Friday 24 December 2010

See you next year...

Tabloid Watch is taking a short break for Winterv...sorry, Christmas.

Huge thanks to everyone who has read the blog, left a comment, emailed with a suggestion, shared ideas, offered support, followed me on Twitter, re-tweeted a thought or shared a post. It really is appreciated.

While I re-charge my batteries, I highly recommend Kevin Arscott's essay 'The Winterval Myth' which clearly sets out what Winterval was and, more importantly, what it wasn't. As if to prove the point, Primly Stable has posted this picture, from the Birmingham Post, showing Christmas was never banned and replaced by Winterval:

Take care everyone.

Here's Charles Brown

Thursday 23 December 2010

Mail plugs weight loss product

A ridiculous Mail headline for a ridiculous article:

Mail hack Paul Sims explains:

There are only two days to go before the biggest feast of the year. But for those who cannot help but ask for seconds of the Christmas turkey this might be enough to put you off.

According to a survey published yesterday partners who gain just 8lbs over the festive period could be single before the dawn of the New Year.

It seems adding just half a stone is enough for their partners to simply look elsewhere.

The 'survey' goes on to 'reveal' that:

42 per cent of men interviewed said they would be less attracted to their girlfriend if they gained half a stone in weight. And five per cent even said they would consider ending the relationship altogether.

Which doesn't really back up the headline that eyes definitely 'will' wander. But, frankly, analysing the 'results' of the 'survey' are to give it more credibility than it deserves. Why?

Because, as the Mail goes on to reveal, it was:

carried out by weight loss aid SlimWeight Patch.

And they wouldn't have a vested interest in getting people to think about their weight, would they?

The Mail have done their PR job for them. The 'article' ends with eight paragraphs of (unchallenged) quotes from a spokesman for the product. It looks suspiciously like a cut-and-paste job from a press release.

This dismal bit of 'churnalism' appeared on page 20 of today's print edition. It's a lazy puff piece which names the product three times and, online, includes a handy hyperlink to the website which sells the stuff:

Mail editor Paul Dacre once told a parliamentary select committee that he 'refutes' the charge that his paper does churnalism. So how would he explain this?

(Anton has also blogged about the Mail's article)

Friday 17 December 2010

Sorry we said you were a Nazi war criminal

The Independent has had to publish this apology after making an unbelievable cock-up on its front page three weeks ago:

As MediaGuardian reported at the time:

The large front-page picture purporting to be Kunz showed a sinister portrait of a man in the uniform not of the German Wehrmacht or SS, but of Croatian wartime fascist movement the Ustasha. The Ustasha "U" was clearly visible on the front of the man's cap.

It appeared that the picture was a doctored still from The Living and the Dead, a 2007 Croatian film about the 1990s Bosnia war which also features flashbacks to the war in the Balkans in 1943.

The PCC and Littlejohn (cont.)

As the Press Complaints Commission launches an investigation into Richard Littlejohn's remarks about Jody McIntyre (see here, here and here), the regulator has ruled on yet another complaint against the Mail columnist.

On 23 November, Littlejohn wrote:

When I went to Sunday school, a million years ago, we were taught to love our neighbour.

I don’t recall ever being told that we should take an ‘eye for an eye’ literally. Or that the punishment for homosexuality was death.

Aged six, we didn’t even know what homosexuality was, even though we’d been warned to steer clear of that chap who was always hanging round the swimming pool.

Three people complained to the PCC about this insidious remark. Here's their ruling:

The complainants were concerned that the article implied that homosexual individuals were paedophiles.

The Commission acknowledged the complainants' concerns that the columnist had equated homosexuality with paedophilia. However, while the terms of Clause 12 (Discrimination) prevent newspapers from making prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's sexual orientation, it does not cover generalised remarks about groups or categories of people. Given that the complainants were concerned that the article discriminated against homosexual individuals in general, the Commission could not establish a breach of Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors' Code of Practice on these grounds.

So while the PCC do 'acknowledge concerns' about the remark they decide to do nothing about it. Why? Because the Code only refers to discrimination against the individual. As one of the complainants told this blog:

'I expected them to clear him by saying that he hadn't specifically said that homosexuals were paedophiles, and that was just our interpretation. Instead they acknowledge the slur, but say discrimination is totally fine if it is against all the people in a group rather than just individuals.'


Gaming website Kotaku has claimed that a Daily Mail story by Allan Hall has 'flattering' similarities to two of their articles.

Brian Crecente writes:

You can't imagine how flattered we were today to discover that the Daily Mail doesn't just read our little gaming site, they even like to sometimes "repurpose" our news.

Take for instance their story this evening headlined:
Jewish groups slam violent 'blast-the-Nazis' Auschwitz uprising video game.

Under the tantalizing headline we found a surprisingly familiar group of quotes. Quotes from interviews we conducted with the Anti-Defamation League, interviews with the Simon Wiesenthal Center (though they spelled their center with a fancy misplaced R) and quotes from the game's developer saying things he says he didn't share with anyone else.

The Kotaku articles appeared on the 10th and 11th, the Mail's on the 16th.

Here's a few 'similar' passages. Kotaku:

Sonderkommando Revolt project lead Maxim "Doomjedi" Genis says his team of artists, coders and writers is simply trying to make an action game only for the challenge, for the fun, to entertain.


Maxim Genis, the brains behind the game, says his team of artists, coders and writers is simply trying to make 'an action game only for the challenge, for the fun, to entertain...'


Genis wrote via e-mail that he was partly inspired to create Sonderkommando Revolt based on his spiritual convictions. The game maker believes that, in a previous incarnation of his life, he was imprisoned as a Jew by the Nazis, served as a Sonderkommando in a concentration camp and died before the events of 1944 that prompted the creation of the mod.


Genis wrote via e-mail that he was partly inspired to create Sonderkommando Revolt based on his spiritual convictions. The game maker believes that, in a previous incarnation of his life, he was imprisoned as a Jew by the Nazis, served as a Sonderkommando in a concentration camp and died before the events of 1944.

It is especially poor practice for the Mail to say that Genis wrote 'via e-mail' and then fail to name who that email was written to - or pretend it was written to them.

In related news, the Press Gazette is reporting that the Daily Mail is being sued for $1m in the US over copyright:

Mavrix Photo, a company based in Florida but with offices in Los Angeles, is seeking damages over the use of ten sets of images of celebrities it says the Mail published online and in print without the appropriate authority.

The agency, though Californian legal firm One LLP, filed papers last month at the Central District Court of California in Los Angeles claiming that it offered pictures of actress Kate Hudson in a bikini by a pool to the Mail for use in print only upon payment of a fee.

Despite "prominent warnings" the Mail used the pictures of Hudson without prior payment or authorisation both in print and online, the court papers suggest.

In addition to the Hudson images, the court papers claim the Mail repeatedly used its Mavrix images without prior consent and then would occasionally send "a check [sic] for a trivial, insubstantial sum of money which was never agreed upon as the appropriate fee".

The article continues:

The court papers accuse the Mail of having a history of copyright infringements, saying: "The pattern and practice of the defendant is to ignore the demand of photo agencies or photographers to agree rates before use and to simply take the pictures and use them without compensation or to then offer token compensation."

This 'history' is highlighted in several articles from the British Journal of Photography and at the Russian Photos Blog.

The Press Gazette says Mavrix: seeking statutory damages of $150,000 (£96,195) per infringement, legal costs and a declaration from the court preventing further unauthorised use.

The Daily Mail has yet to respond to a request for comment.

Thursday 16 December 2010

50p coin in 'worth 50p' shocker

Non-story of the day must go to this effort which appeared in the Mail and Metro.

Here are the first four lines of the Daily Mail Reporter's article:

It's a find that could earn a student a mint - a 50 pence piece with next year's date on.

Sarah Legg was handed the coin in her change after paying for lunch at her college and noticed an unusual design.

The silver coin features one of 29 designs by members of the public created for the Royal Mint ahead of the 2012 Olympics.

Now the 17-year-old forensic science student hopes to sell it to coin collectors to help pay her university fees after she leaves Fareham College in Hampshire.

But it all falls apart in the very next sentence:

However, the Royal Mint today said the coins have slowly been released into circulation since October so people should expect to start finding them in their change now - and their value is only 50 pence.

So: teenager finds coin that's only worth its face value and has been in circulation for two months.


(Hat-tip to Jamie Thunder and horacegoesskiing at the Mailwatch Forum)

UPDATE: This 'story' began life in The News, Portsmouth. The News Editor there, Graeme Patfield, explains:

[The] article did not make any claims about the coin being worth 'a mint' or more than 50p. It just pointed out the student's surprise at finding a 2011 coin in circulation in 2010, a fact which is unusual and therefore might be thought of as newsworthy (or might not - it certainly seems to have got people talking anyway). Speculation about whether it might be worth more than 50p only appeared when this story was picked up by an agency and then sold on to the nationals.

Mail apologises to Matt Lucas

In August, Matt Lucas launched a privacy claim against the Daily Mail for its article 'How Matt Lucas learnt to laugh again'. This followed a successful privacy action taken against the Daily Star.

As the Press Gazette reported at the time:

According to a writ filed at the High Court, the Mail’s story left Lucas upset, distressed and annoyed.

The journalist who wrote the story and other editorial staff, the writ adds, could not have failed to realise the “very serious invasion of privacy and intrusion into grief it represented”.

Lucas contends that close relatives and friends quoted in the story did not make the statements attributed to them and that much of the information was false.

It was also claimed that the Mail had, typically, refused to acknowledge any problem with the article:

Lucas, who instructed London law firm Schillings to act on his behalf, said Associated Newspapers, owner of the Mail, had refused to apologise or accept the story should not have been published.

What a difference a few months and a legal action make, because the Mail has now apologised:

An article (March 1) ‘How Matt Lucas learned to laugh again’ caused great upset to Mr Lucas which we did not intend and regret.

The article on Mr Lucas’ return to public life following the tragic death of Kevin McGee suggested he had ignored Kevin’s calls, became a virtual recluse, and hosted a birthday party to ‘move on’.

We accept this was not the case and apologise to Mr Lucas.

This follows an apology and substantial damages which Lucas gained from the Daily Star in May for another invasion of privacy claim.

As with last week's apology to Sophie Dahl, there is no mention of this retraction on the Mail's homepage. Yet, as Minority Thought pointed out a few days ago, the Editor's Code Committee Secretary recently claimed it is a 'myth' to say corrections are buried.

UPDATE - MediaGuardian reports that Lucas has won substantial damages to go with the Mail's apology. And:

Lucas said in a statement: "This has been and continues to be a very difficult time for me and all those who loved Kevin.

"My deep pain and sorrow have been made even greater by the intrusive and defamatory stories made about my private life in the Daily Mail.

"I had no choice but to bring these proceedings to protect my private life and my right to grieve in peace.

"I'd like to add that I take no pleasure or sense of triumph in this settlement. I am just relieved that this case has been resolved and I sincerely hope this sort of intrusive reporting will now end."

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Mail's X Factor hypocrisy

During last Saturday's edition of The X Factor, the 'racy' performances of Rihanna and Christina Aguilera caused much comment.

Jonathan from No Sleep Til Brooklands tweeted:

And he was nearly right. The next day the Mail's 'outraged' article included 13 pictures. And two videos.

'Put your clothes on - it's a family show!' screamed the headline on the website of a publication that would no doubt call itself a 'family newspaper'.

And you can almost hear Chris Johnson salivating as you read his article:

Aguilera wore an very low-cut black dress as she cavorted with an army of lingerie-clad dancers while Rihanna thrust her way through her solo performance in pants and strapless bra.

And the Mail doesn't want anyone to miss out on any of these 'extremely provocative' routines, telling readers that they can 'scroll down to see video of the performances':

Jan Moir also complained about the 'sex-crazed nymphs before the watershed' so the Mail used three more pictures to illustrate her article.

It has been reported that there have been around 2,000 complaints about the programme and so the Mail had an excuse to write about it again. Not that they needed an excuse - on Monday night, the Mail's homepage contained eleven different 'stories' about The X Factor.

But they put the fury/outrage/storm article on the front page:

The continuation on pages six and seven contained several more pictures of the most provocative poses.

But it seems the paper was aware of the accusation of double-standards in pretending to be outraged while showing so many photos and videos.

So it went with the quite incredible headline:

"We apologise to readers but you have to see these pictures to understand the fury they've stirred"

Online, there was no 'scroll down for more leering' - instead, they went with entirely unconvincing:

Yes, that's the only reason they've been published. And if you believe that, you'll believe anything.

If the Mail website wasn't continually filling its pages with pictures of famous women in lingerie or bikinis, low cut tops or short skirts then the claim they are publishing these photos reluctantly might be vaguely credible.

But that their first article on this 'sleaze storm' included thirteen pictures and two videos proves they relish it and know it helps them have such a 'popular' website. To try to pretend they are aghast at such stuff is rank hypocrisy.

(While writing the above, the Guardian's Media Monkey published a similar, albeit less rambling, article on the same point)

Sunday 12 December 2010

Mail attacks BBC over the 'burning' of the Blue Peter advent crown

The 6 December edition of Blue Peter began with a chain reaction machine that, eventually, switched on the Christmas lights in the studio.

Four days later, the Mail's regular BBC-basher Paul Revoir found fault:

So what 'tradition' are they referring to?

For generations, making the iconic Blue Peter advent crown has been an eagerly awaited part of the Christmas celebration.

This year, the BBC decided to do something a bit different – they burnt it.

As evidence of this 'burning', the Mail has published two pictures. One of the advent crown:

And one of the 'advent crown' meeting a 'flaming end on the studio floor':

You don't really need to be an expert in advent crowns to see that what is pictured in the first photo clearly isn't what is on fire in the second.

And this screenshot proves the crown wasn't burning:

The 'sacrilege' quote, incidentally, comes not from angry viewers (none are mentioned) but from former Blue Peter presenter Anthea Turner, who is wheeled out to say:

'The advent crown is part of the bricks and mortar of what makes Blue Peter so special. To burn it is sacrilege. It was a wonderful tradition and both children and adults loved making it. What are they trying to prove?'

Since they didn't burn it, it isn't 'sacrilege' and they aren't trying to 'prove' anything. It seems fairly obvious she hadn't seen the show and nor had another former presenter:

Konnie Huq, the show’s longest-serving presenter, said she had not seen the footage, but added: 'I am very fond of the advent crown – it is cult.'

One comment on the article sums it up perfectly:

(Hat-tip to Jim Hawkins)

Thursday 9 December 2010

Police rubbish Sun's claim of 'Al-Qaeda threat to Coronation Street'

The Sun have produced an eye-catching headline for today's front page splash:

The article, by Guy Patrick, claims:

Cops are throwing a ring of steel around tonight's live episode of Coronation Street over fears it has been targeted by AL-QAEDA.

They were tipped off that the ITV1 soap's historic 50th anniversary broadcast from Manchester could be hit by a terror strike.

It goes on to repeat several suspiciously vague quotes from suspiciously anonymous sources - including one from a Greater Manchester Police spokesman which doesn't really back-up the Sun's story:

"This is a public, high-profile event. The risk is consistent with the UK terror threat, which is currently severe."

But a named Greater Manchester Police spokesman, Supt Jim Liggett, is quoted elsewhere saying something rather different:

"I want to clarify that we have categorically not been made aware of any threat from Al-Qaeda or any other proscribed organisation.

"Quite simply, Granada approached GMP to inform us they were employing a private security firm to help ensure tonight's live programme went ahead without outside interference.

"As part of their operation they asked for police assistance and we agreed to deploy a very small number of officers and PCSOs to help patrol the set's perimeter fence.

"This small police operation will be paid for by Granada and will not cost taxpayers a extra penny.

"To reiterate there is no specific intelligence threat to Coronation Street or any such event. However, the UK threat level remains at severe and people are encouraged to be vigilant."

So a completely made-up 'exclusive' - as if that wasn't obvious before the Police's denial.

However, the Sun have managed to give tonight's live episode of Coronation Street a bit of free publicity and they might have sold some extra newspapers based on their scaremongering headline. In the end, that's probably all this front page ever intended to do.

Mail buries apology to Sophie Dahl

In May, Sophie Dahl launched a libel action against the Daily Mail over an article written on 31 December 2009 by Liz Jones:

A writ filed at the High Court says the Mail’s article suggested Dahl had previously brought personal legal proceedings against the column’s author, Liz Jones, when she was the editor of fashion magazine Marie Claire for "having done nothing more than simply (and accurately) describe her as being ‘realistically curvy’".

The writ says this passage of the article was understood to have meant Dahl had acted “like a petty-minded and overly sensitive prima donna”.

Press Gazette added:

According to the writ, she is seeking aggravated damages, in part, as the paper failed to apologise to her or respond to a letter of complaint.

Today, the Mail has, finally, apologised:

On 31 December 2009 an article by Liz Jones headed 'March of Anorexia Chic' stated she had been sued by Sophie Dahl for describing her as 'realistically curvy' in a magazine. This was incorrect. In fact Ms Dahl had sued for breach of contract in a claim that was settled out of court. We apologise to Ms Dahl.

There is no mention of this apology on the Mail's homepage. Given how prominently the Mail always places links to Jones' columns, this simply looks like yet another example of a newspaper burying an apology.

Monday 6 December 2010

Feeble PCC fails to take on Littlejohn

At the end of September, Richard Littlejohn wrote:

...any Afghan climbing off the back of a lorry in Dover goes automatically to the top of the housing list.

Blogger Primly Stable called Littlejohn a 'liar' and complained to the Press Complaints Commission. This claim not only breached the first clause of the Code of Practice about publication of 'inaccurate, misleading or distorted information' but also conflicted with a PCC guidance note on reporting immigration issues that warns of:

the danger that inaccurate, misleading or distorted reporting may generate an atmosphere of fear and hostility that is not borne out by the facts.

Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised that despite all that, the PCC ruled there was little wrong with what Littlejohn had said:

The Commission acknowledged the complainant’s concern over the statement; however, it had to consider the remark in the context of the article in which it appeared. The article had been clearly presented as a comment piece, in which the columnist expressed his concern that a soldier who had served in Afghanistan had not been granted a council house. The Commission considered that the columnist had exaggerated and simplified the example of housing immigrants for the purpose of stressing his assertion that the “system of government exists simply to punish those who do the right thing”.

It emphasised that the newspaper should take care when using such rhetorical methods of expression that readers would not be misled into understanding that they reflected statements of fact.

In this instance, on balance it considered that readers would be aware that the columnist was not accurately reflecting the government’s policy on the housing of immigrants, but that he was making an amplified statement for rhetorical effect. It was therefore the Commission’s view that, on this occasion, readers generally would not be misled in such a way as to warrant correction under the terms of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code of Practice.

In its favour, the ruling does accuse Littlejohn of exaggeration and simplicity. But the rest of it defies belief.

Although the PCC regards that as the end of the matter, Primly Stable does not. She has challenged the PCC to back up its claim that readers would not be mislead or think the situation outlined by Littlejohn is merely 'rhetorical'.

She points out that on the original news story on the Mail website that Littlejohn was commenting on, there are lots of positively-rated comments which suggest otherwise. Such as:

“He should just have told that council he was an illegal immigrant from Afghanistan....And he would have been housed immediately!!”

“expect no better from Bracknell Forest Council, because they are fast-tracking immigrants to the head of the housing queue ... just the same as all councils throughout Britain are daily doing”

“He should go back to Aghanistan, throw away his British passport and come back as a 'refugee'. Apartment in Mayfair awaits him.”

And then there are these recent Mail articles about migrants and 'queue jumping':

A drip-drip-drip of stories claiming migrants do jump the housing queue. So on what basis does the PCC think Mail readers would not take Littlejohn's claim literally?

Primly Stable compares this ruling with a recent resolved case where the Sunday Telegraph had to say:

We have been asked to make clear that the Metamorphosis Centre in west London (report, June 13) is not Britain's first to treat thumb sucking.

She says:

The [PCC] proudly boasts of its rapid response to the shocking inaccuracy that led to one organisation being called “the first specialist thumb-sucking clinic in London” when in fact it was the second. But it is happy to give the seal of approval to a newspaper that publishes lies in order to whip up racial tensions.


Had Littlejohn compared the soldier’s situation with, for example, a convicted criminal who had been released from prison and promptly housed in local authority accommodation than he may have had some grounds to claim that he was making a point about people who “do the right thing” losing out. But he didn’t. He chose to make something up entirely. To lie. And with this ruling the PCC has said such conduct is perfectly acceptable.

Richard Desmond redefines words

In July 2009, Richard Desmond, the owner of the Daily Express, Daily Star and Channel 5, lost a libel case against Tom Bower.

As the Press Gazette reported at the time:

Media baron Richard Desmond has been left facing an estimated £1.25m legal bill after losing a libel action made over claims by journalist Tom Bower that he interfered in the editorial running of his newspapers.

A jury at London's High Court took nearly four hours yesterday to reach the majority decision that the owner of the Express and Star newspapers and OK! magazine was not defamed in Bower's 2006 biography of the disgraced former Daily Telegraph owner Conrad Black.

Last week, in an interview with Management Today, Desmond had a slightly different take on the outcome:

'I won that case conclusively because I showed I don't order my editors to write things and I didn't give in to Conrad Black. The fact the jury thought Bower was right and I was wrong, I don't care.'

So he doesn't care what the jury decided because he knows he won really.

Elsewhere in the interview, he is asked about the portfolio of porn magazines that he sold in 2004 (the interviewer, Chris Blackhurst, who was deputy editor of the Express when Desmond took over, uses the past tense, thus failing to mention the pornographic TV channels he still owns):

What about the porn (Asian Babes, Horny Housewives, et al), does he now regret it? He hesitates. Perhaps he does but, if so, he won't admit it.

He fixes me with a stare. 'First of all, it's not "porn", Mr Blackhurst. It's adult magazines that were sold through the same distribution channels as all newspapers and other magazines. It was all regulated. It was honest.'

'Honest'. It's a curious word for Desmond to use given he believes he won a court case he actually he lost, believes 'adult magazines' are not 'porn' and given he owns the Express and the Star.

Saturday 4 December 2010

Health and safety doesn't ban 'secret Santa'

Minority Thought has already covered this but here's a quick mention of the latest example of the Mail's health and safety myth-making:

The 'Secret Santa' has been leaving presents on a tree in a park in South Wales but, the Mail rages:

he didn’t bargain for today’s elf and safety legislation.

But the next two sentences prove that isn't really true:

Foul weather has ruined some of the presents left at Pembrey Country Park near Llanelli, South Wales – and the finders have simply thrown them away as litter.

So now he faces the threat of prosecution under litter and fly-tipping laws.

So not health and safety at all then.

But has this 'Secret Santa' been banned? Well, councillor Clive Scourfield is quoted saying:

‘We certainly don’t want to be the first authority to be labelled Scrooges for citing Santa for fly tipping. We would like to come to some kind of arrangement to better distribute his generosity – even if it is anonymously.’

And, from park manager Rory Dickinson:

‘Tis the season to be jolly and giving – but this does cause us a few problems. We cannot leave the presents out because of littering issues. Rangers have started a collection and will pass on the gifts to a suitable children’s charity.’

So they're looking for other ways to get the gifts to children. That's not really a 'ban' - and it's certainly nothing to do with health and safety.

Express v Scottish Express (cont.)

Today's Express announces a great 'triumph' for the, err, Express:

The paper says:

MPs yesterday backed the Daily Express crusade to bring more sunshine into our lives.

They voted overwhelmingly for a Bill to move clocks forward by one hour all year round – despite opposition from the Government.

It is only in the eleventh paragraph that the Express finally admits this isn't exactly the 'victory' it wants to claim. The Bill: goes to committee stage for scrutiny by MPs and peers...

The Bill requires the Government to conduct a cross-departmental analysis of the potential costs and benefits.

This evidence has then to be assessed by an independent commission.

If the commission considers that the move would benefit the whole of the UK, a three-year trial will follow.

Rebecca Harris, the MP whose Private Members' Bill this is, says:

...the Bill did “not enforce an immediate change” but simply asked the Government to “take an objective, informed decision based on the best available evidence”.

Only 92 MPs voted for the Bill yesterday, and given the Government is opposed, its long term future looks less certain. Declaring 'victory' certainly appears premature.

The Sun agrees with the Express that there should be:

at least an experiment in saving Britain from Daylight Robbery.

Yet the Express' crusade does have opponents in the media. The Mail newspapers have dismissed it as a switch to 'Berlin Time'. The Express refers to this as 'claims' from 'some quarters'.

But perhaps the strongest opposition has come from 'some quarters' rather closer to home. When the Express launched it's campaign, the Scottish Express came out against it.

And today, while the south-of-the-border Express declares 'Daylight Victory', the Scottish paper says it is:

(Apparently, it's Daylight Robbery if we do change and, according to the Sun, Daylight Robbery if we don't...)

The paper says:

Controversial plans to plunge Scotland into darkness for almost half the year took a major step forward yesterday after only eight of the country’s MPs turned up for a crucial vote.

English MPs came closer to forcing through a Bill that would see British Summer Time introduced throughout the year to give families one hour more of daylight in the evenings.

Most Scots are firmly opposed as they worry about children travelling to school in darker mornings throughout much of the winter, risking more traffic accidents.

So which version of the Express will triumph? We will wait and see.

But the final word should go to Mikexxx, whose comment on the Express website takes proper account of the pros and cons of the argument:

To hell with the North especially Scotland the way they voted in the last election they should be sentenced to live in darkness.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Muslims and the Daily Star

During November, only seven different topics appeared as the front page lead on the Daily Star and Daily Star Sunday. Here's the list, together with the number of times they appeared:

The X Factor - 12 days
Katie Price and/or Peter Andre - 6 days
Muslims - 3 days
Footballers - 3 days
Royal Wedding - 3 days
I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here - 2 days
Gordon Ramsay - 1 day

So for almost half the month, half-true (at best) stories about reality TV shows dominated the Star's front page. Another ten front pages were wasted on the sex lives and family feuds of celebs, chefs and footballers. Three front pages were devoted to the Royal Wedding.

The only other stories splashed on the front page were about Muslims, and they all fitted the Star's usual agenda:

Why is it that the only times the Star ran with what might be called non-celebrity news, it's negative stories about Muslims?

Take a look at that last headline. For one thing, there was no actual, physical 'knife attack' but some disgusting, bullying threats posted on Facebook. So the headline isn't really true.

But, as Minority Thought highlighted, look how it is 'Muslim' kids (or 'thugs', as they seem to prefer) against a 'Brit' kid.

The Mail's report on the same incident carried the headline:

Why the need to talk about 'Brits' and 'whites' as separate from Muslims?

Them and us, us and them.

And when the Sun wrote about the story, the 'white girl' was mentioned and the blame was placed solely on 'five Muslim schoolboys.'

This singling out occurred in two other stories in recent weeks.

When a pig was removed from an Early Learning Centre (ELC) play set, the Sun's headline said it was for 'religious reasons' and, in the story, claimed it was because the pig might:

upset Muslim and Jewish parents.

But as Exclarotive pointed out, the Mail's headline mentioned only one religion:

(The statement from ELC said: ‘We have taken the decision to reinstate the pigs and will no longer sell the set in international markets where it might be an issue.’)

The other story was about Rochdale's Christmas lights, which had a small mention on the front page of the Daily Star on 19 November under the ludicrous headline 'Christmas 'nicked' by Muslims.'

Had it been 'nicked'? No. But Rochdale Council had decided to put some 'Happy Eid' and 'Happy Diwali' lights up with the Christmas ones. So nothing had been 'nicked' and the Star could have run 'Christmas 'nicked' by Hindus' if they'd wanted. But they didn't.

As for the poppy burning on Remembrance Day, here's what Richard Littlejohn said in the Mail:

They looked like the same crowd demonstrating outside the Old Bailey last week when that Muslim madwoman was convicted of stabbing MP Stephen Timms.

Well, except that there were only three people outside the Old Bailey, and between 30 and 50 at the poppy burning. He went on:

Yet although 50 people took part in this atrocity, there were only three arrests - and judging by the pictures it was the counter-demonstrators from the so-called English Defence League who had their collars felt.

In fact, eight people were arrested including two of the Muslims protestors.

But while the poppy burning incident got acres of media coverage, some of the reactions to it have not.

Press Not Sorry published two posts showing the comments left on the English Defence League's Facebook page, where the home address of one of the Muslim protestors was, apparently, published. But the vile threats left on Facebook - to kill this protestor, to torture him, to burn him, his house and his family - didn't make the Star's front page. Or any other page.

And if the Star was interested in what Muslims do with poppies, they could have reported on the £20,963 raised by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association's poppy appeal drive in Croydon. The local paper said the group was 'singled out for praise' by the Royal British Legion.

Their efforts received a small mention in the Sun, but was ignored elsewhere.

A spate of incidents in Portsmouth have also been largely ignored. In the days following the poppy burning:

An imam in Portsmouth has said he is saddened his mosque has been targeted twice in two days after remembrance poppies were burnt in London.

A poppy was painted on the front of the Jami mosque, on Victoria Road North in Southsea, on Friday and on Saturday 100 people staged a demonstration outside.

Hampshire police said there had been no arrests but that they would continue to monitor the situation.

Muhammad Muhi Uddin said he condemned Thursday's poppy burning.

And then:

A Muslim academy in Portsmouth has been the target of two hate crimes in the past fortnight, police have said.

In the first incident, a brick with a racist message on it was thrown into the Portsmouth Muslim Academy, on Old Commercial Road, on 13 November.

A beer bottle was then thrown through a window at the front of the building last Friday.

But neither the Star, Mail or Express decided these events or the poppy-selling efforts of young Muslims was important enough to tell their readers. Why not?

The situation at the Star has led to Nick Lowles of Hope Not Hate writing to the rag's editor, Dawn Neesom, to ask that they 'tone down the shrill'. He explains:

Our first target is the Daily Star. We've gone through the past seven years of the newspaper and found hundreds of negative articles about Muslims - and very few positive. Many of the articles over-exaggerate the importance of tiny Muslim extremist groups while ignoring more mainstream Muslim opinion and use the words of these extremists to smear an entire faith. On other occasions they print inaccurate or slanted articles that whip up fear and mistrust.

We can only hope that this campaign for more responsible journalism has some effect. Until then, we will have to hope that the Star sticks to the pointless 'celebrity' tittle-tattle.

Sunday 28 November 2010

Winterval (again)

Yesterday, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles issued a press release entitled 'Councils should take pride in Christmas celebrations.'

It came with all the usual nonsense about 'politically correct Grinches' and the 'War on Christmas':

"The War on Christmas is over, and likes of Winterval, Winter Lights and Luminous deserve to be in the dustbin of history."

Mr Pickles explained that the Christian festival has previously been ambushed by those intent on re-branding Christmas as a bland 'Winter festival', insisting that multi-cultural Britain can enjoy Christmas without abandoning its underlying Christian heritage in a misguided attempt to appease these politically correct 'Grinches'.

Ah, Winterval. Not even December and it's time for Winterval stories.

Although Paul Dacre has claimed that the Mail never does churnalism, 'Daily Mail Reporter' quickly bashed out a story, which involved copying-and-pasting all the quotes from Pickles.

And the Mail then stuck this headline on the story:

Winterval was, of course, 'ditched' in 1998-9 - which was the second and last time Birmingham council used it.

It did point out that:

the Winterval festival of the 1990s...combined secular and inter-faith religious elements

which is at least some progress from the usual 'Christmas renamed as Winterval' myth - the myth that appeared in Emma Wall's article in the Star:

A clutch of councils have cancelled Christmas and replaced it with multicultural holidays in a bid to be right-on.

Changes have included banning carols and even rebranding the celebrations “Winterval”.

Wall doesn't provide the name of one council that has actually 'cancelled Christmas'. And she has form on this - when the tabloids leapt on remarks made by the Pope during his visit to the UK in September, Wall wrote:

Speaking to a packed Westminster Hall in London, he urged people to turn their backs on the use of words like “Winterval” to describe the festival of Jesus’s birth.

Once again, she didn't name any person who had done this.

Over in the Express, there was lots of hyperbole about Christmas being 'saved' from the 'PC Brigade' and a 'major victory for common sense'. But hack Martyn Brown was also being less than truthful when he referred to:

Birmingham’s annual Winterval festival

That's 'annual' in the sense that it happened in 1997-8 and 1998-9 but not before or since.

Brown also said:

Town halls were last night ordered to celebrate Christmas in the traditional way

But Pickles' statement was 'urging', not 'ordering' (albeit 'urging' councils to stop using some terms that haven't been used for over a decade anyway).

In the Sun, Clodagh Hartley claimed Pickles had:

said the politically correct days of calling December 25 a "Winter Festival" must end.

That's not quite what he had said (he made no reference to Christmas Day) - and Hartley doesn't mention which council has renamed Christmas Day 'Winter Festival'.

The tone of the coverage, and the majority of the comments that have followed each article, are in praise of Pickles. The 'War on Christmas' myth lives on.

As Anton Vowl says: can't put things in the dustbin of history if they didn't really exist. Say it once, say it a million times, but Winterval wasn't a way of taking Christianity out of Christmas. Say it loud, say it long, say it dressed as a Christmas turkey with a giant Nativity scene stuffed up your jacksy; it doesn't matter...

It's depressing. No-one's trying to ban Christmas, for fear of offending minorities, or anything like that. Must we go through this every single year? Oh, we must. 'Christmas is banned' is as much of a Christmas tradition as granny falling asleep in front of Where Eagles Dare after scoffing the Milk Tray, it seems.

Thursday 25 November 2010

Melanie Phillips takes over two years to admit she got something wrong

The Spectator has been forced to pay substantial damages and publish the following apology over some false accusations made by Melanie Phillips on her blog:

Mohammad Sawalha: Apology

On 2 July 2008 we published an article entitled "Just look what came crawling out" which alleged that at a protest at the celebration in London of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel, Mohammad Sawalha had referred to Jews in Britain as "evil/noxious". We now accept that Mr Sawalha made no such anti-Semitic statement and that the article was based on a mistranslation elsewhere of an earlier report. We and Melanie Phillips apologise for the error.

The background to the case, and why it took nearly two-and-a-half years to get to this point, are explained on Islamophobia Watch:

On 2 July 2008, the Spectator website published an article by Melanie Phillips entitled "Just Look What Came Crawling Out" ("the Article"). The Article falsely stated that Mohammad Sawalha had referred to Jews in Britain as "evil/noxious". Mohammad Sawalha has worked hard to build strong relations between communities of different faiths and no faith both in Britain and internationally, and was therefore shocked and outraged to read such a false and offensive accusation. It was immediately pointed out to the Spectator and Ms Phillips that this was a mistranslation of a transcript of an interview, which contained a typographical error, rendering the relevant phrase meaningless. It was also pointed out that the publisher of the original transcript of the interview had corrected the quotation already, making clear that Mr Sawalha had made no such anti-Semitic comment.

Rather than carrying out the reasonable and obvious course of action of amending the Article, Melanie Phillips instead chose to go on and publish a further article, entitled "Taking the Airbrush to Evil", repeating the highly insulting false allegation made in the Article and casting doubt on the suggestion that there had been a typographical error.

As neither the Spectator nor Ms Phillips agreed to deal with the matter amicably, despite requests by Mr Sawalha to do so, Mr Sawalha had no option but to seek vindication from the High Court.

An independent expert, jointly commissioned by Mr Sawalha, the Spectator and Ms Phillips, confirmed that the phrase in the original transcript of Mr Sawalha's interview was meaningless and that it could not be translated as referring to Jews as "evil/noxious". Nonetheless, the Spectator and Ms Phillips continued to defend Mr Sawalha's claim.

However, we are pleased to report that the Spectator and Ms Phillips have now agreed to remove both the offending Articles and have undertaken never to repeat the allegations complained of. They will pay Mr. Sawalha substantial compensation for the damage to his reputation as will as paying all his legal costs and publishing an Apology on the Spectator website...

So Phillips repeated an accusation made elsewhere (by Al Jazeera and Harry's Place) without checking it out for herself.

But why did it take so long for the Spectator to admit the error? It seems particularly odd when according to Matthew Norman:

Al Jazeera corrected it instantly, and Harry's Place later, yet [Phillips] magisterially ignored requests for a simple correction until a trial was imminent, when she caved.

There's also a question over the placement of the apology on the Spectator's website. It hasn't been published on Phillips' blog, where the false claim was made - twice - or even on the homepage of the 'blogs' section. Instead, it's in Magazine>Essays.

One more thing to note is the reaction of Stephen Glover who, like Phillips, is a columnist for the Mail. In his media column in Monday's Independent he wrote:

I understand The Spectator has recently settled with [Mohammed Sawalha] after publishing a blog on its website by my friend Melanie Phillips which he regarded as libellous, and has again incurred costs said to run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

No criticism of Phillips for doing such a poor job as a journalist or for taking so long to apologise. No mention of the anti-Semitic remark Phillips attributed to Sawalha. Just a passing reference to something 'he regarded as libellous'. But then, that's what 'friends' are for...

Wednesday 24 November 2010


Nadia Saint says her 'irony-o-meter is about to blow' over this Mail website poll:

Mail apologises to Cherie Blair

On Monday, the Daily Mail apologised to Cherie Blair over a story they published a year ago:

On 26 November [2009], in referring to a magazine's claim that Cherie Blair had attended a shooting party which included Saif Gaddafi, we suggested this was hypocritical and had outraged the families of victims of the Lockerbie bombing.

We accept that Mrs Blair did not attend the shooting party and has never met Mr Gaddafi. We apologise for any embarrassment caused.

Blair instructed lawyers in March about the article, which had the headline 'Outrage as Mandy goes on a country shoot with Gaddafi son (And, surprise, Cherie came too).'

The Press Gazette reported:

Associated Newspapers failed to provide a full and unequivocal apology, or even to give a substantive response to her complaint, [Blair] added.

It's not the first time the Mail has been accused of dragging its feet over a complaint.

And it's not the first time a newspaper apology has tried to shift blame to someone else. We were only 'referring to a magazine's claim' - don't blame us that we didn't check if it was correct before publishing it.

Sorry we said you 'stormed out'

Minority Thought reports on a curious apology from the Daily Express:

In our article “And here’s the’s all over for Wright” on 13 August 2010, inaccurate information was published about Ian Wright.

We accept that Mr Wright did not “storm out” of 'Live from Studio 5' and that he was asked not to attend the television studio after it was decided that his contract would not be renewed.

We apologise to Mr Wright for any distress or inconvenience which may have been caused by this article.

The Daily Star has also published the same apology today, although their original headline was 'TV host out after off-screen bust-up.'

Minority Thought wonders:

Given that the Express' [and Star's] owner, Richard Desmond, recently also became the owner of Channel 5, would I be the only one in thinking that this "error" might not have been an accident?


Meanwhile, the Independent has also had to apologise today:

On 21 July 2010 we published an article about terrorism in the UK which included photographs of eight men with the caption: "Liquid bomb plot – 2006". We wish to make it clear that one of those pictured, Donald Stewart-Whyte, right, was acquitted of all terrorism-related charges. We apologise for any distress caused by the inclusion of his photograph in this context.

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Making a link

From today's Richard Littlejohn column:

When I went to Sunday school, a million years ago, we were taught to love our neighbour.

I don’t recall ever being told that we should take an ‘eye for an eye’ literally. Or that the punishment for homosexuality was death.

Aged six, we didn’t even know what homosexuality was, even though we’d been warned to steer clear of that chap who was always hanging round the swimming pool.

Friday 19 November 2010

PCC rejects complaints about 'bacon smell offends Muslims' story

Last month, the Mail reported that a cafe in Stockport will have to remove its extractor fan 'because the smell of...frying bacon 'offends' Muslims'.

This wasn't true.

The fan has to be removed because the cafe owners (one of whom is Muslim) were refused planning permission for it. Moreover, the only person who officially complained about the smell during the planning application process was a member of the non-Muslim family who lived next door to the cafe.

Three people complained to the PCC about the story - versions of which also appeared in the Metro and Telegraph - but it has rejected the complaints. Apparently, despite the Mail saying the fan was being 'torn down' because 'the smell of frying bacon 'offends' Muslims' the PCC says:

readers would not be misled as to the circumstances surrounding the refusal for planning permission.

Here's the full PCC ruling :

The Commission made clear that, given the brief and limited nature of headlines, it considers them in the context of the article as a whole rather than as stand alone statements. In this instance, the Commission noted that the headlines reflected Mr Webb-Lee’s testimony that his Muslim friends would not visit because of the smell of bacon that came from the fan.

While it acknowledged the complainants’ argument that this was not the specific reason given by the council for the refusal of the application, it noted that this was indeed an aspect of Mr Webb-Lee’s complaint which had led to the refusal of retrospective planning permission.

The Commission was satisfied that the body of the articles in the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail made clear the situation and that, when the headline was read in conjunction with the article, readers would not be misled as to the circumstances surrounding the refusal for planning permission. In regard to the Metro’s article, the Commission acknowledged that it had not included specific details of Mr Webb-Lee’s complaint.

However, given that his complaint had referred to his Muslim friends’ refusal to visit his house on account of the smell given off by the extractor fan, the Commission was satisfied that the sub-headline “A cafĂ© boss has been ordered to change her extractor fan because the smell of frying bacon offends Muslims next door” was reflective of this complaint. The body of the article also made clear that the council’s decision was based on the smell being “unacceptable on the grounds of residential amenity”.

While it considered that the newspaper could have included further details about the complaint, it did not, on balance, consider that the absence of such details were misleading in such a way as to warrant correction under the terms of the Code. It could not, therefore, establish a breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code.

Under the terms of Clause 12 (Discrimination) newspapers must avoid making prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s religion. However, the clause does not cover generalised remarks about groups of people. Given that the complainants considered the article to discriminate against Muslim people in general, the Commission could not establish a breach of Clause 12 of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

(Hat-tip to Dave, one of the complainants)

UPDATE: Roy Greenslade has written an excellent post which points out that the vast majority of the 544 comments that appeared on the Mail's article were written by people who had clearly been 'misled' - despite the PCC saying that 'would not' happen. He writes:

The articles were clearly prejudicial because the headlines and intros were misleading. The end result was to feed anti-Muslim bigotry.

To build a story based on one man's unsupported statement when it involves the delicate matter of religious intolerance shows a reckless disregard for the pubic interest and social cohesion.

In the PCC's opinion, "the body of the articles" in the Mail and Telegraph made the situation "clear."

Come off it! The papers did not run this story because it involved the removal of an extractor fan. They ran it because it fitted their own anti-Muslim agendas.

Thursday 18 November 2010

Here we go again...

I'm A Celebrity. Steamy romps. Girl-on-girl. Too hot for TV (2010):

I'm A Celebrity
. Steamy romps. Girl-on-girl. Too hot for TV (2009):

I'm A Celebrity. Steamy romps. Girl-on-girl. Too hot for TV (2008):

Express apologises for publishing quotes from fake Twitter account

This apology appeared in the Express on 13 November:

On 24 May 2010 we published an article headed “Sophie Dahl: I’m no weight watcher” containing personal comments that we said had been taken from Sophie Dahl’s twitter page.

We now accept that Sophie Dahl does not have an active twitter page and the comments were invented by hoaxers. The page has now been removed from circulation.

We are happy to make this clear and apologise to Sophie Dahl for any distress and embarrassment our article has caused.

(Hat-tip to Regret the Error)

Tuesday 16 November 2010

'Lack of care' (cont.)

When the Press Complaints Commission upheld a complaint about the Daily Star in September, it said:

...the Commission was particularly concerned at the lack of care the newspaper had taken in its presentation of the story.

The PCC is always telling us that adjudications are a serious punishment. Just yesterday, blogger Jamie Thunder published an interview with the PCC's public affairs director Will Gore which said:

One common criticism of the PCC is that it has no power to fine newspapers for serious or repeated breaches of the Code of Conduct, but Gore says that this “massively underestimates” the impact of the PCC’s adjudications on newspapers and editors.

Because we would hate to 'massively underestimate' the power of the PCC, we must assume that the Star has been ever-so careful to make sure the same 'lack of care' has not been present in other front page stories since that adjudication.


Well, they didn't do very well with the 'Chile mine to open as theme park' one. Or with the two 'reality TV' headlines on the same day which weren't exactly true either. And then there was the 22 October one about someone being 'out of X Factor' despite, at time of writing, that person still being 'in' X Factor.

And here's today's Daily Star:

Any similarity to the latest edition of new! magazine which, like the Star, is owned by Richard Desmond, is purely coincidental:

(As if that wasn't enough cross-promotion, one new! columnist was recently explaining how 'his friend' Richard Desmond would do 'fantastic things' at Channel Five.)

Essentially, today's Star is simply an advert for today's new!. The front page article even ends with the words:

To read the full story, buy new! magazine out now.

But the 'full story' - if it can even be called that - is already in the Star. Is reality TV 'star' Amy Childs really Peter Andre's 'new love', as claimed on the front page and in Gemma Wheatley's article?

Peter, 37, told new! magazine: “Amy has a massive following and has the potential to be a huge star. I’m meeting her in a couple of weeks.”

So his 'new love' is someone he hasn't even met? And previously he has said:

I do know that Amy is only 20 years old and therefore a little bit young for me! I’m very flattered but I think dating someone 17 years younger than me might be a bit weird.

So if she isn't his 'new love', how can Jordan be in a 'fury' about it? According to this tweet, she isn't.

It appears, then, that none of the Star's front page headline is accurate. Again.

And yet there are still cynics out there who 'massively underestimate' the impact of PCC adjudications...