Saturday 30 July 2011

The priorities of the Sunday Express

Last week, the Sunday Express didn't think the bombing and shootings in Norway were important enough to put on their front page:


This Sunday, the paper has decided to lead on the fact that the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 on Friday broadcast a few swear words ('bullshit' twice, 'bastards' once) in a report about a 'campaign of abuse and intimidation' - including death threats - aimed at ME researchers:


Does Sunday Express editor Martin Townsend really think this is more worthy of a front page splash than the events in Norway?

Old stories become front page news

The lead story on the front page of Sunday's People is about Shem Davies, who has become a grandad at the age of 29. It is, they say, an 'exclusive':

But can they really claim it is an 'exclusive' when the Sun reported on Shem's family two weeks ago, on 15 July?


It's not the only example of a tabloid splashing an old story on its front page in the past week.

On Thursday, MailOnline published an article about Naomi Jacobs, a woman in her thirties who woke up one day thinking she was 15:

Naomi's story of suffering with transient global amnesia was picked up by the Sun for Friday's front page:
It's an interesting story.

Indeed, the Independent newspaper thought it so interesting they published an article about it back on 14 June.

The page two apologies to Christopher Jefferies

Seven months ago, Christopher Jefferies was subject to these character-assassinating front pages (among many, many others):


Yesterday, eight newspapers - the Sun, Mail, Mirror, Sunday Mirror, Express, Star, Daily Record and Scotsman - agreed to pay Jefferies libel damages and apologise for their coverage.

Yet there is not one word of the apology, or one word about it, on the front page of the Sun, Mail, Mirror, Express, Star or Daily Record today. Instead, the apologies are all hidden away on page two. (If anyone has a copy of the Scotsman, please do let me know how they have handled this.)

Although this was resolved legally, rather than through the Press Complaints Commission, the Code of Practice states:

A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence.

Given the original offence, it is very hard to see how these apologies can be considered prominent enough.

Here's the Star's apology:

In court yesterday the Daily Star apologised to Christopher Jefferies for articles published on December 31 2010 and January 1 2011, in which we reported on his arrest on suspicion of the murder of Joanna Yeates.

The articles suggested that there were strong grounds to believe that Mr Jefferies had killed Ms Yeates and that he had acted in an inappropriate over- sexualised manner with his pupils when he was a teacher.
The articles also suggested that he had probably lied to police to obstruct their investigations.

We accepted that all these allegations were untrue and apologised to Mr Jefferies.

The Mail:

Eight newspapers apologised to Mr Christopher Jefferies in the High Court yesterday. Reports of the investigation into the death of Joanna Yeates had wrongly suggested that Mr Jefferies, who was arrested but released without charge, was suspected of killing Ms Yeates, may have had links to a convicted paedophile and an unresolved murder. It was also wrongly alleged that the former school master had acted inappropriately to pupils.

The newspapers, including the Daily Mail, agreed to pay Mr Jefferies substantial damages and legal costs.


* Later the Daily Mirror was fined £50,000 and the Sun ,£18,000 for contempt of court in relation to their reports.

The Express:

In court yesterday the Daily Express apologised to Christopher Jefferies for articles published in the Daily Express on December 31 2010 in which we reported on his arrest on suspicion of the murder of Joanna Yeates.

The articles suggested that there were strong grounds to believe that Mr Jefferies had killed Ms Yeates and that he had acted in an inappropriate, over-sexualised manner with his pupils when he was a teacher.
The articles also suggested that he had probably lied to police to obstruct their investigations. It was further suggested that there were grounds to investigate whether he was responsible for an unsolved murder dating back to 1974.

We accepted that all these allegations were untrue and apologised to Mr Jefferies.

Daily Record:

Yesterday the Daily Record and other newspapers apologised in court for the publication of false allegations about the retired school master Christopher Jefferies, who, we had wrongly suggested, was strongly to be suspected of having killed his former tenant Joanna Yeates.

We also wrongly suggested that he had acted inappropriately towards his pupils in the past and invaded his tenants' privacy.

We accepted that these allegations were untrue and that far from being involved in the crime, Mr Jefferies helped the police with their inquiries as best he could.

We have agreed to pay substantial damages to Mr Jefferies plus his legal costs.

At the time of writing, only the Express, Star and Daily Record have a link to the apology on the homepage of their website. MailOnline has not put it on the homepage but half way down their 'news' page - further down than a story about this weekend's weather.

It appears the Mirror, Sun and Scotsman have so far failed to publish their apologies online.

Speaking to a committee of MPs recently, Mail editor Paul Dacre, who is also Chair of the Committee that oversees the Code of Practice, said that the claim newspapers bury corrections is:

one of the great myths of our time.

This from a man whose paper's website was, only a few months ago, routinely placing apologies for British stories in its US section.

Yet if the newspapers fail so miserably to give proper prominence to apologies in a case as serious as this one, Dacre's words should be treated with the disdain they deserve.

UPDATE: The Sun's apology does not appear if you search their website for either Chris or Christopher Jefferies. But it is up there:

The Sun apologised in court yesterday to ex-schoolmaster Christopher Jefferies for false suggestions he might have killed his former tenant Joanna Yeates, acted inappropriately towards pupils in the past, invaded his tenants' privacy, was associated with a convicted paedophile and might have been involved in an unsolved murder in 1974.

We accepted these allegations were untrue and that Mr Jefferies in fact helped the police with their inquiries as best he could.

We have agreed to pay substantial damages and costs to Mr Jefferies.

The Mirror's apology is also now up:

Yesterday the Daily Mirror, The Sunday Mirror and other newspapers apologised in court for the publication of false allegations about the retired school master Christopher Jefferies, who, we had wrongly suggested, was strongly to be suspected of having killed his former tenant Joanna Yeates.

The Daily Mirror wrongly suggested that he had invaded his tenants' privacy, was associated with a convicted paedophile and might have had something to do with an unsolved murder dating back to 1974.

The Sunday Mirror wrongly suggested that he had acted inappropriately towards his pupils in the past.

We accepted that these allegations were untrue and that far from being involved in the crime, Mr Jefferies helped the police with their inquiries as best he could.

We have agreed to pay substantial damages to Mr Jefferies plus his legal costs.

And The Scotsman finally published their apology online on 1 August:

Yesterday The Scotsman and other newspapers apologised in court for having wrongly suggested that Mr Jefferies was involved in the killing of Joanna Yeates.

We had also wrongly suggested that he had acted in an inappropriate, oversexualised manner with his pupils in the past and that he invaded the privacy of his tenants in his capacity as a landlord of two flats.

We accepted in court that these allegations were untrue and that Mr Jefferies had no involvement in Ms Yeates' killing.

In recognition of the distress caused, we have agreed to pay substantial damages to Mr Jefferies plus his legal costs.


'I do not know whether some of the things Littlejohn writes are honest'

Mail editor-in-chief Paul Dacre gave evidence to a joint parliamentary committee on the Draft Defamation Bill on 18 July.

He defended the PCC which he praised for its:

increased powers and strength...which no one will admit to in this febrile climate.

He attacked the BBC for:

very light-touch regulation. It almost regulates itself.

This despite the fact that Ofcom also regulates the BBC and has fined them for transgressions - a sanction Dacre will never accept for newspapers.

On front page apologies Dacre said:

I suppose we are now leading to the ultimate sanction of a front-page apology. Again, I think that would be the court taking away the editor’s right to edit and the thin end of all kinds of undesirable wedges. It is perhaps a technical point, but a newspaper’s front page needs to sell itself. A newspaper has to be viable. If it does not sell itself, no one will read the correction inside. Finally—this is slightly contradictory—in truly heinous offences, a front page can and should be considered by the editor. There are quite a few precedents for that but I should not want the court to have the right to insist on it.

The committee also mentioned the wording of the defence of 'fair comment' and asked whether 'honest opinion' might be more appropriate. Dacre said:

Yes, I suppose “honest” is slightly better, although I prefer “free opinion” for the life of me. As long as it does not inflame a situation, is not racist and does not defame someone, the freer it is the better. Certainly, thinking about some of the things that Mr Littlejohn writes in my paper, I do not know whether they are honest but they certainly get people talking.

Express fails to apologise over wrong photo

Regret the Error reports on a recent clarification published by the Daily Express:

Our article of May 7 2011 “8st kick-boxing WPC scares off thugs” included a photograph said to be that of Richard Chadwick who was convicted of an attack on six people in Leeds, including bursting into one home and threatening to kill the occupant’s baby. The photograph was actually of Mark O’Brien who has no connection to this offence whatsoever.

As Craig Silverman asks: 'No apology?'

Friday 29 July 2011

'Witch hunts and character assassination'

Christopher Jefferies, the man arrested but released without charge in the Jo Yeates murder case, has accepted 'substantial' libel damages and apologies from eight newspapers.

The papers involved were the Sun, Mail, Mirror, Sunday Mirror, Express, Star, Daily Record and Scotsman.

Speaking outside court, Jefferies' lawyer Louis Charalambous said:

"Christopher Jefferies is the latest victim of the regular witch hunts and character assassination conducted by the worst elements of the British tabloid media.

"Many of the stories published in these newspapers are designed to 'monster' the individual, in flagrant disregard for his reputation, privacy and rights to a fair trial.

"These newspapers have now apologised to him and paid substantial damages but they do so knowing that once the conditional fee agreement rules are changed next year victims of tabloid witch hunts will no longer have the same access to justice."

It is worth remembering the coverage, which included him being labelled a 'Peeping Tom' and 'Professor Strange' and he was accused of being 'obsessed with death' and 'creepy'.

Another lawyer, Bambos Tsiattalou, who had advised Jefferies, stated:

"We warned the media by letter, immediately following Mr Jefferies' arrest, in the strongest possible terms to desist from publishing stories which were damaging or defamatory.

"We were dismayed that our warnings went unheeded and are pleased that the newspapers, in settling Mr Jefferies' claims, have acknowledged the extent of the damage to his reputation."

A few hours after those damages were announced, the High Court ruled the Mirror and Sun were in contempt over some of their articles on Jefferies which 'created substantial risks to the course of justice'.

The judgment (pdf) highlights the articles in question. First, the Mirror on 31 December:

On the front page of the Daily Mirror, in the context of what were described as the “Jo files” the headline alleged that “Jo suspect is peeping Tom”. It was asserted on the front page in large print:

“Arrest landlord spied on flat couple”, followed immediately below by:

“Friend in jail for paedophile crimes”, followed immediately below by:

“Cops now probe 36 –years old murder.”

In short, while positively asserting that Mr Jefferies was a voyeur, without directly asserting that he was involved in paedophile crimes or a long unresolved murder, the impression conveyed to an objective reader was that he was somehow linked with not one but two awful, additional crimes.

Then the Mirror the following day:

The front page banner headline asks “Was killer waiting in Jo’s flat?”. The story on the front page begins:

“Joanna Yeates’s killer may have been waiting for her inside her basement flat as she returned home. Detectives yesterday sent towels and bedding for DNA tests after finding no signs of a break-in”.

We observe that if entry was not forced, then whoever went into the flat had access to it. The only person with

And in the Sun, also on 1 January:

On the lower half of the front page of The Sun the headline reads “Obsessed by death” and it is alleged that Mr Jefferies “scared kids” by a macabre fascination. He wanted to show death to his pupils and was obsessed with it...

More significant, was the headline across pages 4 and 5 “Murdered Jo: suspect “followed me” says woman”. And this was followed by a lengthy article under the headline “What do you think I am…a pervert?” describing the “landlord’s outburst at blonde”. This was an “exclusive” story about a “former acquaintance” of Mr Jefferies who felt that she was being followed by him. The thrust of the story was that Mr Jefferies liked blondes – and Miss Yeates, too, was blonde - and she felt as though she was being followed by someone described as “quite a dominant personality”, a “control freak” who made her feel “very uncomfortable”.

In the view of the newspapers there was no risk to the course of justice because people would have forgotten what they had said about Jefferies:

The main focus of the written submissions by the defendants was that the articles did not create substantial risk of serious prejudice to any trial of Mr Jefferies which might take place in the future, probably some 9 months or so after publication.

The ruling states:

The material in the two publications of the Daily Mirror is extreme...In our judgment the two publications in the Daily Mirror created substantial risks to the course of justice. They constituted contempt under the strict liability rule.

It adds that although the effect of the Sun's articles:

is not as grave as that of two series of articles contained in the Mirror, the vilification of Mr Jefferies created a very serious risk that the preparation of his defence would be damaged. At the time when this edition of the Sun was published it created substantial risks to the course of justice. It therefore constituted a contempt under the strict liability rule.

Reflecting that judgment, the Mirror has been fined £50,000 and the Sun £18,000, although at time of writing the Mirror's publishers have said they will appeal.

Given that seven of the eight papers in the Jefferies case also paid libel damages to Robert Murat almost exactly three years ago, it's clear that certain newspapers have learnt nothing from this type of coverage.

Instead, when Jefferies was arrested, there was a disgraceful feeding frenzy in which each tabloid tried to out-do its rivals with even more extreme, prurient detail.

How did this happen? As Roy Greenslade asks: how did the lawyers at these papers let these stories be published in the first place?

Will the newspapers publish apologies to Jefferies with the prominence that he deserves? Will any of the editors involved take the time to explain themselves?

And will these papers act differently next time someone is arrested in a high-profile case?

Peter Hill praises the EU

When he was editor of the Daily Express, Peter Hill oversaw a drop in circulation from 851,199 to 623,603 copies per day in just over 7 years. His reign was marked by Diana conspiracy theories, countless libellous claims in articles about Madeleine McCann, and lots of nastiness about immigrants and Muslims.

It also ran many stories about the EU. On 8 January this year, the paper produced a Get Britain Out of the EU pull-out. Hill wrote the introduction, which stated the EU was a 'dictatorship':

the traditional rights and freedoms of the peoples of Europe have been systematically swept away with a ruthless efficiency that would have been the envy of Napoleon and Hitler.

Hill added:

I defy anyone to produce one single act or law of the EU and the European Court that has actually benefited Britain.

'Anyone'.

Well, since leaving the editor's chair, Hill has been writing a weekly column in the Express. Two days ago, he turned his attention to an EU plan to ensure bacon that includes more than 5% water is labelled as such (current UK legislation sets the limit at 10%). Even the Telegraph and Mail thought this was quite a good idea.

But did Hill think this plan was yet another hallmark of the 'EU dictatorship'? Not quite:

Just occasionally the EU gets it right and one subject on which it is consistently sound is food standards.

For years British food suppliers have hidden behind elaborate secrecy laws, enabling them to get away with pretty much any old rubbish...

Now the EU says that bacon producers will have to rename their product "bacon with added water" if it contains more than five per cent of water. Fair enough...

All this injecting of meat products with numerous chemicals and water couldn't possibly have happened in the good old days when our meat actually tasted of something.

It's nasty British factory farming methods that are responsible, among which pork and bacon are the worst. Long live EU food standards.

Monday 25 July 2011

Sorry we named the wrong mother-to-be

A page two clarification from the Daily Star, published on 13 July:

In our article "Ender's Murder" published on 9 July 2011 we stated that Brian Atkinson, murderer of Eastenders' extra Kevlin Eurie, had got Eurie's girlfriend pregnant.

In fact it was the sister of one of Eurie's friends that was pregnant by Atkinson. We apologise for this mistake.

Sunday 24 July 2011

The Sun's editorial(s) on Norway

In the aftermath of the tragic events in Norway on Friday, several media outlets began to speculate as to who was responsible and, predictably, fingers were pointed at Muslims.

The front page of Saturday's Financial Times referred to 'Islamist extremism fears', while the Sun mentioned a 'homegrown al-Qaeda convert' and a 'homegrown Islamic convert' in its coverage:

(Every British national newspaper put this atrocity on the front page on Saturday except the Mail and the Express. What stories did they consider more important? The Mail went with '150 human hybrids grown in UK labs', while the Express led on 'Cleared: Man who killed burglar'. They also included a story on their front pages about the exhibiting of the Duchess of Cambridge's wedding dress at Buckingham Palace.)

But if you visit the Sun's website, it will appear that yesterday's editorial about events in Norway read:

Norway's pain

Carnage in a city centre. A massacre at an island youth rally.

Terrorism brought slaughter yesterday to the friendly and civilised streets of one of Europe's most peaceful nations.


The Sun and its readers grieve today with the people of Norway, stunned by the assault on their capital Oslo and the island of Utoya.


How well we remember, from London's 7/7, the shock and misery when an ordinary summer's day turns into a nightmare of smoke, flames and bodies in the street.


Just as on 9/11 in New York and in Madrid in 2004, horror came when everyone least expected it.


The gentle nation best known for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize suffered its most violent attack since World War Two.


But neither al-Qaeda nor any other extremist group has exclusive rights to murder and mayhem.


The picture emerging in Norway last night was of one blond-haired, blue-eyed man being behind the Oslo bombing AND the island camp massacre.


Acts of terror can be an easy resort for any loner who believes their own personal grievance against the state is justification for indiscriminate violence.


Take Timothy McVeigh, a US Army veteran whose warped world view was all the reason he needed to kill 168 innocent people in the Oklahoma bombing in 1995.


Or Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, who waged a 17-year mail bombing campaign that left three dead and many more injured because he didn't like modern American life.


Whatever the "reason" behind the terrible attack on Norway, whoever is responsible shares one thing in common with all terrorists.


Their evil is matched only by their cowardice.


Today, sympathies lie with Norway, our loyal friend and trading partner across the North Sea for centuries.


We share their pain. We salute their courage.

But for readers of the print version of the newspaper, the editorial looked quite different. The sections in bold are the words removed from the current online version:

Stand strong with Norway


Carnage in a city centre. A massacre at an island youth rally.


Terrorism, the scourge of the West, brought slaughter yesterday to the friendly and civilised streets of one of Europe's most peaceful nations.


The Sun and its readers grieve today with the people of Norway, stunned by the assault on their capital Oslo and the island of Utoya.


How well we remember, from London's 7/7, the shock and misery when an ordinary summer's day turns into a nightmare of smoke, flames and bodies in the street.


Just as on 9/11 in New York and in Madrid in 2004, horror came when everyone least expected it.


Why Norway? The answer is simple.


Because it is brave. It is a loyal member of NATO and plays its part in Afghanistan and Libya.


It has courageously stood up to Muslim fanatics trying to stir up hatred in Norway, where Islam is the second largest religion.


Recently it refused a grant to an Islamic leader demanding that those who did not observe Ramadan should be decapitated.


By daring to oppose terrorism, Norway has become a victim of it.


Attack


The gentle nation best known for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize suffered its most violent attack since World War Two.


We do not know if yesterday was the work of al-Qaeda, which has threatened Norway before, or Libyan madman Gaddafi, who has vowed revenge on NATO. Last night one extremist Islamic group had already claimed responsibility.


The lesson for us are clear.


Osama Bin Laden may be dead. But the tentacles of al-Qaeda, and groups linked to it, spread deep into the heart of Western nations.


That is why our security cannot be relaxed, especially with the London Olympics only a year away.


The Government must keep its promise to change the law so our judges can no longer free terror suspects on human rights grounds.


Muslim hate preachers must be arrested, as the law allows. We need the decent Muslim majority to help stop their impressionable young men being recruited as bombers.


We must find every penny our security services need.


We must ask ourselves whether – like Norway – we offer too cushy a life to bogus asylum seekers.


And we must recognise that quitting Afghanistan with the job only half-finished will put Britain in peril.


But neither al-Qaeda nor any other extremist group has exclusive rights to murder and mayhem.


The picture emerging in Norway last night was of one blond-haired, blue-eyed man being behind the Oslo bombing AND the island camp massacre.


Acts of terror can be an easy resort for any loner who believes their own personal grievance against the state is justification for indiscriminate violence.


Take Timothy McVeigh, a US Army veteran whose warped world view was all the reason he needed to kill 168 innocent people in the Oklahoma bombing in 1995.


Or Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, who waged a 17-year mail bombing campaign that left three dead and many more injured because he didn't like modern American life.


Whatever the "reason" behind the terrible attack on Norway, whoever is responsible shares one thing in common with all terrorists.


Their evil is matched only by their cowardice.


Today, sympathies lie with Norway, our loyal friend and trading partner across the North Sea for centuries.


We share their pain. We salute their courage.


So despite admitting they did 'not know' if al-Qaeda was reponsible, they put ''Al-Qaeda' massacre' on the front page anyway.

This version of the editorial has been deleted from the Sun's website and the 'new' version contains no mention of the fact it has been amended.

(Post updated following Terry's comment to correct the Duchess of Cambridge's title.)

Tuesday 19 July 2011

Something fishy about Daily Mail Reporter's Captain Haddock tale

On 14 July, the Mail reported that some Tintin fans were unhappy about Captain Haddock's accent in an upcoming Spielberg film:

Attributed to Daily Mail Reporter, the article went to explain what a few people had written on various websites. It doesn't exactly justify 'up in arms'.

It's unusual for the Mail to report comments on messageboards that aren't about the BBC. So where did the story come from?

Well, around 20 hours before, The Scotsman published an article by Tim Cornwell which carried the headline:


Cornwell's article had quotes from angry fans, Scottish film-maker Murray Grigor and Hannah McGill, former director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

The Daily Mail Reporter article includes all the same quotes, in exactly the same order.

There are other similarities. From the Scotsman:

The comic's Belgian creator, Georges Prosper Remi, known as Hergé, named Haddock while at dinner with his wife. "What is that?" he asked, when seeing haddock on the menu. "A sad English fish," she replied.

And the Mail:

The comic’s Belgian creator, Georges Prosper Remi, known as Herge, named Haddock while at dinner with his wife.

‘What is that?’ he asked, when seeing haddock on the menu.

‘A sad English fish,’ she replied.

From Cornwell:

The trailer features the moment when the drunken Captain Haddock starts a fire in a rowboat. "What are you doing?" Tintin asks. "I lit a wee fire," he replies. "In a boat?" Tintin screams.

One viewer referred caustically to Serkis's Scottish accent as "somewhere between Christopher Lambert's in Highlander and Robin Williams's in Mrs Doubtfire" - Scottish accents voiced by a Frenchman and an American comedian.

And from Daily Mail Reporter:

The trailer features the moment when the drunken Captain Haddock starts a fire in a rowboat. Tintin asks: ‘What are you doing?’, to which Haddock replies: ‘I lit a wee fire’. ‘In a boat?’ Tintin screams.

One viewer referred to Serkis’ Scottish accent as ‘somewhere between Christopher Lambert’s in Highlander and Robin Williams’s in Mrs Doubtfire’ - Scottish accents voiced by a Frenchman and an American comedian.

But there are other bits of background information about Tintin and Haddock in the Daily Mail Reporter's article that aren't in Cornwell's story. For example:

There was a real 20th-century ship’s master bearing the surname - Captain Herbert Haddock was skipper of the famous White Star Line’s passenger vessel Olympic, and had also been temporarily at the helm of its sister ship, Titanic, before it was officially handed over to White Star for her doomed 1912 maiden voyage with passengers.

Compare that paragraph with this one from the Captain Haddock Wikipedia page, which was last updated two days before the Mail article appeared:

There was, however a real 20th-century ship's master bearing this unlikely but appropriate surname: Captain (Herbert) Haddock had been the skipper of the famous White Star Line's passenger vessel Olympic. He had also been temporarily at the helm of Olympic's even more famous sister ship, Titanic, before Titanic was officially handed over to White Star for her doomed 1912 maiden voyage with passengers.

There's more. Daily Mail Reporter:

Captain Haddock was introduced to the Tintin books in The Crab with the Golden Claws.

Haddock was first introduced as the rum-loving captain of the Karaboudjan, a merchant vessel used, without Haddock’s knowledge, by his first mate Allan Thompson for smuggling drugs inside crab tins.

Wikipedia:

Captain Haddock was introduced in The Crab with the Golden Claws....

Haddock was first introduced as the rum-loving captain of the Karaboudjan, a merchant vessel used—without Haddock's knowledge—by his first mate Allan Thompson for smuggling drugs inside crab tins.

Daily Mail Reporter:

But his most noble act is in Tintin in Tibet, in which he stoically volunteers to sacrifice his life to save Tintin.

Although when introduced Haddock has command of a freighter, in later volumes he is clearly retired.

The Captain’s coarse humanity and sarcasm act as a counterpoint to Tintin’s often implausible heroism; he is always quick with a dry comment whenever the boy reporter gets too idealistic.

Wikipedia:

his most noble act being in the pivotal Tintin in Tibet, in which he stoically volunteers to sacrifice his life to save Tintin. Although when introduced Haddock has command of a freighter, in later volumes he is clearly retired.

The Captain's coarse humanity and sarcasm act as a counterpoint to Tintin's often implausible heroism; he is always quick with a dry comment whenever the boy reporter gets too idealistic.

Daily Mail Reporter:

By the time of their last completed and published adventure, Tintin and the Picaros, Haddock had become such an important figure that he dominates much of the first half of the story.

He is especially notable in The Red Sea Sharks, where his skilful captaining of the ship he and Tintin seize from Rastapopoulos allows them to survive until they are rescued.

Wikipedia:

By the time of their last completed and published adventure, Tintin and the Picaros, Haddock had become such an important figure that he dominates much of the first half of the story. He is especially notable in The Red Sea Sharks, where his skilful captaining of the ship he and Tintin seize from Rastapopoulos allows them to survive until they are rescued.

Daily Mail Reporter:

In addition to his many insults, the most famous of Haddock’s expressions include permutations of two phrases: ‘Billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles!’ and ‘Ten thousand thundering typhoons!’

Wikipedia:

In addition to his many insults, the most famous of Haddock's expressions relate to any of a number of permutations of two phrases: "Billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles!" ("Mille millions de mille milliards de mille sabords!") and "Ten thousand thundering typhoons!" ("Tonnerre de Brest!").

Given this shameless copy-and-paste job, is it any wonder the person responsible decided to hide behind the 'Daily Mail Reporter' byline?

(Hat-tip to Steffan)

Express: 'ban migrants'

The front page headline on today's Daily Express screams:


'Britain must ban migrants'.

Macer's Hall article goes on to favourably report the words of Labour peer Lord Glasman, which were published by the Telegraph yesterday. Shouldn't the 'World's Greatest Newspaper' have got the interview first, rather than treating it as front page news a day later?

Here's what the Telegraph reported:

Glasman has previously accused New Labour of lying about the extent of immigration. Now he goes further, arguing – in terms more radical than the Conservative front bench would dare use – that Britain should renegotiate the rules on European workers and freeze inward migration for EU and non-EU citizens, except where employers or universities make a case for a specific, skilled individual.

"We've got to reinterrogate our relationship with the EU on the movement of labour. The EU has gone from being a sort of pig farm subsidised bloc... to the free movement of labour and capital. It's legalistic, it's administrative, and it's no good. So I think we've got to renegotiate with the EU.

His call is to restrict immigration to necessary entrants such as highly skilled leaders, especially in vocational skills. "We might, for example, bring in German masters, as we did in the 15th and 16th centuries to renew guilds."

But exemptions should be made on a case-by-case basis? "Yes. We should absolutely do that... Britain is not an outpost of the UN. We have to put the people in this country first." Even if that means stopping immigration completely for a period? "Yes. I would add that we should be more generous and friendly in receiving those [few] who are needed. To be more generous, we have to draw the line."

So although Glasman does say a temporary halt to immigration might be necessary, he seems to contradict that by saying that he does still want to allow in people with specific skills and that:

we should be more generous and friendly in receiving those [few] who are needed.

Yet the Express have turned 'restrict immigration to necessary entrants' and 'more generous and friendly to those who are needed' into 'ban migrants' - whatever that might mean.

But this headline isn't really about Glasman's words. It's about what the Express thinks and wants. It's in much the same vein as their 'Keep out, Britain is full up' front page from 23 September 2009 and their use of 'ethnics' in July 2010, and it's insidious stuff.

Friday 15 July 2011

Pink jumpers and anonymous sources

On 12 July, several tabloids ran articles on the important subject of...Simon Cowell wearing a pink jumper.

Simon Cowell seeks the cuddly Factor claimed the Express.

Simon Cowell's cuddlier look for US show was how the Star put it.

The Sun went with Simon Cowell is not looking pretty in pink.

Each article goes on to claim he wore the jumper in Miami and includes an anonymous quote to explain what was going on. The Express said:

An insider tells us: “There are rumours Simon has seen the tone of other talent shows over in the US which are all about being sweet and nice and maybe he thinks he needs to soften up his harsh approach for the launch of The X Factor.

“We heard his advisors said he needs to be more ‘cuddly and approachable’ – this might be the sign of the new era of Simon Cowell.”

The Star repeated that but added:

One American fan said: “I thought: ‘Did his mum knit him this and he feels obliged to wear it? Or did Simon get dressed in the dark today?’ He looked like The Pink Panther. It was all very odd.”

The Sun's anonymous source went for a different explanation:

One friend explained: "Simon is not exactly known for being a snappy dresser but wearing a pink Aran sweater is pretty out there.

"We all assumed he must have got his laundry mixed up when we saw him.

"Let's be honest, if he was put in charge of a washing machine that's exactly what would happen."

Two days later, the Star had an update on this episode:

Simon Cowell has faced his ultimate nightmare... playing the good guy in an X Factor spoof.

TV’s Mr Nasty Simon Cowell underwent the dramatic character change in an advert for the US show.

In the clip, he showers praise on hopeless wannabes he would usually boot out of the door.

Wearing an uncharacteristic soft pink jumper he tells one little girl, who sings Tomorrow from Annie: “I love your spirit"...

Seconds later, fans get a reality check. Cowell is seen waking up in bed in his suite in a cold sweat, saying: “Wow. What a horrible nightmare.”

It's likely that the story was leaked to the press before it was clear where the image was from - after all, why have one day of coverage when you can have two?

But what about those anonymous quotes, which look very suspicious once you know the full story? Were they fed to the showbiz hacks by whoever fed them the pictures? Or were they simply invented?

Yesterday, the Mail failed at maths. Today: geography

The day after the Mail decided that 42% was the same as one in four, the paper's website now seems to be having problems with geography.

In an article about the couple who won £161m on the EuroMillions lottery, there is a map marking their hometown of Largs. (The story also includes a picture of the front of the couple's house, but helpfully pixelates the registration plates on their cars).

But whoever put the map together seemed so intent on getting Largs in the right place, they forgot where Glasgow and Edinburgh should be:


Here's a Google Map showing where Glasgow and Edinburgh actually are:



(Hat-tip to Scott)

(Post updated with new map image - thanks James and Alasdair.)

Mail: 'One in four' = 42%

On page 25 of yesterday's Mail, and on their website, was a story about a Macmillan Cancer Support press release that claimed 42% of Britons will suffer with cancer at some point in their life.

The Mail can not resist a cancer story, of course, but didn't get the figures right:


Technically, the article by Sophie Borland is right - 42% is 'more than one in four'. But it's not clear why anyone thought one in four is the same as 42%.

Almost two days after the story first appeared, the Mail website have now corrected the figures to 'four in ten'.

(Hat-tip to Kat Arney)

The Daily Mail decides it's time to move on from phone hacking

Today's Mail editorial runs under the headline:

Never mind phone hacking, what about the real issues facing Britain?

So the Mail has decided it's time to move on. Is it because it hopes that people will move on before more questions are asked about the Information Commissioner's What Price Privacy Now? report which revealed the Daily Mail was the newspaper buying most personal information from private investigator Steve Whittamore? Operation Motorman identified 58 Daily Mail journalists completing 952 transactions with Whittamore (compared to the News of the World's 228 transactions).

The Mail says other stories are more important, including the financial crisis in the Eurozone, unemployment, bank loans, mortgages and economic growth.

In a sane world, politicians would be working round the clock to help rectify these dire problems. But sadly, they are far too busy enjoying a frenzy of vengeful score-settling against the Murdoch press.

Even though the News of the World has been closed, the BSkyB takeover bid withdrawn, and Rupert Murdoch has promised to co-operate with the judicial inquiries, the bloodlust – orchestrated by a vastly subsidised BBC – continues.

There's the obligatory attack on the BBC, despite the widespread coverage of the hacking issue across all media, including Sky News. Where is the evidence that the BBC is 'orchestrating' this story? The editorial continues:

The stink of schadenfreude from Britain’s chattering classes is overpowering...

The least [politicians] can do is give their full attention to the all too worrying problems that afflict real people in the real world.

So how has the Mail covered phone-hacking over the last couple of weeks? Have they stayed out of what they call a 'frenzy'?

On 5 July, they covered the revelations about Milly Dowler's phone on the front page (although not the main story) and on page 5. It was the same the following day - front page picture, page 5, plus a lengthy editorial about this 'most squalid and shameful saga'.

It was the main front page story on 7 and 8 July and in the latter, it was also on pages 4-9 and the entire editorial was devoted to the issue. The Eurozone crisis coverage was less than a quarter of page 12.

Andy Coulson's arrest made the front page on Saturday 9 July, which also included coverage on pages 6-9 and in a Stephen Glover column.

On 11 July, the Mail again covered the story on pages 6-9, plus comment pieces by Melanie Phillips and Peter McKay. The Eurozone story took up around half of page two.

It was the front page lead on 12 July, when Richard Littlejohn wrote about it too. It was on the front page (not the lead) and pages 6-9 and the main editorial comment on 13 July. It was on pages 6-9 again on 14 July, accompanied by an editorial and another Stephen Glover op-ed piece, whereas the Eurozone stories were on page 12.

Even today, as the editorial complains about the amount of time politicians are spending on the issue, the paper devotes pages 8-9 to the story and Littlejohn, unusually, devotes his entire column to this one story.

So if the other stories the Mail mentions today are more important, why hasn't it led the way in giving them the prominence they think they deserve? If the Mail is so concerned about the Eurozone crisis, why hasn't it put it on the front page in the last ten days?

No - it's the phone hacking story that's also had the Mail's 'full attention'.

And that's not the only example of 'do as we say, not as we do' in the Mail's editorial today.

The final three sentences mention a spat between House of Commons Speaker John Bercow and MP Tim Loughton:

Children's Minister Tim Loughton takes offence at being castigated by Commons Speaker John Bercow for laughing in the chamber when he was supposed to be silent.

So does he come up with a witty riposte? No, he resorts instead to a stream of sneering insults against the diminutive Speaker on Twitter.


Could political debate in the home of Lloyd-George, Churchill, Bevan and Foot sink any lower?

So that's the Mail, complaining about someone resorting to a 'stream of sneering insults' against Bercow.

The Mail seems to have forgotten running this headline on 17 June 2009:


In which Bercow is referred to as:

a strange, bumptious little man, an unconvincing piece of work.

Or this from Letts on 2 July 2010:

Mr Bercow is an ostentatious changeling, a steaming, confected, self-polishing jobbernowl who makes the Chair look and sound foolish.

And in the Spectator in April 2011, Letts referred to Bercow as a:

preening, sycophantic, short-tempered and grotesque

Letts has also said:

Rancour, partisanship, a figure whose political philosophy dodges round the place like a bouncy ball: yes, folks, the House of cheats and nodding oil derricks just got its perfect Speaker.

And:

There he stood in the big green chair, puffed up like an amphibian that had scoffed too many volauvents.

And frequently refers to him as:

Little Squeaker Bercow.

Apparently, the Mail is upset at others indulging in 'sneering insults' aimed at John Bercow because that's the job of one of their highly-paid columnists.

(More on the Mail's editorial from Angry Mob)

Thursday 14 July 2011

'Because they never happened'

The Mail website has published the following apology to Virginia McKenna:

An article on September 30, 2010 suggested that Virginia McKenna deliberately omitted from her book previously reported rows with her ex-husband Denholm Elliott in which she had allegedly hurled crockery at him as a supposed consequence of his having cheated on her.

We accept that she omitted such episodes because they never happened.

We also accept that it was Ms McKenna who left Mr Elliott, not the other way round.

We apologise for the upset caused.

Monday 11 July 2011

Trevor Kavanagh agrees with the 'unauthorised' tweet about who's to blame for the News of the World's demise

On Saturday night, the @Sun_Politics Twitter feed issued a tweet blaming Ed Miliband, the BBC and the Guardian for the demise of the News of the World. They chose not to blame Rupert or James Murdoch, nor Rebekah Brooks nor the activities that led to the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone.

The tweet was deleted an hour later, following much criticism, with the claim that it was:


not authorised, and not the paper or its political team's opinion.

So some people may be surprised to read Trevor Kavanagh's article in today's Sun. Kavanagh is a former political editor and current associate editor of the paper. After admitting the final News of the World brought 'a lump to the throat' he goes on to point his finger of blame as those he thinks responsible:


We also offered a priceless opening to Ed Miliband, a weak leader who seized his chance to turn on a newspaper group that supported his party through most of its 13 years in power.

Politics is about opportunism, and if he can't squeeze capital out of this catastrophe at David Cameron's expense, then he's no politician at all.

So it's Ed Miliband's fault. Anyone else?


What is thoroughly contemptible, though, is the posturing, high-minded and politically prejudiced BBC. This media monster, which blows £2.3BILLION a year in public money, is bound by charter to be impartial and is anything but.

Its gleeful, vengeful and downright spiteful coverage of events over recent days is a disgrace.

Not for nothing is the BBC known as the Blatantly Biased Corporation...

Nothing other than a declaration of war would justify its round-the-clock analysis, interviews and breaking news on every radio, TV and internet outlet.

He doesn't mention that Sky News has been giving the subject much the same blanket coverage over the last few days, but then he wouldn't would he?

Anyone else to blame?


Many newspapers published in Britain today would have perished but for Wapping - including, perhaps, the high-minded and sanctimonious Guardian. And millions benefit from Rupert Murdoch's audacious creation of Sky TV - now at the heart of his enemies' campaign against him.

He was fought every inch of the way by The Guardian, which somehow sees itself as custodian of the sacred journalistic flame.

It is a small circulation paper whose readers mostly work in the taxpayer-funded public sector. But its Left-wing views are amplified out of all proportion by the BBC who, with breathtaking arrogance, portray themselves as the Voice of Britain.

So there you have it. Two days after the Sun's political team delete a tweet blaming 'Ed Miliband, the BBC and the Guardian' for News International's troubles, claiming it was 'unauthorised' and 'not the paper's view', the associate editor of the Sun blames 'Ed Miliband, the BBC and the Guardian' for News International's troubles.

Kavanagh adds:

This column might seem like the work of a Murdoch mouthpiece.

Well, that's one thing he's got right.

(Hat-tip to Jim Hawkins)

Sunday 10 July 2011

EU dismisses stories on flag fines as 'nonsense'

Last week, there were several stories published about Brussels fining organisations for not flying the EU flag.

On 6 July, the Mail reported:


A few days later, the papers focused on one particular 'fine' that was handed out to the University of Northampton. It was reported by the Express:


The Daily Star:


And, a day later, the Mail:


It was also covered in Richard Littlejohn's Friday column (a column which didn't include one word about phone hacking). He, like the original Mail headline, and the Desmond papers, claimed these 'fines' were for failing to 'fly the EU flag'.

The Express' editorial raged:

To be expected to fly a flag to which very few people feel any allegiance is outrageous. This ridiculous episode is yet another reason for Britain to get out of the EU.

But this isn't quite accurate. It is common for organisations to acknowledge their sources of funding when they receive a grant. In the case of EU funding, it's part of the agreement that some mention is given to the fact the money has come from the EU.

Here's how Tom van Lierop, EC regional affairs spokesman, explains it, as reported on the Express website:

"If there is a contract between a member state and the commission as a co-investor in a region, there is a requirement to have a small indication for every project under half a million euros (GBP470,000).

"The indication could be a mention on a website or in a leaflet, and for bigger projects we ask that on the billboard during the building works it states that it was co-funded by the EU.

"Once the project is finished, there should be a little plaque, but you don't have to wave a big flag above a project: that's nonsense"...

"That's perfectly standard procedure, and private investors in projects, or organisations such as the UK national lottery, also like some recognition of investments they've made."

So they aren't expected to actually 'fly the EU flag' but just make clear where the money has come from.

But has the taxpayer had to foot the bill for 'fines' imposed on the University of Northampton and others?

Well, as the Mail admitted in the final paragraph of its first article:

The European Commission insists Britain is responsible for managing EU funds and can redirect some or all of the cash from fines to other eligible projects, rather than having to reimburse Brussels.

And von Lierop added later:

"We're not fining anyone. The UK authorities oversee the proper spending of taxpayers' money, and if it isn't mentioned that it is co-funded by the EU, a small percentage of the total is re-allocated to other projects in the same area."

So the money is simply given to another project - it's not, as the papers imply, an additional cost to the taxpayer that goes into the pockets of the EU.

Here's von Lievop again:

"We don't want to be flying the EU flag above any kind of project, but it's normal to have some indication of involvement: these stories are total lunacy."

The 'obsession' with health and safety

In the Sunday Express on 3 July, Nick Ferrari focused his anger on the Health and Safety Executive:

The extraordinary assault on our crippling obsession with health and safety by the very woman who controls the cursed body in charge of it all couldn’t help but bring pots and kettles to my mind and I’m pretty certain most of yours too.

Well, not really, but go on:

Chairman of the Health and Safety Executive Judith Hackitt criticised the jobsworth culture that has robbed our young of a normal childhood, made employers’ lives a complex hell of regulation and inspection and allowed councils to field legions of tax-funded snoopers and petty enforcers.

We can only assume the poor lady had banged her head on a low-hanging flower basket or been partially blinded in a vigorous game of conkers on the day she gave this interview. For she runs the ghastly organisation that has closed playgrounds, had trees felled and even managed to stop tennis fans enjoying Andy Murray’s annual ritual not to get to the Wimbledon final – and she has done for three-and-a-half years!

Any more examples of what her 'ghastly organisation' has done, Nick?

I grew up being transported in a cot in a car, not a special seat that had to have been welded into place... If I needed pills from the doctor the bottle opened with a simple twist. You didn’t need the agility of an Olympic gymnast and strength of a weightlifter to open it. I bought packets of peanuts in the days when they didn’t need “warning: this product may contain nuts” all over them. Most puzzling of all I slept on a mattress that didn’t have the notice “do not attempt to swallow” on it.

All of which led Judith Hackitt to respond:

Nick Ferrari's column (Healthy dose of humbug, SE, 3 July link to external website) highlights part of the problem with the current debate on health and safety.

The term 'health and safety' has become used so widely and wrongly that it has come to stand for a huge range of things which have no relation to managing risks in the workplace.

HSE doesn't exist to shut playgrounds, or cut trees down. We don't have anything to do with children's car seats, or infuriating pill bottle tops. Mattresses, peanuts and conkers have nothing to do with safety at work, and are entirely outside our remit.

And regarding Murray Mount, Mr Ferrari couldn't be further from the truth - rather than pushing for it to be closed we were campaigning for a bit of common sense and making precisely the opposite point - there were no health and safety grounds on which to close it down.

Few would argue that we need to get the focus on health and safety back on managing serious risks in the workplace where it belongs. We certainly wouldn't.

Indeed, Hackitt wrote to the Lawn Tennis Association and the All England Club about the closure of Murray Mount on 21 June:

There is nothing in health and safety legislation which prohibits the continued broadcasting of centre court action to the crowds on the hill during the rain.

Health and safety is concerned with the proportionate management of real risks caused by work, not attempting to eliminate every minor risk from every moment of people's lives.

People have been walking up and down wet grassy slopes for years without catastrophic consequences. If the LTA was concerned about people slipping and suing for their injuries the message should have made clear the decision was 'on insurance grounds'.

Health and safety excuses are becoming as much a feature of the British sporting calendar as the rain. You will understand that while we can do nothing about the weather, we will not let the excuses pass unchallenged.

'Inaccurate and purposely misleading'

The News of the World, 12 July 2009:

Despite purporting to represent the highest standards in journalism, the Guardian's reporting was inaccurate, selective and purposely misleading.

It is a fact that one former News of the World journalist - Clive Goodman, the Royal Editor - tapped into telephone voicemails.

And they wanted to be clear:

So let us be clear. Neither the police, nor our own internal investigations, has found any evidence to support allegations that News of the World journalists have accessed voicemails of any individuals.

Nor instructed private investigators or other third parties to access voicemails of any individual.

And:

...like the rest of the media, we have made mistakes.

When we have done so, we have admitted to them.

(Via Alexis Petridis)

Saturday 9 July 2011

'Giving you the inside track'

@Sun_Politics is the Twitter name of 'The Sun's political team' who bill themselves as 'giving you the inside track on Westminster'. At around 8.21pm tonight, they tweeted their views on the demise of the News of the World:

Just over an hour later, after much criticism:

Churnalism to sell holidays, cheese, toothpaste, sandwiches...

As well as helping to uncover the extent of phone hacking at the News of the World, Nick Davies also brought 'churnalism' to people's attention. Davies wrote in the Press Gazette in 2008:

Where once we were active gatherers of news, we have become passive processors of second-hand material generated by the booming PR industry and a handful of wire agencies, most of which flows into our stories without being properly checked. The relentless impact of commercialisation has seen our journalism reduced to mere churnalism...

All local and regional media outlets in Britain - print and broadcast - have been swamped by a tide of churnalism. The scale and quality of coverage has been swept away. But the tide has not stopped in the provinces. The big national outlets can still support some real journalism, but here too, churnalism has swept through newsrooms.

Despite Mail editor Paul Dacre telling a parliamentary Select Committee that he 'refutes' the charge of churnalism at his paper, it and others still rely on PR to fill their pages. Flick through any newspaper on any day and you will usually find at least one story based on 'surveys' designed to get a company's name in the paper. Here are a few recent examples:

* Today, the Mail and Express are reporting that women pack too many items when they go away on holiday.

And which company conducted the survey of 2,000 women and would be interested in reminding people what essentials they need for their holidays?

Go Compare Travel insurance.

* Yesterday, the Mail and the Star reported that half our smiles are fake.

And which company conducted the survey of 3,000 people and would be interested in reminding people about their smiles?

'Toothpaste maker Biorepair'.

* On 6 July, the Express reported that 'one in seven Britons had laughed at a funeral'.

And which company conducted the survey of 2,000 people and would have an interest in reminding people about laughing?

'The Laughing Cow cheese company'.

* Also on 6 July, the Mail reported that people 'don't trust' dishwashers but found washing up by hand 'therapeutic'.

And which company conducted the survey of 3,000 people and would have an interest in reminding people about cleaning their home?

Vileda ('leaders in cleaning equipment').

* On 4 July, the Mail ran the headline 'Early lunch? The midday break is now a snack at 11am for workers'.

And which company conducted the survey of 2,000 people and would have an interest in reminding people about food at lunch time?

'Sandwich chain Subway'.

* On 29 June, the Mail ran the headline 'The end of the postcard: Facebook and texts mean 4 in 10 British holidaymakers no longer send notes to loved-ones'. The Express carried the same story, but not until 4 July.

And which company conducted the survey of 2,000 people and would have an interest in reminding people about their holidays?

'Online travel firm ebookers'.

* Also on 4 July, the Express reported that 'Women are so nifty in their fifties'.

And which company conducted the survey of 2,000 people and would have an interest in telling people how great life is after someone reaches 50?

Yours - the magazine for over 50s.

* On 10 June, the Mirror and the Express both reported that that day was the 'top day for sickies' as it was 'one of the busiest days for booking summer holidays'.

And which company conducted the survey and would have an interest in reminding people about booking a break?

'Travel website laterooms.com'.

* On 29 June, the Daily Mail reported that despite iPads, DVDs and computers, listening to the radio made people happiest.

And which company conducted the survey of 1,000 people and would have an interest in reminding people about how much people enjoy listening to the radio?

The Radio Advertising Bureau ('our aim is to encourage advertisers and agencies to consider radio more often as part of their communications solutions').

And on and on it goes...

Chris Atkins showed in February how easy it is for 'churnalism' to slip into the papers unchecked when several stories he had invented were regurgitated without question.

Because, as Davies reported in Flat Earth News:

80 per cent of [Fleet Street's news] is wholly, mainly or partially made up of second-hand material from PR and PA.

But that was one bit of research that many newspapers didn't want to report.