Friday, 30 March 2012

'Calm down'

The front page of today's Express contained a response to the queues that had been seen at many petrol stations over the last few days:

The article by Macer Hall and Dana Gloger began:

Britain was last night urged to calm down and stop the petrol panic

Calm down and stop the panic. Wise words. If only it hadn't come after the paper had already written this:

And, particularly, this:

(Big hat-tip to Dan Hollinsworth)

Mail admits Amanda Platell column went 'beyond fair comment'

The 'Clarifications and corrections' column in today's Mail apologises for comments made by Amanda Platell when she attacked some of the core participants at the Leveson Inquiry:

A column by Amanda Platell on 17 September 2011 referred to Sheryl Gascoigne as a ‘gold digger’ and as ‘sleazy and degrading company’ for the other participants in the Leveson Inquiry. We now accept that these allegations are entirely unfounded and went beyond fair comment. We have sincerely apologised to Ms Gascoigne in court for the distress caused and have agreed to pay her substantial damages and costs.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

MailOnline changes inaccurate headline about Muslims and honour violence

On 19 March, MailOnline ran an article under the headline: ‘More than two thirds of young British Muslims believe 'honour' violence is acceptable, survey reveals’:

The article, by Leon Watson, began with much the same claim:

Most young British Muslims support violence against women who 'dishonour' their families, a Panorama investigation will claim today.

In fact, Panorama claimed no such thing. MailOnline was completely wrong.

What the poll of attitudes of 500 young Asians living in Britain, conducted by ComRes, actually revealed was that:

two-thirds of young Asians (69%) living in Great Britain agree families should live according to the concept of ‘honour’ - or ‘izzat’.

So the two-thirds figure quoted so prominently by MailOnline was not about Muslims only, and absolutely was not about violence being acceptable.

The poll did ask respondents if they agreed with the statement:

In certain circumstances, it can be right to physically punish a female member of the family if she brings dishonour to her family or community.

Contrary to the alarming claim in the MailOnline headline, only 6% of all respondents agreed with this statement. Moreover, the percentage of Christians who agreed with this statement was 8% (albeit based on a small number of respondents), compared with 6% of Asian Muslims.

Clive Field, of British Religion in Numbers, notes, however:

three times this number (i.e. 18%) in the entire sample selected one or more of five ‘reasonable justifications’ for physical punishment of female members of the family. The figure was highest among Asian Christians (23%), followed by Muslims (20%), Sikhs (14%), and Hindus (13%).

It's not clear why there is this difference between the 6% and 18% figures. The MailOnline article contains no mention of the lower figure nor of the figures for Asian Christians.

But they have changed the headline so it now says:

That came too late, however, to stop their original headline being repeated on countless anti-Islam forums and blogs. 

The day after MailOnline wrongly claimed 'two thirds of young British Muslims believe 'honour' violence is acceptable' it won Newspaper Website of the Year at the Press Awards.

(See also David L Rattigan, iEngage and Islamophobia Watch)

Mail's reporting of crime statistics questioned

In January, the Mail published this article on the August riots:

The UK Statistics Authority released a Monitoring Brief (pdf) on 20 March which looked into the Mail's article and concluded:

the reporting of this information by the Daily Mail is likely to have left its readers with the impression that far fewer crimes were recorded as a result of the disorder in August than was actually the case.

The Mail's article - by Jack Doyle and Graham Smith - began:

The riots that left whole neighbourhoods up and down the country in a state of ruin last August were the worst civil disturbances for a generation. But reading crime figures released yesterday, it is almost as if the five days of widespread looting and violence never took place.

But the UK Statistics Authority said:

The Daily Mail article quoted the correct number of specific offences of disorder recorded by the police, but did not give the numbers of the other offences that it used to illustrate the disorder in each area. These included serious violent offences (such as murder), criminal damage (e.g. to buildings, cars and arson offences), and acquisitive crimes (such as burglary, robbery, vehicle and other theft).


The Daily Mail went on to correctly note, but question, the way in which the Home Office Counting Rules govern the recording of riot, public order offences and violent disorder by police forces. In some cases the Mail’s reporting is likely to have left readers with the impression that far fewer crimes were recorded as a result of the events in August than was actually the case. For example, the article says that in Croydon the Metropolitan Police only recorded 7 disorder offences, while in fact a total of 430 offences were recorded. The total number of offences that were recorded by the ten police forces that experienced more extensive disorder (recording 20 or more disorder-related offences) was 5,112. This total includes the 141 specific offences of disorder, as well as more than 2,500 acquisitive crimes, 1,800 offences of criminal damage and 360 violent offences.

(Hat-tip to

Monday, 26 March 2012

The Express, the EU and plastic bags - part 3

On 20 May 2011, the Express claimed:

The EU hadn't actually said 'ban shopping bags' or even 'ban' plastic bags.

In fact, the EU had simply launched a public consultation on what action, if any, should be taken on plastic bags.

Undeterred, the Express said this on 19 January 2012:

The EU hadn't actually said it wanted 'all plastic bags' to be made 'illegal'.

In fact, it had been reported that the results of the public consultation were that 70% of the 15,500 responses favoured a ban. But there was no evidence in the story that the EU was to adopt this stance.

Undeterred, today's Express said:

'Now EU bans plastic bags'. 'Now'! So 'now' it is actually happening?

Well, the subhead seems to contradict the main headline as it says: 'Shoppers will be forced to pay new Brussels tax'.

So there will be a 'new tax' for something that's going to be banned?

The actual article, by Martyn Brown, does not clear up this confusion:

Brussels commissars want to outlaw shops from stocking them or impose a wallet-busting tax on shoppers to dramatically reduce their use.

The use of 'commissars' is not, of course, accidental.

So there might be a 'ban' or shoppers may have to pay for them (something some shops do already). Either way, the Express knows the charge will be 'wallet-busting'. It just doesn't say what the charge will be.

The paper says:

One of the key proposals will be a recommendation for mandatory charging for plastic shopping bags.

'Mandatory charges'? Won't one of the 'key proposals' be a 'ban'?

The paper says that the Commission's report will be published next month. Two sentences later, it says:

The proposals were met with fury last night by retailers and politicians and added to the growing support for our crusade to get Britain out of the EU.

Fury always erupts 'last night' for the Express. But how can 'fury' erupt at a set of proposals that haven't been published when it's not clear - especially from the Express' article - what those the proposals are.

Indeed, a week before the Express' article, the BBC website published an article weighing up different options for plastic bags. It said:

The European Commission is to publish proposals in the spring designed to reduce the number of plastic bags used in Europe each year.

Moreover, Speigel reported on 21 March that an internal Commission report has ruled out a complete ban:

At least one of those options -- the complete ban -- has already been taken off the table. According to the Commission study, a ban would have positive environmental impacts, but it would also "raise difficult legal questions." The report calls a complete ban: "a blunt instrument that gives little flexibility to producers, retailers, or consumers." The report also says that a ban would conflict with international trade law and EU internal market rules.

So we wait to see what the Commission actually says when its report is published. Maybe it will propose banning plastic bags, although the Spiegal report suggests that is unlikely. But at this stage it simply isn't clear.

Importantly, nothing in the Express' article justifies the claim in that front page headline.

(Hat-tip to Tim Fenton, for noting the constant eruptions of fury at the Express)

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Mail on Sunday apologises, again, to the bank it said was on the 'brink of disaster'

The 'Corrections and clarifications' column in today's Mail on Sunday includes these four items:

The MS Society has asked us to make clear it does not advocate hyperbaric oxygen treatment for people with multiple sclerosis. Centres mentioned in a health article last week are run by a different charity called MS National Therapy Centres.


Carol Vorderman did not say she left Countdown because Channel 4 bosses wanted ‘fresh meat’. She said they wanted ‘fresh faces’. Our story on March 11 about her interview with Piers Morgan also said Ms Vorderman is a maths graduate. In fact it is engineering.


The Royal Navy did not introduce year-round white-topped caps during WW2 as our report about new uniforms said last week. Black tops in winter continued until some time after the mid-1950s.


On January 15 we published a picture of Tory Party fundraiser Rickie Sehgal with a woman captioned as his wife. In fact it was Mrs Anjana Patel, who is unrelated. We apologise for our error.

However, the most noteworthy statement is a second apology to Société Générale.

It was on 7 August last year that the Mail on Sunday claimed Société Générale was:

in a 'perilous' state and possibly on the 'brink of disaster'.

It was suggested at the time that the article might have been inspired by a fictional 12-part series run by Le Monde.

As its share price began to fall, the bank issued a statement:

'categorically and vigorously' denying all 'unfounded rumours' about its position.

An apology appeared on MailOnline two days after the original article:

We now accept that this was not true and we unreservedly apologise to Société Générale for any embarrassment caused.

But in November, it was announced the bank was going to sue for defamation:

Société Générale said it was not satisfied by the apology, which it said was "hard to find" on the website and had not appeared in the newspaper.

It will claim damages to compensate for loss of business resulting from the article and for the "cost of mitigating the damage" caused by the article.

The Mail on Sunday's reaction to that was:

"The Mail on Sunday has already apologised for publishing the article. Any claims for damages will be resisted."

But today there's another apology - and one which includes mention of the payment of damages:

Société Générale – On August 7, 2011, we reported Société Générale was in dire financial difficulties because of its exposure to Greek debt, and that the French government was on standby to bail out the bank. We accept that this was untrue; the bank was not in serious financial difficulties, nor was it on the brink of insolvency or in line for a bailout from the French government. We have apologised to the bank and have agreed to pay damages.

Sunday Express uses photo from 2007 for front page 'exclusive'

The front page of today's Sunday Express contains what the paper claims is an 'exclusive' about Prince Harry:

'Harry back with Chelsy'.

Is he? The article doesn't seem quite so sure:

Prince Harry sparked rumours that he is back with Chelsy Davy after they attended a surprise 22nd birthday party for Princess Eugenie together.

His former girlfriend of five years was among a select few at the intimate dinner at Windsor Castle on Friday night.

A royal insider said: “Prince Harry was there and so was Chelsy. Clearly they are still close. They appeared at ease with each other and were chatting happily together. Whether or not they have rekindled their relationship is anyone’s guess but they certainly seemed very friendly.”

From "anyone's guess" to front page 'exclusive'.

(Moreover, the Mail's Kate Nicholl was claiming last week that Chelsy had a 'moved on'.)

But what of the photo on the front page? It certainly seems to back up the headline.

However, it was actually taken at the Concert for Diana. In 2007

The paper almost admits this in the very last line of the story:

She and Harry famously enjoyed a kiss at the concert for his mother Princess Diana in 2007.

But how many people will only see the front page and think that kiss was more recent than five years ago?

Saturday, 24 March 2012

MP seeks apology from the Mail

In yet another column attacking John Bercow ('twisty-faced', 'squawking like a country-lane pheasant'), Mail political columnist Quentin Letts writes:

MPs on both sides of the House are becoming openly scornful of the Chair. Labour’s Jamie Reed has a sulphurous disregard for Mr Bercow. And we may not have heard the last of the Jake Berry business. Mr Berry strikes me as one of life’s terriers. We all know what terriers do to rats.

Jamie Reed was rather surprised by this claim and has written to Letts and his editor:

Dear Mr Letts

I was surprised to read in your online column published on 22 March and in the printed edition of the Daily Mail published on 23 March that "Labour's Jamie Reed has sulphurous disregard for Mr Bercow."

I am surprised for two reasons. First of all, we have never met, let alone spoken with each other and so am intrigued as to how such a baseless representation of my view could ever have been formed. Secondly, my estimation of John Bercow really couldn't be better. In my view, Speaker Bercow has immeasurably improved the House of Commons. Moreover, as Speaker of the House, John Bercow represents one of the most positive influences upon politics in the country at large that I have wtinessed during my seven years as a Member of Parliament.

Unfortunately, the view of the Speaker ascribed to me by you is either the product of geuinely mistaken identity on your part, or else it is a deliberate and knowing lie.

Whatever the genesis of this, clearly both a retraction and as apology are now due at the earlier opportunity.

UPDATE: Letts ended his 27 March column with this:

Let me end by putting right a frightful mistake I made last week about Jamieson Reed (Lab, Copeland). After Squeaker Bercow’s fruity ‘kaleidoscope Queen’ speech, Comrade Reed issued a Tweet saying what a mighty orator Mr Bercow was.

Many of us, including friends of Mr Reed, assumed that he was being sarcastic. But no. The good lad says he meant it!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Mail removes story about Hibs after club denial

On Monday, the MailOnline deleted their article about Carol Vorderman hiring a superyacht, having originally believed a joke she made on Twitter was true.

Yesterday, another story vanished from the Mail's website. This time, it was a football story by John McGarry which ran under the headline: Leigh Griffiths headbutts Hibs manager Pat Fenlon.

The story was soon picked up by the Telegraph (also deleted) and the Metro (not yet deleted).

The Mail said:

Leigh Griffiths has played his last game for Hibs after head-butting manager Pat Fenlon and then punching assistant Billy Brown in an astonishing training ground bust-up on Tuesday.

The on-loan Wolves star is understood to have taken exception to comments made by the Easter Road manager at the Ormiston complex.

It seems the 21-year-old striker, who is on loan until the end of the season, was disgusted at being singled out for criticism over recent displays and simply blew a fuse. The flashpoint came at the end of a stormy training session in the aftermath of Sunday’s derby defeat to Hearts.

Sportsmail understands several Hibs players had to be pulled apart earlier in the day before being addressed by Fenlon.

When Fenlon’s attention turned to Griffiths, the player snapped and butted the Irishman, knocking his glasses off.

After the ugly altercation, the Scotland Under-21 star marched off in the direction of the changing rooms hotly pursued by Fenlon’s assistant Brown. Griffiths is then said to have landed a punch on Brown which knocked over the former Hearts No 2.

He then raced to the changing room where he emptied his locker and sped off.

Gripping stuff. Except:

Hibernian has moved to address erroneous press reports regarding an alleged incident involving Leigh Griffiths at the Hibernian Training Centre yesterday.

Contrary to a report in today's Daily Mail, Leigh Griffiths did not head butt Manager Pat Fenlon nor punch Assistant Manager Billy Brown. The striker will be in the squad for Saturday's crucial SPL fixture versus Dundee United.

Pat Fenlon said, "Yesterday was typical training ground stuff, and I'm surprised at the rubbish in the press today. As is usual for high tempo training sessions, involving committed players and coaching staff, robust views and opinions are shared, and yesterday's session was no different.

"Leigh is a quality striker, and a lively personality, and will remain a key part of my team for the rest of the season. There's nothing at all in the story. We just want to focus on winning games and getting up the table."

Hibernian will not tolerate, nor be distracted by, unverified and irresponsible 'reporting' in the media. 

Hibs club captain James McPake told his Twitter followers:

(Hat-tip to Anonymous)

Wednesday, 21 March 2012


A curious headline on the Express website today, above an article about events in Toulouse:


Shouldn't that be 'GUNMAN'?

(Hat-tip to Daryl)

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Mirror apologises to model for serial killer photo error

On Saturday, the Daily Mirror used - without permission - an image of the model Morgana in its 'Women Who Kill' pull-out, to illustrate the story of Vera Renczi.

Today, the paper has apologised:

APOLOGY to Patricia Belda Martinez.

WITH Saturday's Daily Mirror we distributed a supplement entitled 'Women who Kill' which we trailed on the front page of the newspaper with a picture of the front page of the supplement.

One of the women whose story featured in the supplement was Vera Renczi who lived in the former Yugoslavia between 1903 and 1939 and who killed 35 men. Unfortunately due to an error the picture we used, both inside and on the front page of the supplement, was not of Vera Renczi but of Patricia Belda Martinez, who is otherwise known as Morgana and who is a fashion model. The picture we used belongs to Ms Martinez.

We apologise unreservedly to Ms Martinez for our error in wrongly using her picture in the supplement which she, of course, has no connection with and for the considerable embarrassment caused to her by our actions.

UPDATE: Morgana's own blogpost on this is here.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Mirror uses model's image to illustrate serial killer story

Yesterday - the day before Mother's Day - the Daily Mirror came with a free 'Women Who Kill' pull-out. A 'Mirror special on women with no mercy'. It was trailed on the front page:

But which 'female with no mercy' is that in the bottom row, to the right of Myra Hindley? (apologies for image quality)

In the actual pull-out, she appears on the centre pages, under the headline:

35 male bodies all in labelled coffins in her wine cellar, and in the 12th, her son

The photo on the front page is used again inside (image from Patricia Belda Martinez):

The text is about Vera Renczi. But the woman in the picture is not Renczi, or indeed any other murderer.

Instead, it's a model called Morgana, who tweeted:

As Aaron Jacob Jones points out, the image used by the Mirror has had Morgana's copyright cropped off the bottom.

If you search Google Images for 'Vera Renczi' the first result you get is from the Killers Without Conscience website, which used Morgana's image - with the copyright cropped - on a tale about Renczi in September last year.

Was that the extent of the Mirror's research? Didn't they think the image was suspiciously high-quality given Renczi was - apparently - born in 1903?

Morgana added:

you would think newspapers would know better before printing a double page spread with a pic they don't own.

(Hat-tips to Patricia/Morgana, Aaron, Matt and benjymous)

MailOnline doesn't do research, falls for Twitter joke

Mail editor-in-chief Paul Dacre told the Leveson Inquiry on 6 February:

I'm very proud of the Mail's evolving and clearly everything can improve, but I think to come from a cold start to being the world's number newspaper internet site is an achievement that British journalism should be proud of.

Yesterday, at 12:56pm, Carol Vorderman tweeted:

Someone at Mail HQ clearly thought this was a great story, and within six hours, an article appeared under the byline of Daily Mail Reporter:

You'll be all at sea, Carol! Vorderman unveils her new yacht... although it's hardly the right weather for sailing

She's made a name for herself as a TV star with plenty of brains behind her beauty.

But perhaps Carol Vorderman wasn't quite with it when she decided to rent a huge yacht.

The 51-year-old posted a picture of the large vessel to her Twitter page, proudly announcing it was moored at the Bristol docks.

However, it's hardly the weather for a sun-drenched cruise across the bay.

In fact, it's pretty miserable across the British Isles with rain and grey skies dominating this weekend.

That won't put Carol off though, the former Countdown presenter always seem to be of a sunny disposition.

In those six hours, it appears Daily Mail Reporter didn't do any research about this yacht. If they had, they might have found local news reports about its arrival in Bristol on 13 March, and that it is set to be delivered to its new owner in the Mediterranean later this week. It's not being 'hired for the season' by Vorderman or anyone else.

A few hours later, Vorderman tweeted again:

The Mail has a little bit of form on this: it fell for a spoof Steve Jobs twitter account in 2010, and last year used a joke tweet by Jeremy Vine as the basis for a serious article about the BBC attacking Christianity.

Meanwhile, in other Vorderman 'news', the Sun has published the words of Sam Amos, a 'psychic' who has done, err, 'rumpology' readings of Vorderman's bum.

(Hat-tip to James)

UPDATE: MailOnline deleted the article on Monday. 

Sorry we suggested you were a sexist bully

Today's Mail on Sunday includes this apology:

An article on January 30, 2011, suggested that Dominic Raab MP behaved as a sexist bully in a previous job as an office manager. We accept that our allegations were unfounded and we apologise to Mr Raab for the damage, embarrassment and offence caused.

Yes, that was for an article published over a year ago.

Raab explains on his blog:

On 30 January 2011, the Mail on Sunday printed a story based on two second-hand and anonymous sources implying I was a sexist bully in a previous job before becoming an MP. I told the Mail on Sunday at the time that this was a smear, and that ‘any insinuation that I have behaved improperly is false and malicious’. So when they printed the story, I sued. A year later, with seven first-hand witnesses able to vindicate my side of the case at trial, the Mail on Sunday has apologised unequivocally and paid compensation to settle the case...

This was not a crusade against the tabloid press. But, when a newspaper gets a story badly wrong like this, it is important that there is some accountability - and an apology.

Friday, 16 March 2012

From the Mike Sullivan archives

Yesterday, the Leveson Inquiry heard from Mike Sullivan, crime correspondent at the Sun and one of those recently arrested by officers from Operation Elveden.

During his evidence, journalist Samira Ahmed tweeted:

Ahmed had reported on the murder of Rochelle Holness at the time, and had interviewed Rochelle's mother for Channel 4 News.

The Sun's article, written by Sullivan, Alex Peake and Tony Bonnici, was untrue. It said (and still says):

The claim that the victim was 'STILL ALIVE' came from an anonymous source:

One source said: "The flat was covered in blood, which points to the fact Rochelle was alive when her body was cut up."

The anonymous source does not say anything about Rochelle being 'strapped to a table' however.

It wasn't just the Sun - the Daily Star also claimed:

"murdered schoolgirl Rochelle Holness was cut up with an electric saw while she was still alive — it was feared that she was dismembered while her heart was still beating."

Yet Rochelle was already dead when she was dismembered, according to the post mortem. 

Speaking in May 2006, after John McGrady was given a full life sentence for Rochelle's murder, her family:

criticised two tabloid newspapers which published lurid and false details about the case...

"We hope those responsible for causing us so much unnecessary pain will today feel the shame that has so far been absent, for their behaviour has been as inhumane as John McGrady's."

The Press Gazette reported:

The Holness family's lawyer, Andre Clovis, told Press Gazette that two stories in the red-tops had been particularly disturbing for the family. He said they appeared after Rochelle's body was found, but before the family had received details of the post-mortem findings.

He said: "Before they had received any feedback from the pathologist via the police, there were these articles written by these two papers."


Clovis said that the pieces caused a rift between the family and the police — because they wanted to know why they were not being told this information first. He added the family found the stories extremely upsetting — not least, because the information was not true.

He said that the post mortem found that Rochelle had been dead for at least 15 hours when her body was mutilated and that there was no evidence that blood had been splattered over the flat.

He said: "When you are reporting about these issues you have got to report them sensitively because there are people involved. The family were devastated because they believed these stories."

Clovis added:

"We've sent in 30 other press cuttings from various other newspapers to the PCC to show that the rest of the reporting has been extremely sensitive. The question is why these papers felt they had to go a step further. The others reported the graphic details but didn't invent things and didn't try to make it any more gruesome than it was."

Mike Sullivan was also partly responsible - along with Anthony France - for a 27 April 2007 Sun article headlined 'Bondage killing of Muslim mum' which began:

A mum of four found murdered in her car boot was wearing rubber bondage gear, cops revealed yesterday. Last night they were investigating whether Muslim divorcée Janet Hossain, 32, was killed in a kinky sex session which got out of hand. She was wearing just the fetish outfit, which included belts and chains, and there were no obvious signs of injury.

This was almost completely untrue. Three months later, The Sun admitted:

Further to our article Bondage Killing of Muslim Mum of April 27 we would like to make clear the body of Ms Janet Hossain, of Manor Park, East London, was not discovered wearing bondage clothes as we stated. We apologise to her family for any distress caused.

So there was no bondage gear, no fetish outfit, no chains, no kinky sex session.

Are those two sentences really enough to atone for the 'distress caused'?

Remember the words of Sullivan's colleague Trevor Kavanagh, in his infamous 13 February rant about the situation at News International?

It is important that we do not jump to conclusions.


(Hat-tips to Samira Ahmed and septicisle)

Sunday, 11 March 2012

'Happy to clarify'

On 28 November 2011, a Mail article claimed:

Many of us dream of wearing the beautiful costumes from period dramas like Downton Abbey... however, few would go quite as far as donning them every day. But romantic fiction-lover, Lyn-Marie Cunliffe, has taken her obsession with Victorian literature to the extreme - by living her modern life dressed as her heroine Charlotte Bronte. The 49-year-old, loves the 19th century author so much, she dresses like her all the time - even on trips to the supermarket.  

On 9 March, the Mail published this clarification online:

Further to a feature published on 28 November 2011 based on an interview with Lyn-Marie Cunliffe – which was provided by an agency – she has asked us to make clear that she does not “live her life dressed as Charlotte Bronte”.

She occasionally dresses as the author as part of her work – she owns over fifty costumes from various periods along with accessories and props as part of her business – but does not harbour a passion or obsession for the Brontes.

She has made clear she did not refer to her husband as her Mr Rochester or say that she thought of Heathcliffe while walking her dog.

We are happy to clarify her position.

There's no apology for an incorrect story and a protracted complaint that has gone on for months. But were they really 'happy to clarify'?

Lyn-Marie explains on her website:

The Daily Mail has finally admitted that its article “Do you come Eyre often” which claimed I always dressed as Charlotte Bronte is untrue...

To summarise the Mail has conceded it has never spoken to me and merely published under Lauren Paxmans name a story bought from a news agency.

While I suppose I ought to be magnanimous in victory this has been a bitter and hard battle and I feel unable to accord the Mail the credit so clearly due to the Guardian and Telegraph who had corrected their genuine mistake promptly and behaved in every respect with decency and rectitude.

The Mails retraction is by contrast is entirely due to the efforts of the Press complaints commission as prior to their intervention the Daily Mail had refused to answer my emails.

The PCC negotiations where extremely prolonged and the Daily Mail behaved in an appalling manner. Its replies to emails have at times been extremely distressing. It has trawled  by its own admission my blog, my flickr profile and my Ebay listings (and its clear by statements made to the PCC it has also been following my facebook page. It has searched for links it could forward to the PCC to try to support its case. It has suggested that by being forced to sell assets(which was due to decreased business and made no mention of the story) I had “profited” from the story and because a tag on a photo in my flickr profile used "crazy costume Lady" (posted after the Mails story surfaced) I couldn’t complain about their story making me look unbalanced.

It also claimed I lied about the nature of my work and would not budge from this statement until forwarded  official accounts  from my business and a statement from a past client this despite its searching of blog and flickr posts which make it clear I do wide ranging costume work. It claimed in one email to the PCC it had talked to me to explain the story and that  I was merely upset by the reaction to it and  had actually said everything they claimed but was trying to pretend otherwise. In short it insulted me in every possible way during the negotiations and showed  a lack of concern for the truth that is breathtaking. [It] has shown not the least regard for either common decency or journalistic standards.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Mail corrects Littlejohn column

On 12 July 2011, Daily Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn wrote about the accessing of Milly Dowler's voicemail by the News of the World. In it, he said:

For the life of me, too, I still can’t see the difference between the Screws hacking into voicemails and the Guardian lionising Julian Assange, who hacked into the security services and then published classified details which got people killed.

But if you read the column now, that paragraph now reads:

For the life of me, too, I still can’t see the difference between the Screws hacking into voicemails and the Guardian lionising Julian Assange, whose organisation publishes highly confidential leaked information from security services, publication of which puts people's lives at risk.

A clarification published on Thursday explains why it has changed:

A column on 12 July suggested that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange had hacked into the security services and published information which got people killed.

Mr Assange asks us to clarify that Wikileaks does not itself ‘hack’ but provides a secure facility for anonymous sources to deposit information online.

While the U.S. government has warned that Wikileaks disclosures put lives at risk, no such deaths have to date been reported.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

'Swamped with complaints'

The Mail's Sara Nathan has managed to turn the selection of Engelbert Humperdinck as the UK act for Eurovision into an attack on the BBC:

'Swamped with complaints'?

The BBC has been swamped with complaints after picking Engelbert Humperdinck to sing Britain’s entry at the Eurovision Song Contest.

The article then goes on to repeat the comments of three - yes, three - people who have left critical comments on the BBC messageboards.

How many actual, official complaints has the BBC received?

'Nul points' for another Eurovision story

After tweeting a link to the post about three different stories linking Russell Grant to the Eurovision Song Contest, the Daily Star Sunday's Ed Gleave replied:

It was on 26 February 2012 that Gleave suggested that Atomic Kitten were 'lined up' to represent the UK. It was backed up by - yes - another anonymous source:

A Eurovision insider said last night: “Atomic Kitten are the perfect act to send to Baku. They were picked because the BBC think they’ve got what it takes.”

The members of Atomic Kitten were surprised by this revelation. Natasha Hamilton tweeted:

I thought my memo got lost in the post!

Liz McClarnon tweeted:

Loving the rumours & thank you for all the well wishes but we know nothing about #eurovision

And Jenny Frost tweeted:

Woke up to hear that apparently AK are doing Eurovision-first I've heard!!

So eventhough all of them said they knew nothing about it, Gleave's anonymous source said 'they were picked' for the contest.

Engelbert Humperdinck was announced as the actual act a few days later

(Hat-tip to Ed Gleave)

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Sorry we said you raped a 14-year-old

The natural father of Peter Connelly (Baby P) has been awarded substantial damages after The People accused him of being a sex offender who had been convicted of raping a 14-year-old girl.

MediaGuardian reports:

Mr Justice Bean ordered Mirror Group Newspapers, publisher of the People, to pay an initial £30,000 in damages plus costs of £35,000. The damages payout will rise to £75,000 if the publisher loses permission to take the ruling to the court of appeal.

The allegations were contained in two paragraphs in a crime supplement in the People about Baby P's mother, who had separated from the child's father, referred to in court as KC. They appeared in a 19 September 2010 article headed "Tortured to death as mum turned a blind eye"...

Bean said in his written judgment: "It is difficult to think of any charge more calculated to lead to the revulsion and condemnation of a person's fellow citizens than the rape of a 14-year-old girl."

KC said in his witness statement that he was "shocked and upset beyond words" by the false libel, which he first learned about in phone calls from close friends.

The judge said the appropriate starting point for the damages was £150,000. But he reduced this by half, to £75,000 because Mirror Group Newspapers moved swiftly to apologise and correct the error.

The Independent added:

Heather Rogers QC, appearing for MGN [Mirror Group Newspapers], told the High Court hearing: "This was a mistake that MGN regrets and it has apologised to the claimant, and I repeat that apology on its behalf in this court."

However, she denied KC had been badly treated, or that MGN had conducted any kind of "campaign" against him, or dismissed his legitimate complaint.

Today, Ms Rogers argued that MGN should be allowed to appeal on the grounds that the compensation order was too high and "disproportionate". 

Russell Grant and Eurovision

It was announced last week that Engelbert Humperdinck is to represent the UK at the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest.

This may have come as something of a shock to readers of the Daily Star. On 17 November 2011, the paper said the person being 'lined up' to sing for the UK was...Russell Grant:

Peter Dyke's article includes a quote from a conveniently anonymous source, who says:

“He’s camp just like Eurovision. But he can also sing and dance, unlike some of our past entries.

“We’re looking for someone who will bring the fun back to the contest so it would make sense to ask him."

The only attributed quote in the article comes at the end and is from Grant. He points out such reports are:

"very premature"


One week later, the Evening Standard had a different role lined up for Grant:

Russell Grant is set to host of the Eurovision Song Contest.

The 'Strictly Come Dancing' star - who left the ballroom competition last weekend - is the frontrunner to present the BBC's coverage of the annual singing competition next year, taking over duties from Graham Norton.

A source said: "Russell would be perfect for Eurovision. He's well and truly in the nation's hearts after his amazing routines on Strictly and would bring his unique humour and zest to the show. 

Another anonymous source.

It's not clear where the suggestion Norton was being replaced came from. But the BBC's press release announcing Humperdinck as the UK act ended with confirmation that commentary for the 2012 event will indeed be done by...Norton.

But that wasn't the end of Grant and Eurovision. On 28 December 2011, the Sun came up with a different tale:

Astrologer Russell Grant has been asked to represent MALTA at Eurovision.

Organisers from the Mediterranean island got in touch with the flamboyant star after he impressed them with his turn on Strictly Come Dancing. 

Malta? Oh yes, according to another anonymous source:

A pal said: "He was thrilled but a bit perplexed to be asked to represent Malta as he has no link to the country.

"The only Maltesers he knows are in a box of chocolates. But he was really flattered."

Yet there's an interesting comment under this article, from one of the 'organisers' in Malta that, the Sun said, had 'got in touch' with Grant:

'Absolutely garbage and completely untrue'.

An article on Malta Today elaborates on this denial:

Eurovision Malta chief organiser and PBS chief executive Anton Attard described the report as "absolute nonsense".

Attard explained that he didn't even know Russell Grant, however he did not exclude that the British media got it all wrong.

"Mr. Grant may have been contacted by any composer who would have offered him a song, and we do not go into that as long as the competition regulations are observed," Attard said.

He added that from the long list of entry submissions made to the organisers, Russell Grant's name never featured. The time for submissions has meanwhile been closed.

And last month it was announced that Malta would be represented by Kurt Calleja.

So three articles about Russell Grant and Eurovision, and not one of them turned out to be true. The papers clearly need more reliable anonymous sources.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Recommended reading: The PCC and health reporting

Following the PCC's ruling on several stories about the HPV vaccine and a girl in a waking coma, Martin Robbins has written a good article about all the health and science stories the PCC has considered this year.

Of eleven they have dealt with, seven were published by the Mail or Mail on Sunday.

Robbins notes:

Bad science reporting isn't just an irritant to nerdy pedants like me, it's something that risks people's health and undermines their ability to make informed choices. The PCC's recent statement suggests that they understand this, which makes it all the more frustrating that their rulings on the stories above - merely the tip of the bad science iceberg - were so weak.

Sure, boxes were ticked and compliance requirements were met. One story was taken down and several had amendments added to them at a later date, but by then the damage had been done. Thousands of people who read these articles may now have unwarranted doubts about the cervical cancer vaccine, or be afraid to touch a child with haemophilia, and that is serious damage that can't easily be undone.