Monday, 27 August 2012

Mail and Sun websites publish fake lion pic

The image of Tropical Storm Isaac (that wasn't) was not the only occasion today when MailOnline published - without checks - a photo it found on Twitter, which it then deleted. 

They also ran this photo in an article on the 'Essex lion':
(apologies for the poor quality screenshot)

The article claimed it had the:

Image that sparked police hunt for big cat in Essex town

and said:

Photo passed around social networking site believed to be lion

The article began:

This is believed to be the first picture of the lion on the loose which has sparked a huge police hunt for the beast.

The image - which has been widely distributed on Twitter - is thought to show the beast behind a car in a residential area in Basildon, Essex.

The Sun also ran the pic, under the headline: 'First photo of lion on loose in Essex':

(apologies for the poor quality screenshot)

Both use the phrase 'lion on the loose' as if that was fact.

But the image used was fake. According to Marcus Edwards from Channel 4 News, the same photoshopped pic did the rounds last year during the riots, when a big cat was said to have escaped from London Zoo. Like the 'Essex lion' story, that was also nonsense.

The most recent MailOnline article now says:

It has emerged that an image believed to show the lion which was widely viewed online was in fact a fake.

Essex police warned that 'several doctored photographs are in circulation through social networking sites and other media forums'.

And officers said one night-time picture in circulation showing the silhouette of what looked like a lion, was 'never one that police were examining'.

The image - which was widely distributed on Twitter - was thought to show the beast behind a car in a residential area in Basildon, Essex.

'Widely distributed on Twitter'. But MailOnline forgets to mention its own, rather prominent use of the 'first picture of the lion on the loose'. 

The wrong verdict (cont.)

When MailOnline publisher Martin Clarke appeared at the Leveson Inquiry, he had some explaining to do about the publishing of the wrong verdict in the Raffaele Sollecito/Amanda Knox appeal case.

It was, Clarke said, down to "human error and overzealousness" and stated:

"The thing than made me angriest was that there was no need for it… We had a thorough inquiry, as you can tell, advice was issued, firm advice, to people, and I’ll be very displeased if any of those things happen again."

Three days ago, a verdict in another high-profile trial. Granted, it was just one caption this time, not a whole article. But...

"Anders Behring Breivik has avoided jail after a court ruled he is in [sic] insane"

(Hat-tip to Kreuzberger for spotting this and taking the screenshot)

MailOnline fooled by fake Isaac photo

MailOnline reports on the progress of Tropical Storm/Hurricane Isaac:

The first photo they use to illustrate their article is certainly dramatic. But is it genuine? And is it Isaac?

They have credited it to 'Twitter/Seven_marine'. But that Twitter account has not been updated since March 2011.

A quick search of Google Images finds that photo used on many blogs before Isaac, including this one from August 2010 and this one from 2008.

According to Bay News 9:

the photo has been around for many years and seems to pop up every time a severe weather situation arises.

"It is a Photoshopped picture of a supercell thunderstorm that seems to pop up with a new foreground every time there is a hurricane threat anywhere," Bay News 9 Meteorologist Josh Linker said.

"I've seen versions of that photo since at least 2005," Bay News 9 Meteorologist Brian McClure added.

Yet, according to the caption on 'newspaper website of the year' MailOnline, the photo is:

Ominous: Tropical storm Isaac gathers pace as it barrels towards the Gulf coast, where it is expected to hit by Wednesday - the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

Journalist Jonathan Haynes says:

Cannot believe how many news websites see something on Twitter and publish it without basic checks on its validity. Utterly depressing. 

(Hat-tip to Jonathan Haynes).

UPDATE: MailOnline updated their article and removed the fake photo at 7.11pm, less than an hour after a link to the above was posted on Twitter. 

Friday, 24 August 2012

The People corrects article on trans police officers

The PCC has published details of a resolved complaint which will see The People admit:

In an article of 3 June reporting on transsexual police officers, we stated that transsexual officers were exempt from body searches and officers could take a year's paid leave for gender reassignment. In fact, transsexual officers, are able to perform the full range of duties performed by any other police officer and there are currently no police forces where officers can take a year's paid leave for gender re-assignment.

It seems there were further problems with Nick Dorman's article, which were outlined at the time by Jane Fae. For example, Dorman wrote:

Suspects can only be searched by ­officers of the same sex and transsexuals cannot change theirs on birth certificates.

The claim about birth certificates is not accurate, and hasn't been since the Gender Recognition Act came into effect in 2005.

Jane also reveals some of how the paper responded to the complaint.   

At time of writing, the original article remains uncorrected on the People's website.

Mail corrects headline on foreign aid story

The Mail, 30 June 2012:

How your money is being squandered: The African village where EVERY family is getting £7,500 from the British taxpayer.

The Mail, 17 August 2012:

The headline of an article about international aid on June 30 said the British taxpayer was giving £7,500 to each of 2,250 households – equating to some 11,000 people – in a village in Ghana to lift them out of poverty. In fact, as the article stated, only £11.5million of the £17.2million is being donated by the UK, and the five-year project aims to help 30,000 people in all.

The headline has been changed slightly but it still includes the £7,500 figure, and this correction has not been added.

Friday, 17 August 2012


MailOnline yesterday:

MailOnline yesterday (article has four photos, including one of the body):

MailOnline yesterday:

So while MailOnline thinks people who take photos of traffic accidents are 'ghouls', it doesn't reveal what it thinks of websites that publish such photos.

(Hat-tip to Safe_Timber_Man and Arnold at Mailwatch Forum)

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Express, dementia and chocolate

Another day, another 'miracle cure' on the front page of the Express:

The article - by Jo Willey, of course - begins:

A daily does of cocoa could be the secret to halting Alzheimer's, researchers claim.

So while the headline says 'can', the story says 'could' - par for the course for such stories.

It is worth comparing the Express - 'Chocolate can halt dementia' - with the first line of American Heart Association press release which says:

Eating cocoa flavanols daily may improve mild cognitive impairment...

The Express fails to mention who was behind the research:

Mars Inc. funded the study and provided the standardized cocoa drinks.

It is also worth noting that:

this study was not done with chocolate, but with lower-calorie, nutritionally balanced drinks rich in cocoa flavanols.

The Express includes quotes from the research leader, Dr Giovambattista Desideri, which are more cautious than that front page headline:

"It is yet unclear whether these benefits in cognition are a direct consequence of cocoa flavanols or a secondary effect of general improvements in cardiovascular function. Larger studies are needed to validate the findings..."

But the Express does not include this quote:

"Based on the current explosion of obesity, which is particularly evident in children, we should be careful when recommending chocolate ingestion to our patients...In real life, the progressive increment of body weight due to an unbalanced diet is likely to counterbalance the positive effects of cocoa on vascular function."

There's an important quote - in the final paragraph of the article, of course - from Alzheimer's Research UK:

“It would be useful to see more long-term studies to investigate the lasting effects. Ultimately we would need to see the results of large-scale trials to know whether cocoa flavanols could help prevent or delay dementia.”

Dr. Sam Gandy, from the Mount Sinai Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, told HealthDay:

"the lifestyle intervention with the strongest science behind it is physical exercise. I would recommend physical exercise before I would recommend chocolate...the study is interesting but requires replication before it can be taken seriously."

Or put on the front page of a paper?


Today's Daily Star claims to have a 'Big Brother exclusive':

By using 'exclusive', the Star implies it is actually 'revealing' the 'big sex secret'.

But it is not. 

Today's story (on the front of Richard Desmond's Daily Star) reveals that Brian Dowling, host of Big Brother (broadcast of Richard Desmond's Channel 5), told new! magazine (owned by Richard Desmond) that he'd like Jasmine Lennard - a former partner of Cowell and housemate on Celebrity Big Brother - to reveal some 'sex secrets'.

But the Star told us under the very similar and equally misleading front page headline 'Cowell's secret Big Bro sex romps' on 31 July:

The model, 27, signed a legal agreement never to spill the beans about her sizzling six-month fling with The X Factor boss.

So nothing has been, or looks likey to be, 'revealed'

As Star editor Dawn Neesom told the Leveson Inquiry:

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.

Shame they aren't as accurate as they could make them.

Monday, 13 August 2012

'Somewhat tainted'

In early July, Dominique Jackson wrote a blogpost about unemployed graduates for the MailOnline's RightMinds.

It included this paragraph:

The German slogan 'Arbeit Macht Frei' is somewhat tainted by its connection with Nazi concentration camps, but its essential message, 'work sets you free' still has something serious to commend it. There is dignity to be gained from any job, no matter how menial, and for young people at the start of their careers, there are valuable lessons to be learned from any form of employment, whether that is on the factory floor, on a supermarket till or in the contemporary hard labour camp of a merchant bank or law office.

There was some discussion of this at the Mailwatch Forum at the time, but otherwise there was little comment.

Today, the New Statesman's Alex Hern wrote about Jackson's article. Not long after, the paragraph suddenly vanished from the original.

Jackson tweeted:

I personally asked ed at Mail to amend offending par (for which I've apologised) following extraordinary personal abuse. 

She also said it was:

a stupid, thoughtless, inappropriate reference written in haste.

Needless to say, the MailOnline hasn't acknowledge the edit, although, as Roy Greenslade points out, several comments remain on the article that refer to the use of 'Arbeit Macht Frei'.

It is notable that no one at MailOnline seems to have raised any concern about it - not even Jackson - until today, nearly six weeks after it was published, and only then after it was highlighted by the New Statesman (and then Twitter).

It is reminiscent of the case of Rick Dewsbury, whose RightMinds comments about mixed-race families led to a storm of criticism that resulted in his article being edited, then removed. That was just two weeks ago.

At the end of June, Allan Mallinson wrote a RightMinds post about homelessness among ex-servicemen, which originally claimed:

all the civilian shelters were full of Somalis and Poles.

MailOnline later amended this sentence, and a couple of other points in the article, following several complaints. While the latter changes were acknowledged, the former was not.

And in April 2012, another RightMinds post caused some controversy. Alexander Boot wrote that homosexuality was an 'aberration'. After much critical comment and the establishment of a Facebook group, the article vanished from MailOnline, although remains on Boot's personal website. Boot stopped blogging for MailOnline in May.

Are these contentious posts being published simply to attract visitors? The swift deletions in the Boot and Dewsbury cases suggest this may not always be the case. So is there a problem with the editorial process at RightMinds?

In response to a complaint about the Boot piece, Mail Group Managing Editor Alex Bannister told a complainant:

By way of background, I should further point out that blogs are stream-of-consciousness opinion pieces by freelance writers and are not subject to the same level of editorial scrutiny as other published articles which are either commissioned or written by staff members.

By contrast, bloggers are given free rein to express their opinions without fear or favour and are encouraged to write freely to stir up and spark debate. While these opinions may occasionally give rise to offence, we usually take the position that this is preferable to the aggressive censorship of their contributions.

Nevertheless, with regard to this particular item, we quickly came to the view that it was better to remove it which we did in April shortly after it was published.

A response by MailOnline Deputy Publisher Pete Picton to complaints about the Dewsbury case follows a similar line:

Blogs on the Right Minds site are where writers can voice opinions and comment on the current issues of today. As they are blogs, by the their nature, they are the views of the individual writer concerned and not necessarily those of the Daily Mail or Mail Online.

However, we have taken comments about this blog very seriously. On reflection, the Right Minds editor decided – as is his prerogative - to remove the blog post from the channel. We always welcome feedback-whether positive or negative-and we recognise that controversial views can elicit a strong response. We appreciate you taking the time to get in touch and passing on your thoughts about the item.

Dominique Jackson blogged about writing for MailOnline in June. She said:

When I first started the blog, RightMinds was brand new and in desperate need of fresh and regular content, ideally from someone with a female picture byline. In the main, RM is a fairly reactionary, political comment website but they recognised the need for a little leaven, which I was duly asked to provide.

So I get asked to tackle what are more usually termed the soft stories: social policy; elderly care; adoption; unemployed graduates; dementia research; dog rescue stories. I fulfil a very simple function. It allows the RM editorial team to go into the Mail conference explaining that they have already got it covered. By the way, all opinions are my own. I never, ever get a Daily Mail steer.

I am really just a kind of human sausage machine, sucking up the subject, cooking up 400-800 words of hopefully coherent comment and opinion and, within an hour or so, pressing send to shoot it off into the ether for an eventual slot on the website. It’s more or less what all the other Polly Fillers and Phil Spaces do. Nobody needs to read it and I suspect that hardly anyone, apart from a few of my old school friends, even bothers.

She was less than complimentary, but quite accurate, about MailOnline which:

traditionally garners its obscene quantity of hits by printing all manner of celebrity twaddle, invariably accompanied by prurient, all but pornographic images of C-list TV presenters, footballers' wives and ersatz pop stars.

Despite the fact she tweeted a link to this today, it has now vanished from her blog too. Perhaps that's not much of a surprise, given its title ('Six Months As A Sausage Machine: My Mail Online Blogging Hell') and the fact she was still writing for RightMinds just a few days ago.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Another photo error...

Twenty minutes after this blog tweeted this...

...the Daily Star changed the picture, and added an apostrophe to the headline.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

The 'date' that wasn't

Yesterday, MailOnline published an article about double Olympic gold medal-winning cyclist Laura Trott. She was pictured sat next to Prince Harry at the beach volleyball and so the MailOnline gossip-mongers felt they could speculate about what was going on:

It said they 'got on like a house on fire' and were 'laughing and joking together'. She had been 'invited to join Prince Harry' at the beach volleyball. She was 'Cinderella Laura' on a 'date' with a Prince.

It seems this 'inspired' the front page of today's Express:

This morning, the article looked different. MailOnline discovered photos of Trott kissing fellow cyclist Jason Kenny, and decided to re-write the article a little:

Suddenly, Trott had had 'two dates'. She had been 'chatting up' Harry, but was then kissing Kenny.

A tweet this morning from Trott, confirming a relationship with Kenny, led MailOnline to re-write the article for a third time:

The second bullet point says Trott was 'chatting to' Harry. That's rather different from claiming she was 'Harry's Olympic date'.

But what's clear is that many of the photos of Trott and Harry that fuelled the innuendo in the first article were simply misleading:

As can be seen from the last of these, Jason Kenny was sat next to Trott throughout her 'date' with Harry. Whether he was cropped out by the picture agency or MailOnline isn't clear. But it does seem very clear that the hacks at MailOnline used these pictures to imagine a 'date' wasn't a 'date' at all.

(Hat-tip to Dylan Mitchell)

Express cancer story 'potentially dangerous'

An article in yesterday's Express stated:

Jo Willey's article said:

Drinking grapefruit juice can dramatically boost the ­effectiveness of cancer drugs, according to scientists.

It means patients might be able to lower their dose of medication while still getting the same benefit as if from a higher one.

But the NHS Behind the Headlines response is that the Express' reporting is not only 'misleading' but also 'potentially dangerous':

The findings of the research do suggest that combining sirolimus with grapefruit juice may achieve a successful “trade-off” between effectiveness and reduced side effects. However, the researchers are clear that further research must be done to develop these preliminary findings.

Therefore, headlines claiming that grapefruit juice "boosts cancer drugs" are both misleading and irresponsible. This was a carefully controlled trial, looking at a single medication, that employed rigorous safety protocols.

Encouraging people to mix grapefruit juice with both prescription and non-prescription drugs could lead to overdoses, which could be dangerous. Cancer patients should not alter their current medication dosages or start drinking grapefruit juice based on this research.  


The media reports failed to give clear warnings about the potential dangers of anyone drinking grapefruit juice while taking certain medications, due to its ability to strengthen the drug’s dose. 

The Express’s headline was particularly misleading as it implied that all cancer drugs would benefit from being combined with grapefruit juice. In fact, the researchers were only looking at a single drug, and even then, this medication is not widely used to treat cancer. 

The reports may lead some cancer patients to think that reaching for the juice is a good or at least harmless idea. However, drinking grapefruit juice while taking medication is potentially dangerous. NHS Choices specifically states that if you are taking immunosuppressant medications such as sirolimus, you should never drink grapefruit juice without consulting your doctor.

Express and Mirror apologise for photo error

The Express and Mirror have apologised for publishing photos of the Dutch dressage team, rather than the gold medal winners from Team GB, yesterday.

The Mirror says:

In yesterday's Daily Mirror newspaper a picture captioned Great Britain's gold medal winning dressage team was in fact of the Dutch bronze medal trio.

We apologise for the mistaken use of the picture, which was supplied by a normally reputable agency.

The Express has published an article about dressage - 'the sport riding high' - which ends with:

Due to a caption error by a picture agency, some editions of yesterday’s Daily Express showed a photograph of the bronze medal-winning Dutch dressage team instead of the victorious British dressage team. We sincerely apologise for the error.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Express and Mirror illustrate British Olympic success...with photos of the Dutch

The front page of today's Daily Express - the self-proclaimed 'World's Greatest Newspaper' - celebrates Team GB's success at the Olympics. Under the headline '22 CARAT GOLD', the paper says:

Jubliant Team GB was celebrating a sensational Olympic record last night – notching up a glorious total of 22 gold medals.

Sir Chris Hoy rounded off another astonishing day for Britain’s athletes as they scooped four more golds.

There were other triumphs in cycling and dressage and the gruelling triathlon.

They decided to put pictures of all these gold medallists on the front page:

Unfortunately, rather than the gold-medal winning British dressage team, the Express has published a photo of the third-placed Dutch team:

And the Express wasn't the only one - the Mirror used photos of the Dutch team on page seven and on their centre pages (photo from Nick Sutton):

According to Roy Greenslade, Getty sent out the photo wrongly-tagged. But did no-one at the Mirror or Express notice the bright orange collars or the not-very-gold medals and wonder if it was the right team?

(Thanks to Antonia, Martin, Chris and others)

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

'Wonder jab' fails in clinical trials

The Daily Express is well known for its very premature front page headlines declaring some new 'cure' for Alzheimer's, cancer, heart disease, arthritis or blindness.

On 15 February 2011, the Express reported:

It said about Alzheimer's disease:

The world’s first Alzheimer’s vaccine could be available in the UK by the end of this year if, as expected, it gets the all-clear from licensing bodies.

Called bapineuzumab, it appears to slow or even reverse the build-up of the harmful brain deposits thought to cause the disease. The vaccine contains antibodies that are designed to prompt the immune system to attack foreign material.

Existing drugs merely ease the symptoms or slow progression of the disease but trial data suggests the vaccine may cut harmful deposits by a quarter.

Today, the Express has a rather different story on this 'wonder jab', bapineuzumab:

Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson are ending development of an intravenous formulation of a drug to treat Alzheimer's disease after the treatment failed in two late-stage clinical trials.

The companies hoped bapineuzumab intravenous would slow the decline in physical and mental function for patients with Alzheimer's. However the drug did not work better than a placebo in two late-stage trials in patients who had mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease...

The two companies said on July 23 that the drug had failed in a different trial. All other studies are now being discontinued.

This is a clear example of why papers such as the Express should avoid sensationalist headlines that can give false hope.

(Hat-tip to Fflaps at the Mailwatch Forum)

Monday, 6 August 2012

Too insensitive and too touchy-feely

Mail, 4 August 2012:

Mail, 6 August 2012:

So in two days, the BBC has gone from 'lacking sensitivity' to too 'touchy-feely' over their Olympic interviews. It is almost as if the BBC can't win in the eyes of some at the Mail...

Today's article talks of 'unhappy viewers' and says 'many have complained'. Yet the article is based on four (yes, four) comments that the anonymous author has found on Twitter and BBC messageboards.

The article ends with the rather telling line:

But others praised reporters for calming the athletes down, such as when [Phil] Jones brought Ennis back from the verge of tears as she celebrated her gold.

Yet none of these 'others' are quoted.

Moreover, the vast majority of the 800+ comments on the article are critical of the Mail's sniping.

Spot the difference

Mark English, Head of Media and the European Commission in the UK explains what happened when he wrote a letter of complaint to the Mail:

In The Daily Mail of July 24th, 2012, journalist Christopher Booker wrote an article titled “The real migrant scandal”, in which we found some serious inaccuracies. We wrote to The Daily Mail with a letter outlining the inaccuracies and providing clarifications with regard to Mr. Booker’s piece. Below is the letter we sent to The Daily Mail and below that is the version published. Notice any difference? The Daily Mail has decided to drop the crucial opening to the letter that addresses the specific article and journalist. The question here is how can The Daily Mail reader be truly informed of the inaccuracies or find relevance in clarifications when they are not given the context of the original article?

(Our letter)
“Christopher Booker’s piece on immigration (24 July) requires multiple clarifications. First, the UK was not forced to allow migrants from new EU Member States to work here in 2004. EU rules allowed for a seven-year transition period without access to labour markets, but the UK and two other Member States chose not to apply it. Second, the UK itself decides which non-EU migrants it lets in and how long they stay. Third, even for EU migrants there is no automatic right of residence. They must prove they can support themselves. Fourth, protection of genuine refugees is established by the Geneva Convention. But the European Commission has put forward to national Ministers and MEPs proposals to reinforce procedures, to avoid asylum shopping and ensure asylum requests are more fairly distributed among Member States.”

(The Daily Mail’s version)
Migrant rules

The UK wasn’t forced to allow migrants from new EU member states to work here in 2004. EU rules allowed for a seven-year transition period without access to labour markets, but the UK and two other states chose not to apply it.

The UK itself decides which non-EU migrants it lets in and how long they stay, Even EU migrants have no automatic right of residence; they must prove they can support themselves.

For genuine refugees, protection is established by the Geneva Convention, but the European Commission has put forward to national ministers and MEPs proposals to reinforce procedures to avoid ‘asylum shopping’ and make sure asylum requests are more fairly distributed among member states.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Rick Dewsbury returns...

After deleting his article about mixed-race families and the opening ceremony of the Olympics, MailOnline has asked Rick Dewsbury to turn his particular talents to reporting on an auction:

Dewsbury says:

The Tag Heuer Monaco has a black alligator skin strap and a stylish retro 60s style blue face. It was the first ever automatic and square cased chronograph watch.

In fact, as several comments on the article point out, McQueen actually wore a Heuer Monaco in the 1971 film Le Mans - TAG only acquired Heuer in 1985.

Dewsbury also says:

Tag Heuer was founded in 1860 but after McQueen wore the watch in the film the brand became even more popular among motor sports fans and drivers.

The watch is one of several automatic Heuer chronographs that run on the Caliber 11 series of movements.

But a comment by someone who appears to know their stuff suggests that's not quite right either. Wikipedia says:

In order to complete the look, McQueen opted for the newly introduced B model Calibre 12 Monaco.

Not knowing such details may be forgivable. But Dewsbury also comes out with this:

The movie star sported the timepiece in the 1971 action movie set in Monaco about the 24 hours of Le Mans car race.


It is considered by some fans to be one of the greatest motor sports movies of all time for its portrayal of the iconic 24 hours race around the streets of Le Mans in Monaco, France.

'The streets of Le Mans in Monaco, France'?

Sunday Express pays damages over 'fanatics in school' article

Sunday Express, 12 June 2011:

The Guardian, 31 July 2012:

The Sunday Express has apologised and paid damages to a London school it falsely claimed taught an extreme form of Islam.

Northern & Shell's Sunday title published a front-page story on 12 June 2011, headlined "Spies in schools to hunt fanatics", in which it wrongly stated that the King Fahad Academy in Acton, west London, taught extreme Islam.

The article, which was also published on the paper's website, falsely suggested that the academy school had been infiltrated by Islamic fanatics...

The Sunday Express apologised for the article and said it regretted the distress caused. The paper agreed to pay an undisclosed amount in damages and legal costs to the school.