Thursday 31 March 2011

Express front page lies about chip shop salt 'ban'

The ridiculous front page splash on today's Express claims:

'Banned', eh? The story by Chris Riches says:

Salt shakers are being removed from fish and chip shops in a nanny state ruling on what we can eat.

The petty diktat is supposed to be part of a healthy living drive to lower salt consumption which has been linked to high blood pressure.

The story includes a large number of 'angry' quotes from local residents, rent-a-quote politicians and, inevitably, the TaxPayers' Alliance.

And the Express' editorial isn't happy either:

So for Stockport Council to force food outlets to withdraw salt from view is daft. Any council official turning up at a fish and chip shop to check the ban is being enforced rigorously may run the risk of getting battered.

So is salt going to be 'banned' and 'removed' from all chip shops by 'force', because of a 'diktat'? Not quite:

Stockport Council...wants fish and chip shops, cafes and Indian restaurants to hide salt shakers behind the counters.

As part of its campaign, customers who notice no salt on the counter or table will have to ask for it.

So it's only one council and they're not actually banning anything. Indeed:

The move is part of the wider Greater Manchester ASK campaign to cut excessive salt consumption, which is linked to high blood pressure, stomach cancer and asthma.

Businesses that sign up to the scheme will display an ASK symbol in their windows and have information on their cafe tables.

Or, as the Mail put it in their version of the same news, which was top story on their website on Wednesday:

The scheme, called ASK, is voluntary...

While the Mail's story does state the salt is only being put behind the counter, their headline still refers to Stockport as:

And yes, that really is 'out of site' (thanks geeoharee).

The Express article also claims that salt is:

one of the simple pleasures of life.

Yet on 22 March, the same paper took a slightly different view:

There is a killer on your dinner table every night, an assassin in your lunchtime sandwiches and you probably have no idea of the danger...

Every year 17,500 people die in the UK from cardiovascular disease and strokes caused by eating too much salt.

Wednesday 30 March 2011

Houses that look like Hitler, pet-killing poltergeists and saucepans that cause the menopause

There have been some eye-catching headlines in the papers over the last week.

Yesterday the Metro came up with:

Someone took a photo of the house and posted it on Twitter. Jimmy Carr saw it and passed it on to his followers. Some papers then ran the photo, making it yet another 'news story' originating from Twitter. But the Mail added the all important question:

Do you know a house which looks like someone famous? Phone the Daily Mail tnewsdesk [sic] on...

The Sun, meanwhile, didn't need to ask a question in this headline because it was sure that this happened:

Somehow, there have been seven articles (so far...) in the nationals about this nonsense, each one including a video which claims to be evidence of the 'poltergeist' moving a chair. It's not.

The Sun ran a story under the 'Staff Reporter' byline on 28 March and then a follow-up by Gary O'Shea the next day. Today, O'Shea reported that Derek Acorah had 'banished' the poltergeist, who was called Jim.

The Mail has, as usual, been quick to, ahem, 'borrow' these stories from the Sun and run their own not-very-sceptical versions of them. The Mirror and Telegraph have also covered it.

And finally, there was this headline:

It could, of course, only be from the Daily Mail. The article by David Derbyshire begins:

Gender-bending chemicals found in non-stick pans and food packaging are linked to early menopause, scientists say.

And then, mid-way through:

Dr Sarah Knox, who led the research...stressed that the study had not shown that higher PFCs actually cause earlier menopause.


NHS Behind the Headlines give their verdict:

The Mail’s focus on saucepans may give the impression that saucepans or other household objects were analysed in this study. However, the study actually assessed levels of PFCs in people in the US whose drinking water may have been contaminated with high levels of the chemicals...

These findings do not prove that PFCs cause early menopause, and they need to be interpreted with caution. The study has several limitations, and further, high-quality research is required to assess whether PFCs affect human female hormones.


The findings of this large cross-sectional analysis should be interpreted with caution. It is not possible for this kind of study to prove that PFCs cause earlier menopause. As the authors point out, it is possible that the findings are due to “reverse causation” and that PFC concentrations were higher in postmenopausal women because they are no longer losing blood through menstruation. This possibility is supported by the fact that women who had had hysterectomy had higher-than-average levels of PFCs compared with those who had not (although as the authors say, this might still be cause for concern).

In addition, the information about the menopause came from survey data carried out by a separate company. The data was not independently confirmed.

The researchers only looked at whether women had gone through menopause, and they categorised these women into one of three different age brackets they belonged to at the time of the survey. As such, the study cannot tell us how old the women were when they reached menopause and whether those who had early menopause (i.e. before the age of 40 or 45) were associated with higher PFC levels.

PCC agrees there is no Union Flag ban, 'requests' the Mail 'take heed'

In February, the Mail, Telegraph, Richard Littlejohn and others claimed that Suffolk Police were happily displaying the rainbow flag for LGBT History Month but were totally 'forbidden' from ever flying the Union Flag.

There was, as usual, no such ban on the Union Flag. It was completely untrue, and had any of the 'journalists' actually bothered to contact the police, they would have been told that.

The Press Complaints Commission received two complaints about the Mail's article. The PCC took the view that these were third-party complaints and so would not 'examine' them under the terms of the Code. But they had gone to the trouble of asking Suffolk Police if they wanted to pursue a complaint, but the constabulary decided against it.

Here's the PCC's full ruling (sent to this blog by one of the complainants):

The complainants were concerned that the claim the Union Flag had been banned by the Chief Constable of Suffolk was inaccurate. A spokesperson for the police had confirmed on Anglia TV that this was not correct and that both the rainbow flag and Union Flag were flown outside the police headquarters.

The Commission fully acknowledged the concerns raised by the complainants in regard to the accuracy of the article. However, the Commission generally only considers complaints from those directly affected by the matters about which they complained.

In this instance, the article related directly to the Suffolk Constabulary and as such, the Commission would require its involvement in order to come to a view on the matter. It had therefore proactively contacted the police force, which had been aware of the article but had decided not to make a formal complaint about it.

While it emphasised that the concerns of the complainants were indeed legitimate, it did not consider in the absence of the participation of the police that it was in a position to investigate the matter, not least because it would not be possible to release any information about the outcome of the investigation or resolve the matter without the input of the Suffolk Constabulary.

That said, it recognised that the complainants had provided information which had a bearing on the accuracy of the claim made in the article and, as such, it requested that the newspaper would take heed of the points raised in the complaints and alter the article accordingly. In light of the police’s decision not to pursue a complaint against the newspaper, the Commission could not comment on the matter further.

So clearly the PCC agrees the story is rubbish. It seems quite obvious it breaches the Code of Practice clause on accuracy. Yet all the PCC have done is to have:

requested that the newspaper would take heed of the points raised in the complaints and alter the article accordingly.

Given that the PCC said they were not going to deal with the complaint formally, that is, perhaps, more than they might have done.

But as yet, the Mail have not taken heed of this request. Hopefully they will - although there appears to be no sanction for ignoring it.

And would an 'alteration' (which would be difficult, given the whole article is about the Union Flag 'ban') to the story, done without fanfare, matter two months later anyway?

UPDATE: The Mail have done more than 'alter' the original article - they've removed it completely. They've also edited Littlejohn's column to remove his reference to the ban. Yet in neither case have they explained why - there appears to be no clarification or apology. This way, they can just pretend they never said it in the first place.

Tuesday 29 March 2011

Littlejohn gets it wrong (again)

In his column today, Richard Littlejohn says:

Following last year’s triumphant forecast of a ‘barbecue summer’, the Met Office is now predicting a ‘phew-what-a-scorcher’ August this year.

So expect a small tsunami. Better start stocking up on umbrellas, dinghies and galoshes, just in case.

This short piece seems to have been thrown in at the last minute, as several newspapers reported on a long-range weather forecast yesterday.

Unfortunately for Littlejohn, that forecast came from Positive Weather Solutions (PWS). Not the Met Office.

Oh, and the Met Office's infamous 'barbecue summer' forecast wasn't 'last year' but in 2009.

So that's two factual errors in one sentence.

In fact, PWS did predict summer 2010 would be a 'good time to get the barbecue out' - as reported in the Daily Mail under the headline 'BBQ summer ahead!'

Moreover, as Littlejohn might have heard, the Met Office announced last year:

We have therefore decided to stop issuing a UK 'seasonal forecast' four times a year. Instead, we will now publish a monthly outlook, updated on a weekly basis.

If he missed their press release, he could have read the news in the paper he writes for.

But the 2011 forecast was, in any case, less clear-cut than Littlejohn and others made out. Indeed, PWS issued a statement yesterday regarding the various media reports of their forecast:

On Monday, March 28th, 2011, PWS was quoted on the front of the Daily Telegraph with the headline 'A Barbeque August'. On the inside of The Sun, their headline read 'Summer Washout'. So two newspapers, with two different interpretations...

Whilst the Daily Star also followed the path of the Daily Telegraph, the only two newspapers which seemed to have the balance correct, and indeed the quotes correct, were the Daily Express and the Daily Mail, who quite rightly went along the lines of a mixed June and July, with August possibly [their emphasis] offering the best of the weather.

If you can see the word 'barbeque' in our August forecast, please let us know.

(Hat-tips to robaparis and uponnothing)

Wednesday 23 March 2011

Littlejohn reacts to the tsunami: 'the Japanese people are militantly racist'

You know that when Richard Littlejohn begins one of his columns sounding as if he's being sincere and caring, it won't last long:

No one with a shred of humanity can fail to be moved by some of the pictures coming out of Japan, whether an elderly woman being rescued from the rubble or frightened, bewildered schoolchildren waiting in vain for parents who will never return.

The devastation is on a biblical scale. Comparisons have been drawn with the dropping of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


Despite filling our homes with Japanese electronics and our garages with cars made by Nissan and Toyota, despite the vivid images on TV and assorted social networks, it remains a faraway country of which we know little and understand less.

Anyone who has visited or worked in Japan will tell you it is like landing on another planet. Beyond the baseball caps and Western clothes, the Japanese people have a distinct culture of their own, which is entirely alien to our own values. They are militantly racist and in the past have been capable of great cruelty.

Clearly Littlejohn was so moved by the devastation, when he came to write about it a week or so later, he thought he'd label the whole country as not just racist but 'militantly racist' and then mention the war. 'Shred of humanity' indeed. (In the online version, the subs have even included a picture of two emaciated prisoners of war.)

Of course, when Top Gear got into trouble recently for calling Mexicans 'lazy, feckless and flatulent' the Mail called this a 'slur' and an 'insult' and churned out six (very similar) articles about it within five days.

And the Mail leapt on another 'diplomatic incident' caused by a BBC programme, when QI made some jokes about a man who had survived the atmoic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The programme had caused a 'furore', 'insulted' one man and been 'Quite Insensitive'.

So, if the BBC makes jokes about all Mexicans or one Japanese man, it's an 'insult'.

If a Mail columnist says with a straight face that the 'Japanese people' - presumably all 125 million of them - are 'militantly racist', then that's, apparently, acceptable. To the Mail, it's 'powerful and provocative'.

He drags into this column his wife's dead grandfather, who had suffered as a POW and:

would never have joined a minute’s silence for Japan...Were he alive today, he would have remained doggedly in his seat if requested to stand in silent tribute to the dead of Japan.

Which may or may not be true - since he's dead, we'll never know. Yet when some people remain seated when asked to stand in tribute to one person who is alive, the Mail gets angry.

Littlejohn uses his wife's grandfather as a way to rant about when we should pay tribute:

I often wonder what our fathers and grandfathers would have made of modern Britain’s ghastly cult of sentimentality and vicarious grief. Ever since the hysteria surrounding the death of Lady Di, when half of the nation seemed to take leave of its senses, a section of the population seizes any excuse for a sobfest.

Showing ‘respect’ has become institutionalised. Before every one of the weekend’s Premier League football matches, for instance, fans were forced to stand and observe a minute’s silence for Japan. Why?

Why? Because over 9,000 human beings were killed and over 13,000 are missing, perhaps? But to him, a minute's silence for those people is 'any excuse for a sobfest' and part of a 'ghastly cult of sentimentality'?

'Showing ‘respect’ has become institutionalised.' How awful.

And 'forced'? More likely they were asked to, and thought it an appropriate thing to do.

Littlejohn explains:

I have no objection to honouring the dead in public, if the occasion or sense of loss warrants it.

For example?

At White Hart Lane we’ve recently said goodbye to some of the stars of Spurs’ double-winning side from the Sixties. There was genuine sadness over the loss of men many in the crowd had known personally. But how many of the hundreds of thousands of supporters corralled into grieving for Japan could even point to that country on a map?

So silent tribute to a few footballers is 'warranted'. But for tens of thousands of victims of a natural disaster? excuse for a self-indulgent display of cost-free compassion.

He really doesn't seem to be able to grasp that people might feel 'genuine sadness' over the deaths of those we may not know personally.

He uses this to launch into a slightly strange attack on the Premier League:

Like most monsters, the Premier League has a sickening streak of sentimentality. Barely a week passes without yet another minute’s silence before kick-off...Of course, there is a commercial incentive here for the Premier League. No doubt the Japanese TV rights are up for renegotiation soon.

But there were silences before last weekend's Six Nations rugby games. And before football games elsewhere so this isn't just a Premier League, or even just a British, thing.

Then comes a paragraph of such mind-numbing nonsense, it's little wonder Littlejohn has a reputation for being less than rigorous with his research:

But why Japan and not, say, those massacred in Rwanda or starved to death by Mugabe in Zimbabwe? I don’t remember a minute’s silence for Haiti, although I may be mistaken. I’m sure we didn’t have a minute’s silence for our earthquake-hit Commonwealth cousins in Christchurch, New Zealand, before the Milan game. Maybe we did.

Firstly, it takes some nerve for him to invoke 'those massacred in Rwanda' when he said about the genocide there:

'Does anyone really give a monkey's about what happens in Rwanda? If the Mbongo tribe wants to wipe out the Mbingo tribe then as far as I am concerned that is entirely a matter for them.'

But look at the rest of that paragraph.

'I don't remember...although I may be mistaken.'

'I'm sure we didn't...Maybe we did'.

It really is quality journalism, isn't it?

A very quick use of Google would have proved there were minute silences for the victims of both the Haiti and New Zealand earthquakes in various places. He may be right about the Milan game, but there were silences at other sporting events for New Zealand, including at the Six Nations rugby, the cricket World Cup and at football matches.

Of course, had he bothered to find out about those silences, his argument of 'why a silence for the militant racists and not our Commonwealth cousins?' would have fallen apart.

He adds:

Do you think the Japanese held a silent tribute for the victims of the London Transport bombings in 2005? Me neither.

Well, in response to those terrorist attacks, the then Japanese Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, issued a statement saying:

I would also like to extend my deepest sympathy to the victims of the attacks.

On top of that:

At around noon on July 8 on behalf of Prime Minister Koizumi currently visiting the United Kingdom, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hosoda visited the British Embassy in Tokyo to express the sympathy of the Government of Japan for those who were sacrificed in a series of explosions in London.

At the Embassy Mr. Hosoda expressed the deep condolences of the Government of Japan to the Government of the U.K.

Moreover, according to the American Government, the response to Hurricane Katrina was that:

Japan has pledged more than $1.5 million in private donations. The government of Japan has donated $200,000 in cash to the American Red Cross and some $800,000 in relief supplies -- from blankets to generators -- already are arriving to aid the most needy.

That's those 'militantly racist' 'alien values' in action.

According to figures on Wikipedia, 77% of the Japanese population is between 0 and 64 years of age so wouldn't have been born until after the war ended. And Littlejohn claims that he believes that:

It is wrong to visit the sins of previous generations on their modern descendants, although that doesn’t prevent the British Left constantly trying to make us feel guilty for centuries-old grievances, from the slave trade to the Irish potato famine.

And yet here he is, faced with the 'biblical-scale' devastation of the recent tsunami, dragging up decades-old grievances about the actions of some Japanese people. If he thinks it's wrong the visit the sins of previous generations, why mention the war at all?

Tuesday 22 March 2011

'Shamelessly ripped off'

The latest issue of SF Weekly - a publication based in San Francisco - has a cover story about how 'illegal immigrants find that being a crime victim is their best ticket to citizenship' thanks to something called the 'U-visa'.

That article, written by Lauren Smiley, was published on 16 March.

Four days later, the Daily Mail ran an article headlined 'The 'crime visa': How 18,000 illegal immigrants got legal status by being the victim of a crime' which was 'written' by their Daily Mail Reporter.

And Smiley and the SF Weekly are not amused by the Mail's effort:

This was actually our cover article on U visas, shamelessly ripped off and plastered on the website of the wildly successful British tabloid newspaper the Daily Mail.

This is an example of "churnalism" at its most depraved -- the story's byline reads only "Daily Mail Reporter," as if the anonymous hack couldn't bear to fess up to his or her lack of originality. The article proceeds to rephrase our sentences, lift our quotes verbatim, and even write snappy sidebars about the visa-seeking San Francisco-based immigrants -- Rosa Aguilar and Adolfo Lopez, you've gone international! -- profiled in our original story.

Check out our story versus theirs for yourself: There is absolutely no original reporting in the entire Daily Mail piece. Apparently the reporter thought he or she was absolved via a quick " reports" in the 18th paragraph. No link or anything. Wow, thanks.

Smiley then highlights a couple of other cases of Mail articles that look suspiciously like articles from other publications, before concluding:

It seems U visas are a topic that appealed to the paper's conservative, anti-immigrant editorial stance; the Mail's editors have been called to answer in the past by the British Parliament's human rights committee about critical coverage of asylum seekers...

C'mon, guys: All we're asking for is some link love and heavy attribution high up in the story. Then go ahead and take what you want. To borrow a British expression, what the Mail did -- it's just not cricket.

(Big hat-tip to Malcolm Armsteen at the Mailwatch Forum)

Friday 18 March 2011

Mail corrects migrant numbers error

The Mail has published a correction to one of its articles about migration:

This article has been amended. It previously contained a graphic that correctly listed the latest annual number of non-EU nationals admitted to each of ten European countries. However, a second table was wrongly headed "Non EU citizens to each square kilometre" instead of "Number of people to each square kilometre". We are happy to correct this point.

How clumsy. As the PCC explains:

The complainant was concerned that as a result of the error readers would be misled into thinking that Britain was home to many more non-EU immigrants than was actually the case.

Making a boob over a poisoned snake

On 14 March, the Sun, Mail and Metro all printed a story about Israeli model Orit Fox being bitten on the breast by a snake:

Going by the date-stamps of the comments on each article, it appears the Sun was first with this 'news' and the others mindlessly followed. Each article served up the same scant 'facts', a few blurry stills and an embedded video of the incident.

Daily Mail Reporter reveals:

...surgically enhanced Israeli model Orit Fox got more than she bargained for when the massive boa constrictor took objection to her over familiarity and reacted by biting into her breast.

However, it was the snake who came off worse because, while Ms Fox need a tetanus shot in hospital, the reptile later died from silicone poisoning.

It all sounds very unlikely - even if you accept a snake can die of silicone poisoning, you would think it would have needed to pierce the implant, which would surely have resulted in more extensive medical treatment for the woman than a 'tetanus shot'.

So did the snake die? According to the Daily What, no:

When the story first emerged on the BuzzMedia-owned gossip site Oh No They Didn’t, it was accompanied by a short caption containing this quip: “The snake later died from silicone poisoning.”

“Really? Poor snake,” lamented a reader; “lmao I was joking!,”
replied the article’s author.

So a joke made on a celebrity gossip website becomes accepted as true, without any basic fact-checking, by three British newspapers and their websites and then run as news 11 days later.

In fact, the Daily Week shows, it spread more widely than that, appearing in the New York Daily News, Huffington Post (with hat-tip to The Sun), Best Week Ever and many other places.

Some of these have started to update and correct their original stories. For example, the Huffington Post says:

Update: The Daily What reports that the snake actually made it out alive! That means it's Model: 0, Snake: 0.

And Best Week Ever admits:

UPDATE/CORRECTION: It turns out the snake didn’t die. The Daily Mail and the Daily News picked up a joke from ONTD as part of the story by accident. The rest is still accurate. Sorry, guys. Congratulations, snake. And thanks to Rich Juzwiak’s comprehensive Tweet for clearing that up.

But so far there have been no amendments to the 'stories' published by the Sun, Mail and Metro.

(Hat-tip to Bisyss at the Mailwatch Forum)

Mirror retracts story on carbon monoxide poisoning

The PCC has published details of a complaint against a scaremongering article in the Daily Mirror:

The Northern Health and Social Care Trust complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the newspaper had published an article which inaccurately reported that two people had been admitted and treated in Causeway Hospital following carbon monoxide poisoning.

And the case was resolved when the newspapers published the following:

On 11 August last under the headline "2 more poisoned", we reported that two women were admitted to and treated overnight at the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine shortly after a public safety warning had been issued concerning carbon monoxide poisoning following the suspected faulty installation of gas appliances.

At that time the hospital stated that it had no record of two women being admitted or treated in the hospital and we accept this.

The two women concerned said they had attended the A&E department because they had symptoms consistent with exposure to carbon monoxide gas and had been advised to seek urgent medical attention.

We have since been made aware that although the women were concerned they may have had CO poisoning, in fact, they did not.

We are happy to clarify the position.

Saturday 12 March 2011

Star admits another front page story wasn't true

On 16 December, the Daily Star claimed:

And today, the Star admits that this was yet another front page story that wasn't actually true:

On 16th December 2010 we published an article on our front page and pages 4 and 5, making a suggestion that immediately after Amir Khan’s successful WBA world champion fight against Marcos Maidana in Las Vegas on 11th December 2010, Amir Kahn was joined by Katie Price for dinner and subsequently in his suite.

At that point, Katie Price had not become estranged from her husband Alex Reid. In fact, Amir Khan did not meet with Katie Price whilst in Las Vegas and has never, as alleged, sent indecent photographs of himself to Katie Price.

We apologise to Amir Khan for any distress or embarrassment our story may have caused.

Thursday 10 March 2011

The Mail on women and their bodies

An article in today's Mail asks:

Perhaps the Mail's website could shed some light on that?

For example, on the website today: Britney Spears looks in 'great shape' showing off her 'fantastic form'.

But on the Mail's website in January: Britney Spears looks 'bloated and unkempt'.

On the Mail's website today: Megan Fox 'cuts a glamorous figure' as she 'saunters around in a low cut dress'.

On the Mail's website last week: Megan Fox looks 'gaunt and skeletal' and 'too skinny'.

On the Mail's website last month: Megan Fox 'could wear a paper bag and look good in it thanks to her enviable physique'.

On the Mail's website in the past: Leona Lewis might be 'dumpy' or might have 'killer curves'. Katy Perry might have 'girth' or a 'voluptuous figure'. A 'curvaceous' woman dares to eat dessert. A woman weighing 9st is ridiculed for her 'blubber'.

And on and on...

There are hundreds of such nasty, pointless articles on the Mail website, which criticise famous people - but particularly famous women - who dare go out in casual clothes, or without make-up or without looking exactly how the mean-spirited hacks on the Mail website demand they look at all times.

And tomorrow's Mail front page refers to the 'raddled mug' of supermodel Kate Moss - in exactly the same space where today's edition asked 'Why do we women HATE our bodies?'

(See also Angry Mob's take on this story, which highlights today's page three feature finding fault with the way Kate Moss looks)

The cat returns

In last Friday's Daily Star, a reader's text showed how stories that aren't true can nonetheless be believed and repeated as fact:

so gamu nhengu faces deportation. tell her to...get a cat. that should do it! [sic]

It was in October 2009 when a story appeared claiming that an 'illegal immigrant' had been saved from deportation because he had a cat. It started in the Sunday Telegraph, and was then repeated by the Mail, Sun, Express and Star, and in columns by Littlejohn, Platell, Holmes and others.

Despite the man's lawyer being quoted in the original article (and explaining on this blog) that the cat was 'immaterial' to the case, the story went on and on.

And 17 months later, the Star reader's text shows some people still believe it did actually happen.

(Many thanks to the comment spotter)

Monday 7 March 2011

Flat for sale

'Shameful...finger pointing and character assassination'. That was the reaction of Jo Yeates' boyfriend to media coverage of the arrest of her landlord Chris Jefferies.

Both Enemies of Reason and Minority Thought covered the dreadful, intrusive, guilty-because-we've-decided-he-is 'reporting' at the time.

The Mail called Jefferies 'Mr Strange', 'the 'nutty professor' and 'Professor Strange'. He 'idolised a poet obsessed by death', they claimed. One front page splash carrying a large picture of Jefferies asked 'Was Jo's body hidden next to her flat?'; another wondered if he held 'the key to Joanna's murder'.

The Mirror called him a 'peeping tom'.

The Sun called him 'strange' and 'obsessed by death' and in one article, as Anton pointed out, he was described as:

"weird", "lewd", "strange", "creepy", "angry", "odd", "disturbing", "eccentric", "a loner" and "unusual".

Today, news broke that Jefferies had been released without charge by Avon and Somerset Police last Friday. The Mirror had the story as one of their top stories on their website:

The Sun also had it high up on their homepage:

The Express' resource-starved website also carried the news, albeit below yet another article plugging a programme on Channel 5:

And the Mail? They relegated the latest developments in the case to halfway down their homepage under the headline:

And four sentences into that story:

Police have now confirmed he was discharged from his bail conditions on Friday night.

Will this info be any more prominent in tomorrow's print edition?

Saturday 5 March 2011

Express apologises to Cherie Blair

The Daily Express has published the following apology to Cherie Blair:

In our 5 November 2010 article “Burkha ‘no more a threat than a nun’s habit’ says Cherie” we reported that Cherie Blair had, in a speech to Muslim women, defended the wearing of the Burkha and that this was a change from her previously stated opposition to the Burkha and to full-face veils.

In fact, Mrs Blair spoke in support of Muslim women’s right to wear their traditional hair cover which leaves the face uncovered. We accept that Mrs Blair made no comment about the Burkha and her views on face coverings had not changed. We apologise to Mrs Blair for this error and any confusion caused.

Thursday 3 March 2011

Mail and Sun: guilty of contempt of court

The Press Gazette reports:

Two national newspapers were today found guilty of contempt of court over the use of internet photographs.

In what are believed to be the first cases of their kind, the High Court in London ruled the contempt occurred when the Daily Mail and The Sun websites carried pictures on their websites of a murder trial defendant "posing with a gun".

The publishers were taken to court by Attorney General Dominic Grieve...

Judge Michael Murphy QC, who presided at the trial, refused to discharge the jury after saying he was "quite satisfied" no members of the jury had been influenced by the internet.

Nevertheless, it was argued on the Attorney General's behalf that publication of the pictures had created "a substantial risk" that the trial could have been "seriously impeded or prejudiced" by jurors seeing them...

Lord Justice Moses and Mr Justice Owen said that - "notwithstanding that publication of the image of the accused with a pistol was a mistake" - there was a breach of the contempt laws under the strict liability rule.

"We conclude that the nature of the photograph created a substantial risk of prejudicing any juror who saw that photograph against the defendant Ward."

Lord Justice Moses, giving judgment on behalf of the court, said: "The criminal courts have been troubled by the dangers to the integrity and fairness of a criminal trial, where juries can obtain such easy access to the internet and to other forms of instant communication.

"Once information is published on the internet, it is difficult if not impossible completely to remove it.

"The courts, while trusting a jury to obey a prohibition on consulting the internet, have been concerned to meet the problem.

"This case demonstrates the need to recognise that instant news requires instant and effective protection for the integrity of a criminal trial."

The judges will consider what penalties and costs orders to impose on Associated Newspapers, publishers of the Daily Mail, and News Group Newspapers, publishers of The Sun, at a future date.

Wednesday 2 March 2011

Two ASA rulings against Express newspapers

The Advertising Standards Authority has upheld one complaint against the Daily Express, and three complaints (regarding one ad) against the Sunday Express.

Both cases involve front page splashes about a free giveaway of toys and games where there was insufficient stock to satisfy demand.

For the daily, the adjudication says

We noted there appeared to have been a lack of communication between the Express, Mattel and ELC resulting in the promotion going ahead when there was insufficient time or stock to satisfy demand. We understood that participants were told about the delay, but nonetheless considered that, because the toy was not available to collect as claimed, the promotion was misleading.

For the Sunday Express:

We considered that the Sunday Express and Argos had not demonstrated that they had made a reasonable estimate of demand for the board game and, moreover, had encouraged readers to purchase the Sunday Express as a precondition to obtaining the board game when the number of items was limited. We concluded that the promotion breached the code.

The ASA has ruled neither promotion should run again in its current form, but since these were one-off giveaways, they probably weren't going to be repeated anyway. And there's no penalty other than a written ruling that few people will ever see.

So while Richard Desmond may have removed his newspapers from the jurisdiction of the Press Complaints Commission, we can be sure the ASA will still be holding them rigorously to account. Ahem.

(Thanks to Amit for the tip)