC:

This time, Paul Revoir has had help from Adam Sherwin to pad out the story claiming the BBC was 'under fire' over Sunday's episode of Sherlock and that:

Viewers yesterday complained that the BBC had gone too far with the raunchy scenes

But the BBC spokesman quoted towards the end points out that they had not received any formal complaints 'at this stage'. What the Mail has instead is three comments taken from Twitter (out of 8.75million viewers).

So how shocking were these 'raunchy scenes'? If you didn't see the programme, never fear: the Mail has published the key screenshots on its website (in an article posted at 7:37am) and included a 'big blow up picture' on page nine of today's paper.

The comments on the article are overwhelmingly critical of the Mail, with several pointing out the selection of headlines on the right-hand side of MailOnline. These headlines include:

As one comment (Chaz McGlover, 10:48) puts it:

At least the nudity in Sherlock had some relevance to the plot, rather than just being an endless parade of women wearing little to nothing, presented as "news".

(Hat-tip to Chris G)