Friday, 13 March 2009

Star's history of bullshit headlines

On 12 March 2009, the Press Complaints Commission ruled that The Daily Star had breached the Editor's Code with a story implying Peaches Geldof was a hooker. The front page headline was: Peaches: Spend night with me for £5k (story removed but you get the idea).

The ruling reads that 'the newspaper made a number of non-specific claims about the complainant being paid for "her company" and for her "services"'. The continuation on page 5 was headlined "Hire Geldof babe or her pal for just £5k a night” and was accompanied by photographs of Ms Geldof at a lingerie shoot.

The implication of all that is pretty clear and the Daily Star and everyone who reads it, knows that.

The actual story was in fact that she was being paid £5000 to show up to parties, although she says that was money for DJ-ing.

The Star put its correction on page 2 ("We also apologise to Peaches for the implication in the headline that she provided services of a personal or sexual nature for the payment of a fee") but is that enough for a front page screamer story published in Sept 08, five and a half months before?

This is, however, just the latest in a long line of Star front page headlines which are not justified by the story.

Go back to 10 Feb 2008 and see the front page splash 'Del Boy is dead'. Again, the implication of the headline is clearly the death of David Jason. The actual story - John Sullivan isn't going to write any more Only Fools and Horses - is rather different, and although the headline is in that (rare) case accurate, it's not what you expect.

On 8 May 2008, it was at it again with Gazza dead and gone for good. This oddly worded headline would still leave anyone thinking Paul Gascoigne was dead. In fact, his daughter Bianca had wanted to get on the front page in her underwear (sorry, reveal her dad's tragic plight) and revealed: her stepdad will never again be the prankster who won the hearts of fans all over the world. The former England star is seriously ill with depression, and Bianca admits his family is powerless to help him. In other words: not dead.

Come December, and the mind-boggling fascination the Star has for reality TV, it had almost daily splashes about I'm A Celebrity.

18 Dec - Jungle sex in shower shock. Shocking indeed that some z-grade slebs had been having sex in the showers on a reality TV show.

Here's the first four lines of the story: The jungle stars are steaming up the camp with their X-rated shower exploits. And show bosses say the contestants – including Page 3 girl Nicola McLean – are set to turn I’m A Celebrity into a “sex fest”. Producers are enticing the stars to get wet ’n wild by pumping hot water into the showers instead of the usual cold. The move has already produced some naked scenes that were too hot to be screened.

Two things stand out about this. One, there hasn't been any sex or steamy exploits. Two, there is no sane person on earth who would think that a broadcaster with ratings-grabbing 'naked scenes' would decide not to show them.

22 Dec - Celebs naked jungle romp. Pretty much implies the same story as before. Here's the first few lines: JUNGLE celebs including hot Page 3 babe Nicola McLean were last night gearing up for an X-rated sex fest in the shower. One of them has already stunned campmates by going starkers for a steamy soapdown. I'M A CELEBRITY bosses have had to cut sizzling sex scenes from our screens because the horny stars cannot keep their hands off each other.

So there's that 'too steamy to show' bullshit again. Of course, by using that excuse, they can claim that practically anything has happened and hide behind that for why viewers will never actually see it. But of course, it hasn't happened. 'Gearing up for an X-rated sex fest' makes clear it hasn't happened. And as for 'going starkers for a steamy soapdown' - that's basically getting naked to wash in the shower. How shocking.

Guess what? The next day we had 'Jungle sex for Simon'. Now this isn't just random claims of general romping, this is a named person having had sex. This one must be true. Here goes:

THREESOME-LOVING singer Simon Webbe is heading for a jungle showdown with his angry pop star lover. We can reveal he took part in a steamy suds and splashing session with sexy WAGs CARLY ZUCKER and NICOLA MCLEAN. And the action was judged too hot for viewers and was binned by telly chiefs.

Now, I don't know in what universe 'suds and splashing session' equals sex, but that suggests there are some deeply repressed people at the Star. Once again the footage has been banned (what a surprise...) and another lurid headline revealed to be completely untrue.

The very next day the Star went for three cheap, titillating and false stories in a row. What a record. The story appears to have gone from the Star site, but after jungle romps and threesomes, lesbianism was the only way to go. Of course, no such 'lust' ever happened. And if it had, it would have been banned etc etc.

And on and on it went. And when it got bored of I'm A Celebrity it went on to Britney. The front page story Britney live sex show shock on 3 Dec 08 was eye-catching indeed. The first line: BRITNEY Spears put on a live TV sex show yesterday in a desperate bid to win back fans after her X Factor fiasco. OK, that sounds like it's backing up the headline. Let's read on. The troubled singer delivered her raunchiest ever performance dressed as a sexy ringmaster. Just about with you still, what else? She pulled out all the stops with a saucy set live on the top US breakfast show, Good Morning America, which you can watch above.

Umm, what? A live sex show on Good Morning America? Are you sure? Handily there's a link to the video of the performance, now embedded on the website story page. And what do you get? Frankly, an all too typical song (mime) and dance routine by a half dressed young female pop star. Well, that's certainly front page news, isn't it?

Now all this may seem rather frivolous, but the problem is, the Star keeps doing it and they keep getting away with it. And it's not just on their sleb stories.

Take 'Muslim plot to blow up Eastenders' (again, removed because of a complaint, but can be read here - site not recommended, but gives a good idea of how quickly a false story can become spread all over numerous vile blogs). A Muslim character on Eastenders was shown breaking his Ramadan fast, and this (apparently) led to complaints on a Muslim forum.

Several things to note. One, how the hell do you 'blow up' something that doesn't actually exist? Two, how the hell do anonymous posts on an unnamed blog become sources for a front page 'news' story? Three, how the hell do we know that these comments haven't been posted by Star journos looking for a Muslim-bashing story?

Four, read the comments. There is no 'threat' to 'blow up' anything. Even if you accept the comments as genuine, it's just loud mouths sounding off online, which anyone can do these days (yes, including me!). It seems there was a complaint to the PCC, and a correction published by the Star (On October 3 we reported that bloggers had threatened to “blow up EastEnders” after postman Masood Ahmed had broken his Ramadan fast. While the online posts included a threat of the “ultimate sacrifice”, we accept that they did not specifically contain a bomb threat) but that appears to have taken around 5 months to appear.

If the PCC had any balls at all, it would try and put a stop to this behaviour of misleading front page headlines. There's no point accusing the Star of 'sloppy journalism' (yeh, newsflash!) as the PCC do in the Peaches Geldof ruling, because that 'sloppiness' is entirely intentional to make these innuendos. You don't really expect anything better from the Desmond papers, and while they keep selling them to gullible passers-by, they'll just keep on doing it.

Sorry for the long post. Rant over!

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