Sunday, 7 February 2010

Breaking news from the Mail: someone's buying quiche

The Mail's other Tesco story of last week was even more insubstantial than the ones about pyjamas.

For around five hours on Tuesday afternoon, this was the top news story on the Mail's website:

And then it was relegated to second place for a few more hours.

The Mail actually thought a story about a woman trying to buy quiche was the most important thing going on in the world.

The story is this: 24-year-old Christine Cuddihy had tried to buy a piece of quiche from Tesco and was asked for ID. Thrilling, huh?

Cuddihy was embarrassed but produced some ID and got her quiche. A Tesco spokesman said:

'We're at a loss to say what happened here. We couldn't find the staff member who asked for the ID. Age-related prompts at till are set centrally and there obviously isn't one on quiche.'

So, assuming it did happen - and given the story and the Tesco statement, that isn't certain - it's an isolated incident. A cock-up. A till bleeping at the wrong time. An overly officious member of staff. A funny (ish) story to tell your friends. That's about it.

Of course, for the Mail (and the readers who leave comments) this all represented the latest example of political correctness gone mad. You can't even buy quiche any more! It's the end of civilisation as we know it.

Errr, no, it's probably just a one-off.

Inevitably, Littlejohn had to mention it in his column on Friday, but only so he could make this 'joke' (although it is being exceptionally generous to describe it as one):

Are you over 21, madam? Give us a quiche and I'll tell you.

No wonder he gets paid so much...

What's curious about this whole incident is how it came to dominate the Mail's website for so much of Tuesday.

The story was first published - like so many national stories - in the local press. The Leamington Observer ran it on 1 February, in an article written by the Deputy Editor Kevin Unitt. He told Hold the Front Page:

I knew it was a good story, and hoped it would be picked up by the national press, but none seemed particularly interested at first.

The Sun ran just three lines on it on page 25 last week and the Daily Mail rejected it altogether because The Sun had already covered it, a bizarre decision given they would lead their own website with the story just a few days later.

Bizarre indeed. So what happened?

A press agency...tracked down the woman involved, slightly re-packaged the story, and sold it on to their national newspaper contacts.

On Tuesday, almost a week after we'd ran the piece, the Daily Mail finally screamed it from their website.

And then, Unitt makes a comment about the Mail's agenda:

Some treated it for what it was – a funny story...

But others began to de-construct and take the fun out, blaming it on everything from New Labour and the 'PC Brigade' to big corporations mentally preparing us for the introduction of national identity cards.

The Mail taking 'the fun out' of something. Imagine that?

Finally, Unitt explains the regrets of the woman involved:

Christine, who has had to change her name on internet social networking sites due to random friend requests and seedy messages, says she'd now be quite happy for the quiche incident to be forgotten.

She told the Observer: 'I really want all this to stop now. It's quite scary when you read all the comments about you. It was supposed to just be a funny story!'

OK, she went to the press in the first place, but it's unfortunate that it spun out of control in this way.

It's not clear what prompted the Mail's extraordinary change of heart. Not interested one day, top story a week later. Fun story one day, 'PC gone mad' outrage a week later.

It's common sense, gone mad.

One final note about the Mail's coverage. After claims that Mail journalists may have been caught plagiarising the LA Times, this part of their article:

did seem suspiciously similar to this from the Leamington Observer's original:

(And, an anonymous comment on this blog pointed out another case involving the Mail, from 2002, which apparently led an employee of the Mail to say 'But there isn't any rule against copying stuff off a website, is there?')


  1. When I read this story I couldn't believe how much they had hyped it upmespecially given how little attention it has paid to event in Haiti.

    Given how many millions of people shop at Tesco's each week there will always be the odd human or computer error. After all how many errors do DM journalist make each day especially when they confuse cutting and pasting other peoples articles with serious research.

    I would really like it if Tesco's turned round and banned the Daily Mail from all of it's shops.

  2. When I saw this story I simply assumed it wasn't true. I googled the name of the woman involved and it seems she is (was) an art student. There are a few eamples of media students faking crazy stories to see if the tabloids pick them up - could this be another one? I was hoping Tabloid Watch, or 5cc, could find out!


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