Thursday, 18 March 2010

Churnalism, terrorism and alcoholism

Ben Goldacre's Bad Science column on Rentokil is excellent. He shows how the Telegraph, Evening Standard and the Mail all mindlessly repeated some bogus claims made by Rentokil in a classic bit of churnalism.

Yes, Mr Dacre. Churnalism. In the Mail.

The journalists did nothing to investigate or verify the story, or even consider that Renotkil's claims that 2,000 bugs are in every train compartment might not be totally believable.

After a week and a half of obfuscation, Rentokil eventually issued a 'clarification and apology' because, they said:

it might be helpful to explain how we arrived at the numbers and where things went so wrong.

Quite. They added:

We’re really sorry that the numbers that appeared in the media were wrong and misleading and we’ve put in place a number of measures to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

So the numbers have been exposed by the Guardian and retracted by the company behind them. Yet the Mail, Telegraph and Standard articles are still live. Why?

This is a clear example of where the PCC should be pro-active in ensuring the articles are removed and clarifications posted.

By contrast, the PCC would be hard pushed to act on articles about Ian Davison, however, because there aren't any.

Davison had produced ricin and possessed 'documents which detailed how to make explosives and could by used in acts of terrorism'.

When he was arrested last June, the Mail called him a 'white supremacist' who wanted to 'poison ethnic minorities'.

Davison admitted the charges in court last week - yet the tabloid press has been absolutely silent since then.

It's a quite astonishing silence, which shows the stark contrast between how terrorists and terror suspects are treated by the press based on the colour of their skin and religion.

Indeed, the Mail spent more time covering the case of Cossor Ali, who was cleared of 'failing to pass on information that would be useful in preventing an act of terrorism'.

But according to the Mail, an innocent Muslim woman is more newsworthy than a white man who admits to producing ricin.

There's more on Davison and media coverage of ricin plots at Septicisle.

One more recommended read: over at the Beer Blog, Pete Brown has exposed the Mail's latest attempt to scare people about drink.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sure they were delighted to "report" another made-up example of broken bug-infested Britain...


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