Wednesday 30 June 2010

Mail attacks BBC for 'voyeuristic' Wimbledon coverage

Last week, this blog pointed out that tabloid coverage of Wimbledon had been dominated by pictures taken up the skirts of the female competitors.

As if to prove the point, the Mail followed it with not one, but two more of these pervy, pointless articles:

(Not to be outdone, The Sun produced a slide show of the 'ten best tennis bottoms'.)

But today we find the hypocrites at the Mail attacking the BBC for, believe it or not, 'voyeurism' in their coverage of Wimbledon.

Words fail.

The Paul Revoir article is based on a few anonymous comments (left on an unnamed messageboard) but the Mail article is currently second story on their website so they're happy to make the point. Never mind that the article makes clear the BBC haven't received any actual complaints - so much for the claim the camerawork has 'sparked fury'.

The Mail happily prints little else but upskirt pictures of female tennis players in their Wimbledon coverage (they published another yesterday, of Tsvetana Pironkova). But when the BBC shows a couple of spectators kissing - in a public place, among hundreds of people, at an event that is televised - that is described as 'voyeuristic camerawork'.

Oh, and the Mail decides to helpfully post a picture of one of the couples in question - for the benefit of the millions of people who visit their website. So it's voyeurism for the BBC to show them, but fine for the Mail.

UPDATE: The Mail updated their article at 11:27am, adding:

Of the 150 viewers who expressed their displeasure on the BBC's message boards about various matches...

This is an outright lie. The discussion thread 'Voyeurism at Wimbledon' on the BBC's Points of View pages had a total of 150 comments at the time of their update. Several of the people complaining about the coverage had posted multiple comments - for example, in the first 60 comments posted, only six different people are complaining about the 'voyeurism' and they posted 22 messages between them. Moreover, there are a large number of comments from people who didn't have a problem with the shots of the crowd.

Therefore, to claim '150 viewers...expressed their displeasure' is totally wrong and having trawled the thread for the critical comments, they are very well aware of that.

Tuesday 29 June 2010

Shock as EU says: 'You can still buy a dozen eggs if you want'

The Mail on Sunday's front page headline was one of those you see and just know is probably not true:

It's a tabloid favourite - look at what those meddling Europeans are trying to ban now. The last notable example was the Express' 'ban' on milk jugs which the paper eventually admitted was total rubbish.

But it says much about the attitude to the EU that a newspaper thinks this is both true and a front page story. Inevitably, many people who also hate the EU start to believe it too.

But the EU is to ban people buying eggs by the dozen? Really? You mean we won't be able to go anywhere and buy 12 eggs?

Who can seriously believe that?

Well, Iain Dale, for one. He claimed the story was 'well-sourced' and even stooped so low as to say 'you really couldn't make it up'.


He added that, in future, we definitely won't be able to buy limes individually either. How can anyone think that you won't be able to go and buy one lime if you want to?

Back to the article and Mail on Sunday hack Christopher Leake wrote:

British shoppers are to be banned from buying eggs by the dozen under new regulations approved by the European Parliament.

For the first time, eggs and ­other products such as oranges and bread rolls will be sold by weight instead of by the number contained in a packet.

So even if you accept that this is what the proposed EU regulations say (it's not), the idea that someone would go and pick up a six-egg-shaped box of eggs and not know there are six eggs inside, because the packet has 372g on the side, defies belief.

The Mail on Sunday tried to pretend that all this will add a burden to the industry as all eggs will have to weighed but, as John Band has pointed out, eggs are already classified by their weight anyway. Moreover, NoseMonkey has explained that the resolution 'makes precisely no mention of outlawing selling by numbers'.

Yet other media outlets regurgitated the story, including the Telegraph, BBC, Mirror and Sun.

Then the Mail added fuel to the fire, with two follow-up stories by Steve Doughty: Leave our eggs alone Tories warn Brussels and We won't let Brussels stop you buying eggs by the dozen, ministers promise.

But just after 11am this morning, the European Parliament issued a statement:

MEPs are neither trying to ban the sale of eggs by the dozen nor the sale or marketing of Nutella. MEP Renate Sommer, who is steering legislation on food labelling through the European Parliament, said, "There will be no changes to selling foods by number. Selling eggs by the dozen, for example, will not be banned."

'Selling eggs by the dozen will not be banned'. That's odd given the Mail on Sunday very clearly said:

The European Parliament statement continued:

No ban on eggs by the dozen
Selling eggs by the dozen will not be illegal under the terms of the amendments adopted by the European Parliament to EU food labelling proposals. Labels will still be able to indicate the number of food items in a pack, whether of eggs, bread rolls or fish fingers.

Labelling by weight
Reports that claim the new rules will not allow both the weight and the quantity to be displayed are also wrong. The new food labelling regulation does not affect existing EU rules on the size of eggs: There are four official sizes of eggs: very large (73g and over), large (63g to 73g), medium (53g to 63g), and small (under 53g) - this will not change.

That statement emerged almost exactly nine hours ago (at time of writing). And yet, in sharp contrast to the three articles about the ban, the Mail hasn't apparently found the time to produce an article containing the very clear denial from the EU.

So will they do the honourable thing and correct the false impression?

Or will they conveniently 'forget' - as they did with the case of the boy who wasn't thrown off a bus for wearing an England shirt - and let their readers continue to believe that the EU really are banning the sale of eggs by the dozen. Even when they know that's simply not true.

UPDATE (Wednesday) - Well, the Mail did publish an article at 5:23am saying 'eggs by the dozen will NOT be banned'. But rather than admit they got it completely wrong, they have tried to save face and claim the u-turn came about in the face of a 'backlash by Britain' - making it seem as if the 'outrage' caused by the Mail on Sunday article changed their minds.

This article hasn't made the front page of today's paper (as the original did) and is also buried half-way down the website homepage - unlike the original which was top story, or close to it, for most of Sunday.

Sunday 27 June 2010

Mail publishes article based on spoof tweet, thinks it's real

1. Someone sets up a spoof Twitter account for Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

2. They send some tweets.

3. A lazy Mail hack called Richard Ashmore sees one of the joke tweets.

4. He ignores the bit which says: 'Of course, this is a parody account'.

5. Thinking he's got a story, he writes an article based on said tweet.

6. The article gets published.

7. Twitter, people leaving comments on the Mail site and several bloggers (Media Blog, Phil Bradley, Angry Mob) point out Ashmore's error.

8. Mail removes article within a few hours.

9. Onlookers shake their heads, unsure whether to laugh at the incompetence, or cry at the quality of journalism at the Mail.

Friday 25 June 2010

Cumbrian MP launches attack on the media

On 23 June, the MP for Copeland, in Cumbria, made a speech in the House of Commons about the murders committed by Derrick Bird.

Jamie Reed spoke about the community, the police and the victims. But he also was very critical of much of the media coverage and called for a:

better, enforceable code of conduct for the media

He said:

In such situations, there is no place for the media's invented exclusives, its prurience and voyeurism, its mawkish brutality and its cold-blooded pursuit of profit at the expense of the families of those most affected.

Everyone expects intense media coverage of tragedies such as that which affected Cumbria, but do people really expect the news to give way to entertainment?

I wish to talk about the behaviour of much of the media in recent weeks, and the anger and dismay that it has caused among my community.

He made clear that this ire was aimed mainly at the national media:

The media local to the tragedy - the Whitehaven News, the News & Star, the North West Evening Mail, Border television, BBC Radio Cumbria and "Look North" - reported the tragedy with a care and diligence entirely different from that of the national media.

That is because they are rooted in the area and care about the people about whom they are reporting. They understand the power of their roles and the effects of carrying them out in particular ways.

The Whitehaven News was particularlyimpressive, as just one week before, it had reported the tragic deaths of Kieran Goulding and Chloe Walker, constituents who were killed in the Keswick bus crash. Like the News & Star, the Whitehaven News understands the role that it plays in my community and how it can help the community's healing process-not the families' healing process, perhaps, but certainly the community's.

To give a parallel - I know that this is a difficult issue - certain national newspapers have elicited feelings in my community similar to those that were elicited in Liverpool by the way that the Hillsborough tragedy was reported.

He added:

The second lesson is not to seek to curb the freedom of the press or broader media, but to seek a better, enforceable code of conduct for the media.

Certain desperate, spiteful journalists have written some dreadfully inaccurate copy simply because members of the community would not speak to them on learning that they were journalists.

That reflects badly on those journalists; naming them would surprise nobody and so serves no purpose today.

It would be fair to assume that Carole Malone may well be one of those he won't name.

One price we pay for a free press is its freedom to write such misleading and opinionated bile. However, press intrusion is not a price anyone has ever agreed to pay.

Nobody ever agreed to have journalists camped on their doorsteps while they were in the immediate aftermath of bereavement; to have friends and family members offered money if they spoke to, or obtained a photo of, a distraught relative of one of those who died; or to have six-figure sums paid for exclusives, or smaller sums paid to them if they could tell the whereabouts or movements of certain individuals, even if those individuals would be going to school that day.

And Reed explained he's going to try and do something about it:

If the west Cumbrian community demonstrates just how far from being broken Britain really is, then behaviour like that from certain sections of the media demonstrates just how dysfunctional and broken the media's values are, and that their attempts to infect decent society with their values are iniquitous and wrong.

I know journalists who have had their stomachs turned by the actions of some in their fold - they are far from being all the same - but surely such behaviour cannot be sanctioned and must be stopped.

To that end, I will write to the National Union of Journalists and the Press Complaints Commission to seek meetings, and to discuss how the issue can be taken forward and how professional codes of practice can be improved significantly.

I have spent so much time talking about the media because the activities of certain sections of them have weighed particularly heavily on the community in recent weeks. They have caused particular distress, anger and concern, and I feel duty-bound to articulate those concerns today.

His intentions are good, but whether the Press Complaints Commission or the Editor's Code Committee (the latter chaired by Mail Editor Paul Dacre) will act is very doubtful.

Moreover, although Reed's comments were reported on Radio 4's Today in Parliament, it seems they have been ignored by almost every other national media outlet.

Given the strength of his remarks, perhaps that's not surprising - large sections of the media seem incapable of accepting, or even acknowledging, any criticism of their behaviour and so ignore the debate that needs to be had about newspaper regulation.


Warning: if you watch this clip, you may just find yourself agreeing with Michael Winner.

(Hat-tip Bloggerheads)

It's health and safety ignored

On 15 June, Richard Littlejohn covered two of his favourite subjects in one dreadful article - wheelie bins and health and safety.

A week before, the Health and Safety Executive and the Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) forum had issued some guidance:

about preventing serious injury to people, including children, who may enter, play in or take shelter in commercial waste bins or communal domestic bins - typically four-wheeled bins of 660 litres plus capacity.

There have been many cases where people in bins have been injured and, in several cases, killed when they have been tipped into waste collection and compaction vehicles; sometimes they are only discovered at the waste transfer station.

Littlejohn, of course, thinks anything like this is ridiculous nonsense. If a drunk staggers into a commercial wheelie bin and is then crushed to death when the waste is collected - tough:

Elf 'n'safety exists in a parallel universe, a utopian fantasy island where nothing bad must be allowed to happen, even accidentally.

'Where nothing bad must be allowed to happen' or where the chances of needless deaths or injuries in preventable accidents is minimised?

But what he deliberately does for his weird little fantasy telling of this story is pretend that the bins in question are not commercial containers, but household wheelie bins:

In the context of an overall population of 60 million and rising, how many people are actually living in wheelie bins? Tell-tale signs include a washing line, a satellite dish and a rottweiler on a string tethered to the handle.

Hilarious, huh? And he exaggerates some more:

Dustmen clearly can't be expected to poke around in the contents of every bin on the off-chance that they might find a drunk taking a nap.

But that's exactly what they are going to have to do in future.

He can't really think that dustmen will 'have to' do that in future.

And, of course, they don't. The Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Executive, Geoffrey Podger, decided to challenge Littlejohn's take on the story:

I am disappointed that Mr Littlejohn misrepresents the scope of the guidance that has been issued to help reduce the likelihood of people being crushed horrifically after seeking shelter in bins.

The guidance was drawn up in direct response to requests from the waste management and recycling industry following three deaths in the last year alone. It is not new law as your article suggests, but simply a guide to help businesses comply with current law.

The guidance clearly applies to commercial waste bins and communal domestic bins only - not household wheelie bins. We do not expect refuse collectors "to poke around in the contents of every bin on the off-chance that they might find a drunk taking a nap". This would be neither proportionate nor sensible.

The guidance also outlines simple measures those who produce waste, such as shops and restaurants, can implement to discourage people from entering bins in the first place.

HSE fully appreciates that vulnerable people will not be reading Materials Recycling Week and that is why we are also working to make homeless charities and organisations aware of the issue so they can help warn the people they work with.

So that's that then? Well, no, not quite.

Because today, Littlejohn returns to the topic. And it's like the HSE letter never happened:

A couple of weeks ago I wondered who would want to live in a wheelie bin, following the issuing of new elf’n’safety guidelines to dustmen.

They now have to check before emptying that there’s no one lurking inside, after three people were crushed to death.

So that's another health and safety myth created. And no doubt he will repeat it in future columns, and in his next book, so other people start believing it too.

Thursday 24 June 2010

Express headline invents new 'Eurocrat' myth

Today's Express front page contains lots of their favourite subjects - English flagwaving, meddling Europeans, Muslims and banning the burkha:

It was inevitable that England's win in the World Cup would find a place on the front page, but this image seems to have been deliberately picked for this headline. It's not a picture of Fabio Capello, or goalscorer Jermain Defoe, but of English fans waving their flags and being patriotic. The headline is 'Land of Hope and Glory'.

Compare that to the main headline. It's as if the Express is saying - look at what 'Eurocrats' and Muslims are conspiring to do against you. Look at what they're doing to damage your proud country.

So what is this story about? The headline very clearly implies that 'Eurocrats' (whoever they actually are - in this case, they actually mean parliamentarians) have said 'you' (whoever 'you' is, but presumably members states) can't ban the burkha.

Yet in the very first sentence of Nick Fagge's article, the headline is called into question:

Europe backed the burkha yesterday by ruling that the controversial Muslim veils should not be banned.

So whereas the headline is you 'can't ban the burkha', the first line says you 'should not'. That is a significant difference.

And the third sentence of the article makes this clear:

The Council of Europe’s resolution is not binding on members of the group.

Therefore, this is unlikely to have any effect at all on the planned bans in France, the Netherlands and Spain.

What actually happened yesterday was the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe unanimously adopted a resolution opposing a general ban:

on wearing the burqa and the niqab or other religious clothing...though it added that legal restrictions may be justified “for security purposes, or where the public or professional functions of individuals require their religious neutrality, or that their face can be seen”...

...the veiling of women is often perceived as “a symbol of the subjugation of women to men” but a general ban would deny women “who genuinely and freely desire to do so” their right to cover their face.

What that is clearly not saying is: 'you can't ban the burkha' - indeed, it says there may be justifiable legal restrictions on it.

But as usual with an Express front page, why bother with the facts when a scaremongering, myth-making headline will do instead?

They will mention the war

With England playing Germany in the last sixteen of the football World Cup, will any Editor surpass the horrific Piers Morgan and his headline 'Achtung! Surrender - For you Fritz, ze Euro 96 Championship is over'?

The Sun's front page included a slighty half-hearted, by their standards, German reference:

It is a far cry from the headline on their website last night:

But the Star wasn't so shy:

The match is on Sunday, so there's still plenty of time for them to up the rhetoric...

Monday 21 June 2010


Yesterday, the Mail on Sunday ran this stunning exposé, unbelievably credited to two journalists:

Yes, they really managed to squeeze 120 words out of a woman wearing her daughter's hat to Ascot.

But the website of the Telegraph - Newspaper of the Year, remember - thought it was a good enough story to repeat:

They won't be winning any prizes for second-hand stories about second-hand hats.

(Hat-tip to Jim Hawkins)

Sunday Times retracts climate change story

Yesterday, the Sunday Times published the following apology on page two. It is, explains Roy Greenslade, not just a complete retraction but a 'giant climbdown':

The article "UN climate panel shamed by bogus rainforest claim" (News, Jan 31) stated that the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report had included an "unsubstantiated claim" that up to 40% of the Amazon rainforest could be sensitive to future changes in rainfall. The IPCC had referenced the claim to a report prepared for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) by Andrew Rowell and Peter Moore, whom the article described as "green campaigners" with "little scientific expertise." The article also stated that the authors’ research had been based on a scientific paper that dealt with the impact of human activity rather than climate change.

In fact, the IPCC’s Amazon statement is supported by peer-reviewed scientific evidence. In the case of the WWF report, the figure had, in error, not been referenced, but was based on research by the respected Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) which did relate to the impact of climate change. We also understand and accept that Mr Rowell is an experienced environmental journalist and that Dr Moore is an expert in forest management, and apologise for any suggestion to the contrary.

The article also quoted criticism of the IPCC’s use of the WWF report by Dr Simon Lewis, a Royal Society research fellow at the University of Leeds and leading specialist in tropical forest ecology. We accept that, in his quoted remarks, Dr Lewis was making the general point that both the IPCC and WWF should have cited the appropriate peer-reviewed scientific research literature. As he made clear to us at the time, including by sending us some of the research literature, Dr Lewis does not dispute the scientific basis for both the IPCC and the WWF reports’ statements on the potential vulnerability of the Amazon rainforest to droughts caused by climate change.

In addition, the article stated that Dr Lewis’ concern at the IPCC’s use of reports by environmental campaign groups related to the prospect of those reports being biased in their conclusions. We accept that Dr Lewis holds no such view – rather, he was concerned that the use of non-peer-reviewed sources risks creating the perception of bias and unnecessary controversy, which is unhelpful in advancing the public’s understanding of the science of climate change. A version of our article that had been checked with Dr Lewis underwent significant late editing and so did not give a fair or accurate account of his views on these points. We apologise for this.

The original article can be read here.

Saturday 19 June 2010

The Mail tuts while its website leers

Your starter for ten: which person of international importance has been mentioned in 43 Mail Online articles since the start of June?

Answer: Katy Perry.

As Perry is currently in a relationship with Mail hate figure Russell Brand, you'd think they'd stay well clear. But they simply have to report on her when she continually does such newsworthy things.

For example, when she wears a dress. Or when she wears a dress. Or wears glasses. Or a dress. Or wears a dress. Or goes out - guess what? - wearing a dress.

And those are just some of the fascinating exclusives from the last week.

She's far ahead of the other people the Mail website is currently obsessed with: Kim Kardashian, Kelly Brook and Miley Cyrus are each averaging a meagre one pointless article per day this month.

This is, apparently, the shape of things to come.

According to Peter Kirwan in the Press Gazette, Mail Online has recently opened an office in Los Angeles in order to flood the website with even more wafer-thin celebrity crap.

Kirwan says that the office is being run by Elliot Wagland who has been:

advertising on Facebook for new recruits.

On Facebook? On life-ruining Facebook? The hypocrites.

Kirwan reports:

According to sources at the Mail, the number of US-focused articles running on Mail Online has increased sharply in recent weeks.

Mail Online’s plans could signal a renewed interest in building audiences and revenues in North America among British newspapers.

This seems obvious. As this blog has noted before, there seemed to be very little reason for the Mail to be following every insignificant move of Kardashian - someone with almost no public profile in the UK at all - unless it was trying desperately to attract visitors from America.

And the 'lads' mags' crowd.

The Mail has a bizarre love-hate relationship with lads' mags. Much the same as its attitude to Big Brother: it's a cultural disgrace, but we'll keep you informed of everything that's going on anyway.

The Mail has made it pretty clear it thinks men's magazines are 'explicit' and 'pornographic'. It has happily run criticism of them:

As well as having their own columnists speak out against them:

Yet while bemoaning men's magazines such as FHM on the one hand, the website happily runs extended adverts for them, and very happily reprints their pictures. Such as here, here and here.

It's not just the pictures. The Mail recently ran pictures and video of a 'provocative' and 'racy' shoot from Esquire.

And they have found it hard to contain their excitement over Kelly Brook's recent appearance on the cover of FHM, embedding the same 'behind the scenes' video of the shoot on not one, not two, but three articles.

The news that Brook will pose for Playboy has been mentioned repeatedly over the last week or so, pointlessly dragged in to such feeble headlines as Kelly Brook puts her legs on show in a leopard print mini dress (but fans will be seeing a whole lot more of her in Playboy).

A James Slack article from February entitled Roll back the raunch: Explicit pop videos 'should be banned before the 9pm watershed' gave sympathetic coverage to a report making recommendations about restricting access to raunchy pop videos and lads' mags. But the Mail gave the game away by illustrating it with a picture of a pop singer in knee high boots.

And they have never been slow to embed these 'sexually provocative' and 'raunchy' pop videos on their site either. For example, here, here and here. These articles usually have 'scroll down to watch the video' in bold and/or caps somewhere near the top, just so you don't miss out.

But while the Mail calls the BBC a disgrace for having adult material freely available on its iPlayer, material the Mail calls 'explicit', 'sexually provocative' and 'soft porn' is freely available on their site. Indeed, it is cynically included to make sure it attracts attention and visitors.

Of course, the Mail is a business. It knows sex sells - the more visitors it gets to its website, the easier it is to sell advertising space. So maybe the bottom line simply means more, err, bottoms online.

But whereas the newspaper promotes itself as moral, middle class and conservative, the website is like a downmarket version of Heat.

With the Mail Online's new LA office - which has been advertising for 'a freelance showbiz picture researcher' - it seems this gulf is set to get wider still.

(Big hat-tip to Tom_MKUK and others at the Mailwatch Forum.)

Mirror clarifies Heather Mills story

Another correction, this time from the Daily Mirror, about Heather Mills, who:

complained to the PCC that an article was inaccurate in stating that she had been enraged and humiliated when security staff at Heathrow airport asked to take a swab from her prosthetic leg. In fact, the procedure was an entirely normal one and was something she had grown used to over the years.

The Mirror published this clarification:

Following our article of 15 March, Heather Mills has asked us to make clear that she regularly has her prosthetic leg swabbed by security staff at airports and she is very understanding of the need for this procedure.

It does not anger her or make her feel humiliated.

When her leg was swabbed at Heathrow in March we accept that Heather was not in a rage, furious or disbelieving.

Thursday 17 June 2010

Star 'sets record straight' on Nazi salute

A clarification from the Daily Star about footballer Eidur Gudjohnsen:

On 4 May we published a story about Premiership footballer Eidur Gudjohnsen in which we questioned whether he was making a Nazi salute after he was photographed appearing to do so in a bar the previous evening.

Mr Gudjognsen tells us, and we accept, that he was in fact acting out a rather rude joke in the company of his friends and that in making the gesture he intended no Nazi connotation whatsoever.

We are happy to set the record straight.

Shame they couldn't spell his name correctly for two sentences running, however.

A statement from Gudjohnsen about the original article is on the Tottenham Hotspur website.

Mail clarifies anti-Muslim story

The Press Complaints Commission has published details of a complaint against the Mail and the Evening Standard by Ms Farah Ahmed, a trustee of the Islamic Shakhsiyah Foundation.

It's not clear why the PCC has not published this sooner, given the Mail published the clarification back in March.

It sounds as if the articles carried much the same allegations as those in this groundless Express front page scare story, where money that they claimed was going to 'fanatics who want to kill us' was actually going on children's nursery places.

Here's the complaint:

Ms Farah Ahmed is a trustee of the Islamic Shakhsiyah Foundation - a charity which runs Muslim faith schools - and the head teacher of the organisation's Slough-based school.

She complained to the Press Complaints Commission, on behalf of the ISF, that articles in the two newspapers - reporting that "members of Hizb ut-Tahrir", a "militant Islamic group" had received over £100,000 of public money to run schools - contained inaccuracies and misled readers.

She said that, in fact, parents of pupils at ISF schools had claimed education grants to which they were entitled, and that the ISF had no links to Hizb ut-Tahrir.

The resolution begins:

The newspapers said that the articles were based on a story published by the Sunday Telegraph.

Once again, the initial reaction is to blame someone else. It can't possibly be the Mail's fault that they didn't check the story out.

But they wrote this anyway:

An article of 26 October 2009 stated that Hizb ut-Tahrir was given £113,000 of public money to run schools.

In fact, the money was given in the form of the nursery education grant, to the Islamic Shakhsiyah Foundation; a registered charity which maintains that it is not an extremist group, is independent from any other organisation and has no links with Hizb ut-Tahrir.

We are happy to clarify the situation.

A clarification five months later, and no apology.

The Mail had also claimed a Hizb ut-Tahrir member groomed a suicide bomber, which it apologised for in April. Now it has corrected an incorrect claim about Hizb ut-Tahrir's links to schools.

It seems accurate reporting is less important to the Mail than creating scare stories around Islamic bogeymen.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Star lies about results of refugee poll

A remarkable article in yesterday's Mail managed to discuss asylum seekers and refugees without being snide or negative.

A poll by Refugee Action - to mark Refugee Week - showed:

Asylum seekers find most British people polite, welcoming and obsessed with football, according to a survey out today.

And the best things about living in the UK are not only the friendly locals and our national sport, but also British TV, the poll found.

X-Factor, EastEnders and news bulletins were the top three TV programmes favoured by refugees and asylum seekers.

The Mail even included the definitions of asylum seeker and refugee - terms that, along with illegal immigrant, it usually uses so interchangeably.

The article says:

More than half said they either strongly agreed or tended to agree that the average British person welcomed refugees to the UK.

Fortunately, the Mail hasn't allowed any comments on the article to disprove that...

The same poll was given a rather more typical tabloid treatment by the Daily Star. The headline, for once, wasn't far off when it said 'Refugees love British TV and the Royal Family'.

But Emma Wall's article begins with an outright deception:

Asylum seekers are flocking to Britain because they love X Factor, the Queen and state handouts.

This is totally wrong for two reasons.

One is that the poll never asked why asylum seekers come to the UK but what they most liked about Britain now they are here. 'Flocking to Britain because...' simply can not be said, based on these results.

Secondly, there's no mention of state handouts anywhere in the poll.

Indeed, two sentences later, Wall admits it says no such thing:

A poll for a refugee charity found they also like living here because of our national passion for football.

But critics reckon the real reason is actually the fact they are cleaning up thanks to our generous benefits system.

It is sad that this Star hack thinks that a weekly income 30% below the poverty line is 'generous', but that's probably because she's ignorant about the facts.

And 'critics', eh? And one guess as to who those 'critics' are:

But the survey has been blasted for hiding the real reason they love Britain.

Matthew Elliott, from the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It’s undeniable some are here for the money and not our culture.”

It's not clear who this 'some' are.

But BBC journalist Paul Kenyon and recent Refugee Council research both said, the vast majority of asylum seekers had no knowledge of welfare benefits and support before coming to the UK.

It's also not clear why the Star felt it necessary to get a comment from the tedious rent-a-quote bores at the TPA about these results, apart from the fact they obviously felt they couldn't run a positive (or even neutral) immigration story.

Refugee Action has produced a poll revealing what refugees and asylum seekers like about the culture, society and people of Britain.

But that isn't good enough for the nasty, racist Star. They have to turn it into yet another misleading article about benefit-scrounging foreigners 'flocking' to the UK for the 'handouts'.

Saturday 12 June 2010

'Taliban uses HIV bombs'

That headline doesn't sound very believable, does it?

Yet that is exactly the headline used by The Sun on 9 June on an article by Tom Newton-Dunn:

Taliban fighters are burying dirty needles with their bombs in a bid to infect British troops with HIV.

Hypodermic syringes are hidden below the surface pointing upwards to prick bomb squad experts as they hunt for devices.

The heroin needles are feared to be contaminated with hepatitis and HIV. And if the bomb goes off, the needles become deadly flying shrapnel.

Ah - so the needles, if they exist, are only 'feared to be contaminated with HIV'.

However unlikely all that sounds, it was soon copied unquestioningly by outlets such as Fox News and the Daily Mail - without any of them apparently stopping to think that it sounded absolutely bloody ridiculous.

Thankfully, Septicisle, Left Outside and Richard Bartholomew looked at the story with more enquiring minds.

So indeed, did Jeff Schogol, who found the Sun's source - MP Patrick Mercer - only 'got the impression' this was actually happening:

He could not say for certain whether the Taliban have used these devices.

“That wasn’t a question I asked directly, but I got the impression that these are certainly being employed by the Taliban, al-Qaida, etc.,” he said. “I’m not aware of any injuries that have been caused by it so far.”

And, unlike other churnalists, Schogol did some other fact-checking. And he:

caught the International Security Forces-Afghanistan unaware with questions about the devices.

“Right now, we've got diddly,” said ISAF spokesman Col. Wayne Shanks via e-mail. "No reports, no intel, nothing – but we’re checking.”

The Joint IED Defeat Organization didn’t have any confirmed reports of infected-needle bombs, but said it’s not unusual for the Taliban to employ anti-tamper devices.

“This is more a scare tactic than a realistic weapon,” said JIEDDO spokeswoman Irene Smith in an e-mail.

Was this type of enquiry really beyond the wit of Newton-Dunn and all the churnalists that followed him?

Recommended reading - links

Angry Mob looks at the Daily Mail's latest article on the 'exaggerated' and 'vastly over-stated' swine flu 'pandemic that never was' - conveniently forgetting their own headline such as 'How swine flu could be a bigger threat to humanity than nuclear warfare'.

Martin Moore from Media Standards Trust considers the backlash against the Mail on Sunday for its article about Lord Triesman. Last week, the News of the World's managing editor revealed that they turned down the story on the basis that it was 'too thin.' Too thin for the News of the World? Hard to imagine, isn't it?

Janet Street-Porter recently joined the lengthy list of Mail columnists who have written some ill-considered rubbish and suffered a backlash. Her 'Depression? It's just the trendy new illness!' was castigated by Musings of a phenomenologist, Andrew Brown in the Telegraph and three mental health charities, among many others.

Sian Norris and Dr Helen Mott were labelled 'hypocrites' by the Evening Post after they raised objections to a burlesque performance at Bristol Museum. After they complained the front-page story had completely misrepresented their views, the online article was removed and Norris and Mott were given a right of reply - a two-page spread on pages 16 and 17. It is good that the paper gave them the opportunity to give their side of the story over two pages.

The Media Blog has written (two posts) about the Mail on Sunday's latest attack on the interwebs and claims that firms are 'spying' on people through what they say on Twitter and Facebook. More from Martin Belam and Peter Kirwan, who was himself contacted by someone from the Mail via Twitter because of his comments - exactly what the Mail was complaining about...

In a longer post about the media and Cumbria, Matt Gardner looks at yet another feeble Georgina Littlejohn article on the Mail website about Lady Gaga and how she (apparently...) insulted the victims of Derrick Bird's rampage.

Five Chinese Crackers suggests a Sun front page headline beginning with the words 'Cannibal cops' may give the wrong impression.

Some other Mail-related fisking by Angry Mob:

And finally, from Adam Bienkov, a picture taken back in April of two Sunday newspapers (both from the same stable) who couldn't quite decide which way Cheryl And Ashley Cole's marriage was going to go:

Thursday 10 June 2010

The ban on England flags and shirts... clearly working.

Dear Daily Mail

From the letters page of today's Mail:

Wouldn't it be great if TV coverage of the World Cup was limited to England's games, those of hosts South Africa and of the tournaments 'big guns'.

Then we would be spared the ordeal of having to sit through a match between Bongo Bongoland and the Former Soviet Republic of Bulimia and other meaningless events.

Mike Phelps
Yeovil, Somerset

Mail hypocrisy over Big Brother

The Mail is trying to make it very clear it hates Big Brother:

Yes. Thank God:

After ten years, the Big Brother freak show is nearing its last hurrah. But first there's one last set of oddballs to put up with.

'Put up with'?

But what the Mail is actually doing is pretending it hates Big Brother while wallowing in every single moment and making sure its readers don't miss a thing.

So their homepage currently looks like this:

And they have an article spread across pages 20 and 21 of the newspaper, with the same 'thank God' headline, which provides pictures and short descriptions of each of the thirteen contestants.

Why give so much coverage to people it claims it can only just about tolerate?

Oh, and then there is:

In fact, the Mail website is so appalled by having to 'put up' with this programme that it has made a banner specifically for it:

This is, of course, typical of the Mail.

They like to claim that the sex in True Blood, or the jokes of Chris Moyles, or the sex in Belle de Jour, or a 'sickening' fight, or Kelly Brook's 'cavorting' with a porn star are all absolutely disgraceful, but then helpfully provides lots of pictures and/or detailed descriptions of them.

And for next 13 weeks, they will feign a superior attitude about Big Brother. They will sneer and look down their nose, but at the same time, they'll be gleefully reporting - and showing pictures of - everything. Beginning with one contestant:

stripping to a pair of lacy pink knickers late last night. The 23-year-old hair stylist...couldn't resist showing off her enviable figure.

Going by the rest of the Mail's leering, Heat-like website, it seems unlikely they find that difficult to 'put up with'.

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Boy definitely not thrown off bus for wearing England shirt

Further details have emerged from Staffordshire about the case of the boy who, it was claimed, was thrown off a bus for wearing an England shirt by an Eastern European driver.

Or wasn't, as was fairly obvious from the very start to all but some stupid believe-any-anti-English-fairy-story tabloids:

A mother who claimed her two-year-old was ordered off a bus for wearing an England shirt has been branded a liar...

First Bus commercial director Paul De Santis said: "We have interviewed every single driver in the vicinity at the time and have not been able to find anyone who knows anything about the incident or who matches the description given to us.

"The complainant also stated she went to the office in Newcastle later that day and reported the incident.

"We can't find anyone who knows of any report and we did not have a lady on duty that day like the complainant said."

Miss Fardon was also asked by the bus company to provide details of witnesses.

But the firm says it has been unable to contact two of them, while the third gave information which conflicted with what Miss Fardon said.

Mr De Santis added: "I have come to the conclusion that, particularly from the point there was no Eastern European driving the services on the day in question, that the incident did not happen. Nothing we have subsequently done in terms of contacting drivers and speaking to witnesses has changed that."

And if all that wasn't enough, and just to make absolutely clear this story was complete rubbish from the start:

Miss Fardon has now withdrawn her complaint.

And the result:

Mr De Santis added: "There have been one or two unsavoury incidents with our members of staff over the incident. We are very concerned that this has caused that and our drivers are not happy their reputation has been damaged. We now want to draw a line under this and get on with doing our job."

And that is what happens when the media helps to spread lies.

It's interesting that several comments both on this blog picked up that the mother was called Sam Fardon and that someone with the same name, of the same age, from the same area had been in trouble with the police (for stealing) in 2004.

Yet so-called journalists such as Fay Schlesinger, who wrote up the story for the Mail, didn't bother doing any checking on either her or her story.

Back on 27 May, this blog argued that the Mail, Mirror and Star - who wrote about Fardon's original claims - should have followed-up with the results of First's investigation.

They didn't.

Now the story has been completely debunked, and the woman has withdrawn her complaint, it would be inexcusable for them to avoid telling their readers that fact.

(Hat-tip to Adrian)

Littlejohn offers 'unqualified apology' for false 'elf'n'safety' story

On Friday, Richard Littlejohn exposed the latest absolutely true elf'n'safety madness to hit Britain - a primary school had banned football just before the World Cup. He wrote:

Just in time for the start of the World Cup in South Africa, a primary school in Essex has banned playground football. You guessed - elf 'n' safety.

Marion Smith, headmistress of Thomas Willingale primary, in Debden, said she was worried about young children getting hit in the face by heavy leather footballs.

There have also been complaints about balls bouncing into the road and hitting cars.

One parent said: 'It's appalling. How are we meant to have a World Cup-winning team in the future if they won't let kids play football?'

Debden is only a few miles from the school where David Beckham learned his skills.

Talk about an own goal.

Today, he returns to the same story. Why? Because he got it completely wrong:

On Friday, I reported that parents of children at a primary school in Essex were angry that playground football had been banned during the World Cup.

I've since heard from Marion Smith, the head of Thomas Willingale Primary, in Debden, who tells me she has only ever suspended playground football for a week to punish bad behaviour.

She has asked parents to give children lightweight balls to prevent injury, but was devastated by claims that she had banned it completely.

Ofsted has commended the school for its outstanding commitment to all sports, including football.

My comments were based on emails from parents and a report in the local newspaper, but the responsibility is all mine. I owe Mrs Smith and her staff an unqualified apology.

So, for once, well done to Littlejohn for publishing this correction so swiftly, and for offering an 'unqualified apology'.

But isn't that penultimate sentence rather telling? He wrote his original rant based on emails and newspaper reports. He didn't bother to phone the school and do even the slightest bit of fact-checking.

It's not the first time - remember the police chief apology or the thing with the dogs - and because he never seems to do any actual research, it won't be the last.

No, she isn't

With the final series of Big Brother about to begin, the reality TV-obsessed Daily Star will be looking forward to churning out weeks of misleading, recycled headlines.

And they've started with the lies already:

That front page might make you think that Jordan is going to be in the Big Brother house.

But you only need to read the first three words of the 'story' to find out the headline isn't quite accurate:

A Jordan wannabe...


It goes on:

A Jordan wannabe, Jedward style twins and a millionaire are among the 81 hopefuls desperate to enter the Big Brother house tomorrow.

So the Jordan wannabe might not get into the house either. Therefore the correct front page headline should have been 'Someone who claims to look like Jordan might be in Big Bro house'.

And there will be plenty more of this once the series actually begins...

(Hat-tip to Chris)

Monday 7 June 2010

Tabloid coverage of immigration: 'wilful misreporting, inflammatory language, lazy hostility'

Panorama reporter Paul Kenyon has written an article for the latest issue of British Journalism Review about media coverage of asylum and immigration. An abridged version appears in today's MediaGuardian.

Kenyon says:

the seemingly non-stop campaign against asylum- seekers, and the wilful misreporting of the issue among some tabloid newspapers, is getting worse.

'Wilful' is a strong allegation, but it's a fair one.

Important distinctions, such as that between asylum-seekers and economic migrants, are often fudged or overlooked; the language is inflammatory; there seems to be a lazy hostility towards them, implying a universal acceptance that what asylum -seekers represent, what they are, is wrong.

He also points out some of the specific problems with the coverage:

It is a perennial theme, repeated until it has become part of our national folklore.

The Sun's opinion column put it succinctly in April: 'Many asylum-seekers are no more than dole-scroungers.'

UK benefits are not what inspired the migrants I encountered. Although some were fleeing persecution, the vast majority were indeed economic migrants, but had no idea there was a state benefit system in the UK.

This latter view echoes Refugee Council research, published in January and ignored by the tabloid media (of course), that three-quarters of asylum seekers:

had no knowledge of welfare benefits and support before coming to the UK – most had no expectation they would be given financial support.

Having made four programmes over two years on the issue, he's probably met more asylum seekers and immigrants than, for example, the Mail's James Slack, who thinks immigration reporting consists of copying-and-pasting Migrationwatch press releases.

But the problem is, as Kenyon is all too aware:

Around 3 million people watched the four Panorama programmes I eventually made, more than the circulation of the Sun.

A newspaper journalist can exercise his line on the story every day. Our programmes were transmitted over two years.

The anti-immigration tabloids are read by millions of people who are fed a diet of this negative, hostile, misleading coverage on an almost daily basis. The effect is that these views dominate and poison the debate about immigration.

Caring Carole

First it was incredulity. Now it's anger. Raw anger. The people of Cumbria are raging - yet their anger isn't directed at Derrick Bird.

At least not yet. For now it's directed at a world that has suddenly and without warning invaded their lives, a world that is shining an unwelcome light on them at a time when they are scared and vulnerable and confused.

It's as if Derrick Bird is their shame, their failure and they want to deal with it privately in their own time.

These proud working class communities don't want to grieve, to heal themselves with the world looking on...

And where once tourists would come to see the scenery, now they'll come to gawp at Derrick Bird's killing fields.

That's Carole Malone, reporting for the News of the World.

From Cumbria.

Friday 4 June 2010

Not time for Littlejohn

Richard Littlejohn began his column on Tuesday with this eye-catching claim:

To be honest, I've always considered all Liberal MPs to be homosexuals unless furnished with concrete proof to the contrary.

A tiresome attempt to be deliberately controversial? The latest example of his stupidity? Or, more likely, a bit of both.

Two comments on the Guardian site reacted appropriately. Here's scaryduck:

To be honest, I've always considered all Daily Mail columnists to be morons unless furnished with concrete proof to the contrary.

And Spoonface:

To be honest, I've always considered Richard Littlejohn to be a bigoted little halfwit, and he constantly furnishes me with proof that I'm right.

Today, another column, this one carrying the headline This was a tragedy, not time for Plodspeak.

It's not time for Littlejohn's petty attempts at point-scoring against the police either.

He couldn't really avoid writing about the tragic events in Cumbria, but obviously needed a hook. So while most of his comments are rather bland platitudes about the shootings, he added his bit of controversy by launching an attack on the police, which is something he does in his columns all the time anyway.

And he really does have the dirt on the Cumbria force:

I was surprised by the tone of the press conference given by Cumbria's Deputy Chief Constable, Stuart Hyde, at tea-time on Wednesday, in which he kept referring to the man who had just killed 12 people and wounded another 25 as 'Mister' Bird.

Yes. Whether we call the killer 'Mr' Bird, or not - that's the really big issue that comes from Wednesday's shootings, isn't it?

He goes on to criticise the police for their statement which had a few sentences at the end to say Cumbria was going to try to carry on as normal:

"Cumbria prides itself on being a safe place to work, play and visit. Cumbria is a tightly knit community covering some of the most beautiful countryside in the land, its strength is as much its people as its geography.

"It remains one of the safest areas of the UK and is very much open for business and tourism despite the tragic circumstances of the last few hours."

Why is this a problem? Similar sentiments were expressed by the police after the London bombings in 2005.

But that's not good enough for Littlejohn:

He sounded like a junior tourism official...

Did Hyde not realise how tactless and crass it sounded...?

I shuddered to think of the reaction of a bereaved relative who had just been told that a loved one had been shot dead and had turned on the TV to hear a police spokesman banging on about the effects on tourism. struck a jarring, insensitive note at a time of terrible tragedy.

All of which shows what a nasty little hypocrite Littlejohn is. As these two comments point out, it was Littlejohn who, only a few weeks after the murder of five women in Ipswich, dismissed the victims as:

disgusting, drug-addled street whores

And added:

in the scheme of things the deaths of these five women is no great loss.

But today, Littlejohn suddenly pretends to care about people being 'tactless and crass' and striking 'jarring, insensitive' notes that might upset 'bereaved relatives'.

It's doubtful anyone will be convinced.

(Angry Mob has an excellent, thoughtful post on today's Littlejohn column, explaining how he dehumanises his targets to make it easier to attack them. His take on Tuesday's column is here)