Monday 29 August 2011

Today's Daily Star front page

Excluding the football, there are three main stories on the front of today's Daily Star:

The lead, continuing the paper's fascination with Celebrity Big Brother, claims:

Celeb Big Brother star and Speaker's wife Sally Bercow wants gypsy hardman Paddy Doherty to be her hubby - swapping Parliament for a caravan.

The article, by Emma Wall, begins:

Smitten Sally Bercow wants to become gypsy hardman Paddy Doherty’s TV “wife” after they bonded on Celebrity Big Brother.

The Speaker’s wife is ready to swap the Houses of Parliament for a caravan park as she trades high-flying husband John for the bare-knuckle brawler.

But the Star eventually admits Bercow has only said she'd like to do an episode of Wife Swap with Doherty. She doesn't actually want Paddy for her hubby.

On the left hand side of the front page, there's the headline 'Jess vows to wed rat', under which it says:

Eastenders star Jessie Wallace has decided to go ahead with her wedding today.

According to the Mail (and Wallace's spokesperson) she didn't.

And in the bottom corner of the front page, the paper claims:

Kate backs Star battle

Kind-hearted Princess Kate is backing the Daily Star's Reclaim the Streets crusade to help victims of the riots that have devastated Britain.

But the article on page 7 admits:

The Duchess of Cambridge was so touched by those she met after the troubles that she is joining Prince Charles’s fight to support disadvantaged children and teenagers.

It continues:

A spokesman said the Duchess, her husband Prince William, 29, and Prince Harry, 26, all had “a strong interest in, and commitment to, helping disadvantaged young people”.

And the spokesman added: “This area of work is one of the key focuses of the Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry and will continue to feature strongly in their charitable work.”

Somewhat unsurprisingly, the article does not once claim that she has specifically backed the Daily Star's campaign.

So two of the 'news' stories on the front page today were dishonestly presented and the third was guesswork that turned out to be wrong.

They did manage to get the football results right, however.

You say either...

Today's Mail includes a report about the viewing figures for Saturday's edition of The X Factor:

And here's today's Express, talking about the very same figures:

Meanwhile, the front page of the Daily Star says Eastenders actress Jessie Wallace is definitely getting married today:

And here's today's Sun:

Sorry we said you claimed make-up on your expenses

Today, the Mail published the following apology to MP Jo Swinson, following inaccurate claims made by Amanda Platell last month:

An article in Platell’s People on July 30 wrongly repeated a suggestion that Ms Swinson had claimed for make-up on her expenses. We are happy to make clear that she had not made such claims and apologise for suggesting otherwise.

This is now the fifth correction/clarification/apology published by the Mail in the last two weeks.

Friday 26 August 2011

Net migration, not immigration

The front page headline on today's Express claims 'Immigration soars 20% in a year':

The article that follows, by the paper's political correspondent Martyn Brown, continues with this line:

The number of foreigners coming into Britain surged by a massive 21 per cent last year, shattering the Government’s pledge to bring immigration down.

Official figures yesterday showed the number of immigrants soared to 239,000 – up from 198,000 in 2009.

But what Brown and the Express are calling 'immigration' is, in fact, net migration. It was net migration that rose 21% between 2009 and 2010.

As the Office for National Statistics report states:

The provisional estimate of net long-term migration to the UK in the year to December 2010 was 239,000, an increase of 21 per cent on the estimate of 198,000 in the year to December 2009...

The provisional estimate of total long-term international immigration to the UK in the year to December 2010 was 575,000. This level has been broadly maintained since 2004.

Indeed, far from increasing by 21%, the rise in the number of immigrants coming to the UK rose by 1.4% between 2009 and 2010.

The Express was not alone in getting this wrong. The Mail's website used almost the same headline ('Immigration soared by 20% last year') although the print version used a different, more accurate one. The Mirror and Independent used similarly misleading headlines although both used 'net migration' in the first sentence of their articles.

The Press Complaints Commission's guidance note on refugees and asylum seekers states:

The Commission is concerned that editors should ensure that their journalists covering these issues are mindful of the problems that can occur and take care to avoid misleading or distorted terminology.

(Hat-tips to Full Fact, Left Foot Forward and New Statesman)

Another clarification from the Mail

This clarification was published by the Mail today:

Commander Andrew Coles

An article on 24 June reported that Andy Coles, the former commander of submarine HMS Turbulent, had been accused by a fisherman’s son of the sinking of the French trawler Bugaled-Breizh in 2004. We accept the Royal Navy’s assurance that Commander Coles had no involvement in this accident and apologise if a contrary impression was given. We also wish to make clear that Commander Coles was not responsible for launching cruise missiles against Iraq in 2003 as he was not in command at that time.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Call the 'newsdesk'

On page 28 of today's Daily Mail there's yet another story about bins. But this time it's not a complaint about collections:

It's not, despite the headline, a 'bin that doubles as a flower pot' but:

British inventor Nick Staley has created a secret shed for his bin, which doubles as a flower display.

It's fairly standard silly season stuff. And the last line of the article suggests there's more to come:

Have you disguised your bin in an attractive fashion? If so, call the newsdesk on 020 7938 6372.

Three corrections from the Mail

Last week, the Mail published two clarifications and one apology.

First up, on 16 August, this about Lord Justice Sedley:

An article on March 30 attributed four controversial appeal decisions to Lord Justice Sedley. In fact all four judgments involved three Lord Justices. We are happy to clarify this.

Two days later, a clarification about Lionel Etherington:

On 18th May 2009 we published an article entitled '15 years after deserting her husband evicts his ex-wife" about Lionel Etherington. Mr Etherington has asked us to say that he only left after he believed his marriage had irretrievably broken down and, contrary to what his wife alleged, he did not have any 'secret second family', he did not father a child while still married to Mrs Etherington, and provided what financial support he could. He brought eviction proceedings on legal advice in order to enforce a court order for sale of the matrimonial home. Mrs Etherington is now back in the property and Mr Etherington is happy that matters have now been resolved.

And one day after that, an apology to Cherie Blair:

An article of 28 June headlined ‘How the Blairs have become ships that pass in the night’ reported that, for the first time in their marriage, Cherie and Tony Blair had not arranged a family summer holiday together this year and that Mrs Blair had met the Pope for solace during a recent holiday in Italy. We accept that they had booked a summer holiday before the date of our article and, in fact, she did not meet the Pope on this occasion. We apologise for any embarrassment caused.

Saturday 20 August 2011

'Left struggling for words'

Yesterday, freelance journalist Rob Hastings tweeted:

The newsroom in question was the Independent's and his article appeared in that paper today:

There's a stink in the cheese world, and it smells unedifyingly of chicken tikka masala.

The Blur bassist Alex James, formerly a darling of the dairy community as a past winner at the British Cheese Awards, has astonished food critics by launching a supermarket range aimed at the family market, with flavours including curry, tomato ketchup and sweet chilli.

It's a far cry from Little Wallop, his goat's cheese wrapped in vine leaf and washed in Somerset cider brandy, which was a winner with judges in 2008. Even the cheesemaker who created it with him has been left struggling for words.

The article obviously went down well with the people at MailOnline, as Daily Mail Reporter soon produced an article on the same subject:

There's a stink in the cheese world, and it smells of chicken tikka masala.

Blur bassist Alex James, a past winner at the British Cheese Awards, has come up with the unusual creations including curry, tomato ketchup and sweet chilli.

It's a far cry from Little Wallop, his goat's cheese wrapped in vine leaf and washed in Somerset cider brandy, which was a winner with judges in 2008.

Even the cheesemaker who created it with him has been left struggling for words.

Indeed, Daily Mail Reporter 'produced' almost exactly the same article on the same subject.

Hastings continued with some quotes from:

Juliet Harbutt, an expert in the field and the founder of the British Cheese Awards, did her diplomatic best to contain her distaste at the prospect.


Jeremy Bowen of the high-end artisan cheese sellers Paxton and Whitfield was supportive of the Alex James Presents line, which will be available solely at Asda from Monday.

Daily Mail Reporter also 'got' some quotes:

Juliet Harbutt, an expert in the field and the founder of the British Cheese Awards, did her diplomatic best to contain her distaste at the prospect.

Jeremy Bowen of the high-end artisan cheese sellers Paxton and Whitfield was supportive of the Alex James Presents line, set to hit Asda shelves from Monday.

When Helen Lewis-Hasteley pointed out the 'similarities', Hastings tweeted:

(Hat-tip to Helen Lewis-Hasteley)

UPDATE: The MailOnline article was re-written and updated at 1.20pm. It now acknowledges the Independent as the source of the quotes.

Friday 19 August 2011

The Mail's 'unrealistic reporting' on health

The Mail's latest miracle cure health story is:

The article, by Fiona Macrae, says this is 'the big one':

In terms of medical achievements, this has got to be the big one – an all-in-one treatment that works against obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Astoundingly, a drug capable of doing just that could be available within three years.

And it gets better. The new treatment could be a godsend for couch potatoes, allowing them to eat as much as they like without putting on a pound. They could even receive all the benefits of exercise without leaving the sofa.

The excitement surrounds a family of drugs based on resveratrol, the ‘miracle ingredient’ in red wine credited with inhibiting the development of cancer and heart disease.

All the benefits of exercise without doing exercise? An all-in-one pill? Really?

Maybe not. The NHS Behind the Headlines team are not quite so sure this is 'the big one':

This story was unrealistically reported in the Daily Mail.

The Daily Mail reports that the drug would allow people “to eat as much as they like without putting on a pound,” which is a puzzling claim since the mice treated with SRT1720 in this study actually put on weight while on the high-fat diet.

The Mail also reported that the drug could be a treatment for diabetes, heart disease and cancer, conditions that were not investigated in the study.

The reasons for the Mail hailing the “red wine pill” as a potential cure for “everything from obesity to cancer” are unclear, although it is likely to be because the research paper says that SRT1720 has similar effect to resveratrol, a chemical found in the skin of red grapes. However, there is no consensus on whether resveratrol itself has clear benefits for health...

This early stage research in mice has very limited current implications. A cure-all pill for all cardiovascular diseases and cancers - if such a thing could ever exist - is an extremely long way off in the future.

(Hat-tip to the Daily Quail)

Churnalism to sell coffee machines and a 'sleazy' app

Yesterday, the Mail reported:

This app is so 'sleazy', Daily Mail Reporter and the photo caption writer managed to mention the name of it eight times in the 600-word online article.

A shorter version appeared on page 13 of the print edition. But despite the 'sleaziness', both versions include a detailed desciption of how the app works, which makes it sound as if it has been copy-and-pasted from a press release:

The app, which caters to men and women of all sexual preferences, gives users access to a real-time ‘passion map’, a list showing the location of ‘compatibles’ – other users with similar interests or profiles – in the area.

They are then able to contact each other directly and propose a meeting. Recipients must approve an ‘interaction request’ first, and can also choose to hide their real location.

It uses GPS-style software to provides users with a real-time list of 'willing' singles in the immediate area.
The system means users can check how many singles are in a given place - such as a bar, nightclub, or city centre - before heading out.

Also in yesterday's Mail - placed prominently on page 5 - was an article with the headline:

This utterly transparent bit of 'research' was also covered in the Express:

Britons spend an average of £450 each on their favourite high street coffee every year, more than their home’s annual electricity bill...

Research shows we spend £430million a week on 511 million cups. The annual bill per person, £452.28, is higher than a typical electricity bill of £424.

And who produced this 'research' (based, as usual, on survey of 2,000 people)?

A company that makes espresso coffee machines.

What possible interest could they have in showing people how much they (apparently) spend in coffee shops?

Thursday 18 August 2011

Richard Desmond, the Daily Star and Big Brother

When giving evidence in the libel case he brought against Tom Bower - a case he lost but continues to claim he won - Richard Desmond, owner of the Daily Express, Daily Star and Channel 5, said:

'I give no orders on the editorial. The editor decides what goes in the papers.'

Yet there has been a marked increase in the number of puff pieces for Channel 5 since Desmond acquired the channel just over a year ago. The blatant advertising in 'news articles'. The TV critic's recommendations for Channel 5 shows. Leo McKinstry's op-ed piece suggesting The Mentalist (shown on Channel 5) was the 'best TV detective of them all'.

But all this must be coincidental as it is solely down to the editor as to 'what goes in the papers'.

Now there's Big Brother, which Channel 5 has resurrected after it was killed off by Channel 4 because of falling ratings. It's true to say that the Star has long been obsessed with reality TV shows. Previous series of Big Brother, The X Factor and I'm A Celebrity have always had lots of coverage.

But since the start of August, the Daily Star has written 42 articles about Big Brother, including nine in the last two days. And the paper has been full of gushing praise for the show.

On 2 August we were told in an editorial that Big Brother was the perfect antidote to a gloomy summer:

So far 2011 has been a summer to forget. Rocketing prices, grim weather and tragic news have all cast a shadow. We desperately need something to shake off the gloom.

Now Big Brother is ready to explode back on our screens.
And it’s set to be the most sensational series yet...Watching the exploits of all the housemates will get the nation smiling again. Sexy contestants will raise temperatures whatever the weather...A daily dose is sure to put the sparkle back into summer.

Less than two weeks later, another Star editorial claimed something similar:

While we rebuild after the riots, we must remember that life is not all doom and gloom. We need to crack a smile now more than ever. That’s why we’re DELIGHTED Big Brother is on its way back.

The Star has also been involved in feverish speculation about who the housemates for Celebrity Big Brother might be.

On 2 April, we were told by Nigel Pauley that Andy Gray, Natalie (cousin of Wayne) Rooney and Jenny Thompson were 'in line for deals'.

The following day, the Daily Star Sunday provided a much longer list of people who were wanted for the show: Charlie Sheen, Mohammed Al-Fayed, Ricky Hatton, Tinie Tempah, Joanna Lumley, Samara Weaving, Chelsy Davy, Peaches Geldof, Max George and Abbey Clancy.

A few days later, another name was mentioned on the Star's front page:

But whereas the headline clearly said Karima El Mahroug was 'in', the article by Peter Dyke said only that she was being 'lined up' for the show.

As the Guardian's Lost in Showbiz commented soon after:

LiS is certain that this is an entirely accurate reflection of the kind of celebrity that's going to rock up on a Channel 5 reality show and in no way just a random list of people currently in the news.

The names kept coming: ex-WAG Elen Rivas, model Arianny Celeste, singer Rachel Stevens and, inevitably, Imogen Thomas.

On 24 May, the paper's front page claimed that Snoop Dogg was 'going in Big Bro house' along with Radio 1's Tim Westwood. Four days later, it was Amy Winehouse who was 'going in' despite the fact her spokesman was quoted at the end of Nigel Pauley's article saying:

Amy had “no plans at the moment” to be a BB contestant.

On 5 June, the Daily Star Sunday's Ed Gleave was looking to America, mentioning Reservoir Dogs' Michael Madsen, 'Playboy girl' Bridget Marquardt and Rachel Uchitel, 'one of Tiger Woods’ mistresses'. Singer Steve Strange was mentioned by Katie Begley on 19 July and was declared 'TV gold' by a suspiciously anonymous 'pal'.

Pamela Anderson was said to be 'on the brink' of joining the show, while Peter Dyke claimed that Sid Owen had 'signed up'.

On 26 July, it appeared that the Star was suggesting Britney Spears was going to appear, running the front page headline 'Britney Big Bro dream'. It turned out, however, that she was host Brian Dowling's 'dream housemate'.

The fact that Dowling was to host Big Brother may have come as a surprise to Daily Star readers who remembered this front page from 31 March:

But then that clearly bogus story was quickly denied by Cole's spokesman who said she had 'no interest in presenting' the show.

And several of the other rumours started by the Star have resulted in firm denials.

The Star repeatedly linked Mike Tyson to the show. His response?

On 30 July, the paper claimed on the front page that Sarah Ferguson was 'set to join BB':

In the article, Katie Begley wrote:

Sarah Ferguson has given Celebrity Big Brother the royal seal of approval.

She has?

Sarah Ferguson, The Duchess of York, is the latest A-list celeb being lined up for the Channel 5 reality show...

The 51-year-old royal, who cleared her £2million debt earlier this year, has been offered a lucrative deal.

But soon after, Ferguson tweeted:

That was followed by the 'world exclusive' that Charlie Sheen was to be on the show, which was splashed on the front page on 1 August:

Katie Begley said Sheen had a £6million deal to appear. But within hours, Sheen's spokesman dismissed this as 'totally untrue'.

The day before the programme began, the Star finally mentioned one of its favourite celebs and claimed that Jordan was going to 'bust' into the house:

Peter Dyke wrote:

Jordan is set to go in...glamour girl and mum Kate Price, 33, has given a clear hint she wants to be in on the act.

For this claim, Dyke relied on the word of another anonymous pal. Had he bothered to ask the not-usually-shy-of-the-media Price, he might have found out what she thought:

Perhaps most ridiculously of all, today's front page says:

It should be clear to anyone that these are look-a-likes, but it's still shameless (and pointless?). But it takes the Star ages to admit it's all fake. Here's Peter Dyke:

Celebrity Big Brother has welcomed its biggest ever stars to the famous TV house – Prince William and Princess Kate.

As our amazing pictures show, the new-look Channel 5 Celebrity Big Brother has royal connections.
The couple enjoyed a stay in the most famous house in Britain, after Buckingham Palace of course.

And we were there to capture the historic moment.
The lovebirds, who married in April, frolicked on one of the luxury double beds in the bedroom. But Wills made sure the plush covers hid his crown jewels from those pesky spy cameras. Then they went for a dip in the BB pool in the garden.

Cheeky Wills even braved a bath in the BB tub, with Kate giving him a scrubdown.
Without any servants on hand, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, both 29, headed to the state- of-the-art kitchen to whip up some lunch.

Afterwards they checked out the comfy sofas and chairs and took a peek at the BB welcome book and giggled at all the rules the new housemates will have to live by.

Last night a source said: “Wills and Kate are the most famous stars we have ever had in that house. It’s an amazing coup for us.

“There have been a few princesses such as Nikki Grahame and camp queens like Marco the clapping seal over the years. But they pale in comparison to these royals.”

However, if readers take a closer look they will see that “William and Kate” are in fact lookalikes.

That anonymous source quote sounds very unlikely - how can anyone claim it's an 'amazing coup' if it isn't really them?

Well, tonight the show has launched - and not one of the celebrities mentioned above has made an appearance. This doesn't necessarily mean they won't - people have gone into the house mid-way through the series before. But having got so much wrong, it doesn't look good for a paper that is billing itself as the 'Official Big Brother paper'.

At around 10pm, Friday's Daily Star front page was being distributed:
It's not quite clear how 'boobs' can win a reality TV show - and there's no quote in the article by Nadine Linge and Emma Wall that backs up the headline anyway. But look at the top of the page - before the programme had even finished, the Star had decided it had won a 'record audience'. Now, that may turn out to be true, but you suspect they had decided that line well in advance.

Similarly, the Daily Star Sunday's Ed Gleave tweeted that it was 'OFFICIALLY the best CBB launch ever!' Who'd have thought?

So what else should viewers expect? It's very clear the Star is going to try, desperately, to sell the show on its sex appeal.

Here's Peter Dyke on 13 August:

Celebrity Big Brother bosses have built a house of fun… and fear.

The good news for the stars is that it’s full of naughty treats.
The gang, including The Only Way Is Essex babe Amy Childs, 21, and American Pie star Tara Reid, 35, can get frisky on a “sex-ercise machine” in the gym.

It is a vibrating power plate that bosses claim will give everyone a saucy thrill. The cameramen will also be able to catch footage of the lasses’ bouncing boobs.

How proud Dyke must be of that story.

The Star has promised a 'battle of the boobs' and that there will be 'hunks to sex up Big Brother'. There's going to be so much 'very sexy footage' it's going to nicknamed 'Peep Brother'. On 16 August, the Star said there was a 'big sexy shock':

But it's not much of a 'shock' or an 'exclusive' when the paper has been continually boasting about how much sex there is going to be. The blurb at the bottom claims:

Celebrity Big Brother will be full of naked romps

Of course, the Star's definition of the word 'romp' is an odd one. It has claimed a trip to an estate agent was a 'sexy girlie romp'. It has claimed people taking a shower are having a 'naked romp'.

But 'romp' is likely to be one of the words that will appear quite frequently on the Star's front page in the next few weeks as it desperately tries to drum up interest in Celebrity Big Brother (and the series of Big Brother that follows). Look out also for 'sex plot' and 'girl-on-girl lust' and at some point they may well claim that something has happened that is too naughty to be shown.

That 16 August front page also shows cross-promotion at its, err, finest. The Desmond-owned Star heavily promoting a programme on the Desmond-owned Channel 5, using a picture of Amy Childs taken from a photoshoot she did with the Desmond-owned new! magazine.

Expect much more of the shameless plugging and many more dubious front page headlines over the next few weeks...

Too much and not enough

Following the death of two horses during this year's Grand National, the Mail's website and the Mail on Sunday picked up on some critical viewer comments that claimed the BBC had glossed over the equine fatalities. The Mail accused the BBC of a 'cover-up' and reported:

One viewer wrote on the corporation’s own website: ‘I’m amazed that the BBC coverage pans over the tarpaulins on the re-run and the commentators just talk about “obstacles”.’

Another said: ‘And the BBC – shame on you. No mention of what’s happened, even when there’s 2 dead covered horses on screen.’

But yesterday, Mail diarist Richard Kay was all-too pleased to repeat comments made to him by former BBC racing commentator Peter O'Sullevan, who attacked the BBC for a rather different reason:

‘Someone at the BBC obviously wanted to make a name for himself,’ he tells me. ‘They want to make it more sensational, with shots of dead horses and focusing on the tragic and unexpected deaths that occurred this year. It really is unacceptable.’

So the Mail newspapers happily repeat claims the BBC didn't cover the deaths enough and claims the BBC covered them too much.

Damned if they do and damned if they don't.

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Littlejohn and the census

Richard Littlejohn signs off his column in today's Daily Mail with this:

The BBC continues to refer to the mayhem on our streets as the ‘English Riots’. Since this now seems to be the officially accepted designation, can we expect a box on the next census form to allow us to identify ourselves as ‘English’?

But Littlejohn doesn't need to wait ten years for such a box - because there was one in this year's census.

Question 15 asked 'How would you describe your national identity?' and allowed you to select an answer from this list: English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish, British and other (write in).

(Hat-tip to PrimlyStable)

Monday 15 August 2011

Mail on Sunday apologises for claiming French bank was on 'brink of disaster'

On 9 August, this apology to Société Générale was published on the Mail's website:

In an article that appeared in the print edition and online version of the Mail on Sunday on 7 August 2011, it was suggested that according to Mail on Sunday sources Société Générale, one of Europe's largest banks, was in a 'perilous' state and possibly on the 'brink of disaster'.

We now accept that this was not true and we unreservedly apologise to Société Générale for any embarrassment caused.

So the Mail on Sunday claimed a major bank was on the 'brink of disaster' - based on an anonymous source - and two days later accepted that 'was not true'.

The next day, as its share price began to fall, Société Générale issued a statement 'categorically and vigorously' denying all 'unfounded rumours' about its position.

The New York Times has suggested that the Mail on Sunday had picked up on a fictional 12-part series run by Le Monde:

The series, “End of the Line for the Euro,” looked at how a collapse of the single currency might play out, against the backdrop of French presidential elections next year. While the 12-part story was clearly labeled as fiction, it named real banks, like Société Générale, whose shares plunged 15 percent last Wednesday, prompting the bank to deny speculation that it was in financial trouble.

However, Le Monde denied there was any link between those articles and the stock drop. Erik Izraelewicz, the paper's top editorial executive, wrote:

“The reality is that our fiction had nothing to do with this crazy rumor...The paradox is that this case has come to illustrate something that our series denounced: the unacceptable role played by rumors in determining the fate of nations and businesses.”

And an anonymous executive from the Mail on Sunday has denied any knowledge of the Le Monde series, according to the New York Times:

Neither the paper’s reporters nor its sources had been aware of “End of the Line for the Euro,” the executive said.

The source of the speculation is now subject to an investigation by the French regulator. Société Générale said:

“Regarding the unfounded rumors circulating on the bank, Société Générale received the public apology from the Mail on Sunday, recognizing that their article was not true, and the group made a request to the A.M.F. — which was accepted — to open an enquiry into the origin of these irresponsible rumors."

(hat-tip to Regret the Error)

Mirror apologies and pays damages to Martin O'Neill

This apology was published by the Mirror on 9 August and spotted by Regret the Error:

On June 24 last year we wrongly reported that Martin O’Neill, while manager of Aston Villa, had been secretly interviewed for the position of Liverpool manager, in breach of Premier League rules and his contract.

We accept that no such interview took place.

On August 10 and 11, following Mr O’Neill’s resignation as Aston Villa manager, we published a number of articles claiming that Mr O’Neill had lost the confidence, faith and respect of the dressing room, causing a players’ revolt which forced him to resign.

We also alleged that his resignation resulted in general celebration amongst the squad. We now accept that Mr O’Neill had not lost the dressing room, there was no players’ revolt and no general celebration over Mr O’Neill’s departure.

We apologise to Mr O’Neill for these false allegations and have agreed to pay him damages for libel and his reasonable legal costs.

Monday 8 August 2011

Mail clarifies a 'suggestion'

On 9 April, the Mail reported:

Journalist Ryan Kisiel said:

councillors are spending thousands of pounds remembering tomorrow’s 30th anniversary


The Labour-run authority is funding the event despite constant complaints by its leader, Steve Reed, that government-imposed cash cuts would lead to a rise in crime and another ‘Baby P tragedy’.

Two days later, Lambeth Council issued a statement that said:

Contrary to media reports, this was not a council organised event but meeting of community groups and activist, who wanted to remember and reflect. The event was not funded by the public purse.

And last week, nearly four months later, the Mail published a clarification:

An article on April 9 suggested that Lambeth Council had spent thousands of pounds on an event to mark the 30th anniversary of the Brixton riots. In fact, the council did not directly fund this event. We are happy to set the record straight.

Notice how the clarification - which isn't an apology - only says that they 'suggested' the Council was funding the event. Suggested? Surely stated it, very clearly, three times, would be more accurate?

Sunday 7 August 2011

Mail on Sunday apologises to Dave Prentis

From today's Mail on Sunday:

Last Sunday we said that Dave Prentis, the Unison general secretary, had secured a 31 per cent increase to his pension contributions from the union. This was incorrect. In fact as a member of the Unison staff pension scheme, Mr Prentis is paying the increase himself under the union’s ‘salary sacrifice’ scheme. We apologise to Mr Prentis for our mistake and for any distress caused.

Friday 5 August 2011

Liz Jones and an 'emergency'

Last Sunday, the Mail's Liz Jones announced she was off to cover the famine in East Africa.

For someone who has spent £26,000 on a bat sanctuary, £9 on tubes of toothpaste and had a homeopathic vet for her chickens, and then complained she was in debt, it seems an odd assignment.

But as ever with Jones, it wasn't about the people suffering in Africa. It was about her suffering:

on Friday morning, I found I needed the NHS for the first time in about 20 years, and it let me down. Very badly.

Jones was flying out on Monday. On Thursday, she went to her private GP in London to get some jabs she needed before she could get her visa. But he couldn't give her all of them in one day. So, back home in Somerset on Friday, she thought she would phone her local GP - one she has never used or even bothered to register with - and tell them she had an 'emergency':

'Hello!' I said cheerily. 'I am not registered with you, but I live two miles away. I wonder if you could possibly squeeze me in today to complete my jabs for travelling to Africa, and fill in my malaria prescription, as I need to start taking the tablets on Sunday.'

'You are not registered?!' the woman said, clearly appalled I had made her pick up the phone. 'We can't see you then. And we can't fill out a prescription that hasn't been written up by us.'

'But I will pay for the jabs, it only takes a couple of minutes.'

'But the nurse is fully booked. She can't do it. I don't even know if we have the drugs.'

'Can you find out?'

'Well, no. I'd have to ask her. And she can't fit you in.'

'But this is an emergency. I have never bothered you before in the three years I have lived here. Not with a snotty-nosed kid, not with depression, nothing. Never!'

'But we don't have your notes.'

'You don't need my notes. Lots of people go to walk-in centres. You could telephone my doctor if you're worried about anything.'

'I don't have time to do that. Why don't you go to A&E if it's an emergency?'

'I'm sure they wouldn't classify a routine jab as an emergency. I mean, it's a global crisis. Millions of people are dying and you won't put yourself out to allow me to be seen by a nurse, not even a doctor, for five minutes?'


Outraged at not being able to jump to the front of the queue ahead of people who were actually registered and already had appointments, she then mentions abuse in a care home in Bristol as if that, and her treatment, were similar:

I always wonder why people who don't like people go into the caring professions. The problems in the health service and in privately-run homes are not always to do with money. Attitude is often the issue.

Turning back to the receptionist, she adds:

What would it have cost this woman on Friday morning to have said: 'Sod the protocol – everyone needs to know about this famine, Miss Jones, so I am going to speak to the GP and see what we can do.'

'Everyone needs to know about this famine' - in other words, until Liz Jones writes about it, no one will. This despite widespread coverage across all media, and television appeals by the Disasters Emergency Committee.

Somewhat inevitably, a spoof account was started on Twitter. @LizJonesSomalia is written by the person behind the (spoof, but at times it's hard to tell) Daily Mail Reporter account. But it hasn't just been set up for laughs:

I’m doing this for charity now. I want your money.

If you’ve enjoyed the feed so far, and have replied or RT’d then perhaps you’d consider a donation for the DEC East Africa Appeal?...Tell me that’s not the perfect harnessing of social media?

At time of writing, the total raised so far has been over £22,000. And this on the day that Richard Littlejohn has said Twitter 'mobs' are:

motivated by spite, envy and resentment

(See also: a line-by-line analysis of Jones' article by nurse Brian Kellet.)

The Mirror's 'weird' hatchet job on Steve Wright

Yesterday's Daily Mirror contained a 1,400-word article about DJ Steve Wright.

Written by Ryan Parry, the paper was so proud of this exposé, they included a teaser for it on the front page:

The front page called it the 'bizarre world of Steve Wright', the online version says it's a 'weird world'.

But the article appears to be a very thin hatchet job in which very little that is 'bizarre' or 'weird' is actually revealed. We're told:

he remains an enigma – even to his closest colleagues.


Off air he leads a surprisingly unassuming life for such a well-loved celebrity, shunning interviews and TV appearances. Instead he seems to prefer his own company, living on cheap microwave meals and junk snacks.


For breakfast, he usually asks for poached or scrambled eggs on brown toast from a restaurant called Avelli’s, porridge from Make Mine or Eat, a small bacon or sausage butty with ketchup from Eat and a skinny latte with one sweetener.

For lunch, he insists on a baked potato from Avelli’s or chilli chicken box from Leon’s or he may opt for a chicken pie from Eat.


Steve regularly travels to visit his mum on Fridays in Oxted in Surrey and he asks the broadcasting assistant to get him train tickets.


Home for Steve is now a £1million bachelor flat in Central London, above a scruffy garage where he parks his black Range Rover.

His son one of his few visitors there. But at the weekends, Steve escapes to a country bolthole he owns in West Sussex, near to his younger brother Laurence, 52, a business manager at a scooter rescue firm.


The DJ enjoys bombing around the Sussex countryside in a bright yellow Lotus sports car he owns – that’s if he’s not tinkering with his rare collection of old radios.

And on work days, Steve usually arrives at the Radio 2 studios at around 9am and leaves after the show ends at 5pm.

He will have an occasional drink at the nearby BBC club.

It's shocking stuff, isn't it?

There are other details, most of them coming from anonymous friends and colleagues. But it doesn't live up to its billing and makes one wonder exactly what the point of it is. Why this apparent invasion of privacy into the life of someone who, the paper admits, 'shuns the limelight'?

The comments on the Mirror's website are from people who are all puzzled. They call the article 'nasty', 'filthy', 'strange', 'mean-spirited', 'horrible', 'trashy', 'appalling' and 'unnecessary'.

But, as Alexis Petridis remarks in today's Lost in Showbiz column, at least it shows:

that the nation's red-tops are perfectly capable of getting mind-blowing scoops into celebrities' private lives without resorting to phone hacking.

(themanwhofell has imagined the discussion at the Mirror's editorial meeting.)

(Hat-tip to Steve Baxter)

Tuesday 2 August 2011

Express 'reveals' another health 'secret'

On 23 June, the Daily Express' front page headline explained there was an 'easy way to lose weight' and celebrated that this 'secret' was being revealed 'just in time for summer'.

Alas, it turned out the 'secret' was that lots of alcohol, fizzy drinks and crisps are bad for you, while fruit, vegetables and exercise are good for you.

On 18 October 2010, the Express revealed what they claimed was the 'Secret of a longer life', which was that eating a healthy, varied diet was good for you.

And the front page of Wednesday's Express has another familiar-sounding health 'secret' to reveal, a 'key' that has been found by 'experts':

And what is this 'secret of a longer life' this time? Nathan Rao explains:

Britons can add up to 15 years to their lives by following a simple four-step plan, a breakthrough study revealed yesterday.

Not smoking, regular exercise, not being overweight and eating a Mediterranean-style diet could 'substantially reduce' the risk of early death.

Who knew?

The '£32' loaf of bread

On 19 and 20 July, several newspapers thought they had a scoop on how much the NHS was spending on gluten-free food. In particular, they claimed that loaves of gluten-free bread which are available at the supermarket for £2.25 are being bought by the NHS for over £32.

'Prescriptions scandal: £32.37 a loaf' said a page 9 story in the Sun, which was accompanied by an editorial comment.

The Mirror went with 'Gluten free loaves costing NHS £32.27 a time', the Mail carried the headline 'Use your loaf! NHS officials pay £32 for gluten-free bread that costs £2.25 in the shops', while the Telegraph and WalesOnline ran the same claims under similar headlines.

The source for all this seems to have been a statement by Welsh Assembly member Darren Millar and it seems little fact-checking was done by journalists who repeated his claims.

The TaxPayers' Alliance were, inevitably, asked for their reaction and their spokesman Emma Boon said:

"It smacks of incompetence that the Welsh NHS is paying so much more than they are available for in the shops."

On 20 July, the Express gave James Delingpole space for an 886-word opinion piece in which he suggested this bread must be:

made of fairy-dust-sprinkled hypoallergenic wheat harvested by pixies at dawn, hand-ground by hedge-fund managers and then baked to perfection by Parisian masterchefs in ovens made of pure gold!

That the NHS was spending so much was, he said:

symptomatic of a system which is rotten to the core.

But the very next day, the Express published a correction, buried on page 26:

In James Delingpole's piece ('Who would spend so much on a loaf?' July 20) he states that the NHS spent £984,185 on 47,684 loaves of gluten free bread. This should have read 47,684 'prescriptions' for gluten free bread. The figure of £20 per loaf is therefore inaccurate. The price of an individual loaf of gluten-free bread is £2.82.

The Atomic Spin blog, which wrote about these misleading stories at the time, explains:

Well, it looks like the story comes from this Welsh government data about prescriptions. Sure enough, if you look it says that the 27 prescriptions of a particular type of bread, Lifestyle Gluten-Free High-Fibre Brown, cost £32.27 each. But doctors aren’t prescribing one loaf of bread at a time.

The important column is the one marked “quantity”, which tells you how many grams of bread were prescribed. For Lifestyle Gluten-Free High-Fibre Brown, doctors prescribed a total of 123,600 grams. Divided between the 27 people, that’s 4,577 grams each, or about 11 loaves of bread per person. So that £32.27 figure is the cost of buying 11 loaves of bread, not 1, and as the Welsh government points out, it works out at around £2.82 per loaf. This is still slightly more than the cheapest online cost of the bread, so I assume there is still room to bring prescription costs down, but NHS Wales is certainly not spending more than £30 on a loaf of bread.

And this was exactly the point made by the Welsh Health Minister, in responding to the media coverage:

Reports in the press this morning suggesting that a loaf of gluten free bread costs the NHS £32 are incorrect.

The £32 figure appears to have been arrived at following a misinterpretation of NHS prescribing statistics - which show the total number of prescriptions dispensed, rather than the total number of loaves prescribed. This data is available on the Welsh Government website.

Welsh Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said:

"This claim is inaccurate. The actual cost for the single loaf of gluten-free bread in question is around £2.82, not the £ 32 claimed. The £32 cost quoted is for an average prescription on which several loaves are ordered at a time...

Loaf of bread

Over the last 12 months there were 27 prescriptions issued for the gluten free bread quoted as costing £32 per loaf. On the 27 prescriptions, the total amount of the bread prescribed was 123,600 grams. Each loaf is 400 grams. Therefore, 309 loaves were prescribed for £ 871.36 ie £2.82 per 400 gram loaf.

At time of writing, the Sun's original article appears to have been removed, without explanation, from its website, and while the Express has published its apology in the paper, this has not been put on its website, where Delingpole's original is still visible. All the other articles remain.

(Big hat-tips to Atomic Spin and Primly Stable)

UPDATE: The TaxPayers' Alliance's Emma Boon was asked by Atomic Spin if she wished to withdraw her claims, given the original figures were so far out. Here's her reply.