Sunday 30 December 2012

Littlejohn and 'callous indifference'

In March 2011, this blog noted:

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

In that case, he was writing about the Japanese tsunami. He started by saying that no one could fail to be moved by the scenes of destruction, before labelling the Japanese 'militantly racist' and recounting his dead grandfather's experiences during the Second World War.

On 27 December, Littlejohn decided to write about the death of three people - including two children - in an accident on the M6 on Christmas Day:

Saddest story of the week was the death of two young brothers, aged four and ten, in a crash on the northbound M6 in Staffordshire on Christmas morning. Their mother, who was driving the car, survived, but another woman passenger was also killed.

They were on their way to a family wedding when their Ford Focus came off the road and struck a tree.

Police immediately closed the motorway in both directions as rescuers and an air ambulance raced to the scene.

And when he begins sounding sincere, you know it won't last long...

We all appreciate that in the event of a fatal accident the emergency services must be given room to do their job. But patience begins to wear gossamer thin when the road remains closed for hours on end for no good reason...

There is no visible debris, so why couldn’t one or two lanes have been opened at the earliest opportunity?

Most of these people will have been on their way to spend Christmas Day with friends and family.

With no public transport available they had no choice but to take the car.

There can be no justification for forcing them to spend a moment longer than absolutely necessary stuck on the M6.

This, of course, fits into the Littlejohn narrative about over-the-top policing and 'health and safety Nazis'. But it's hard to imagine how this tragedy could lead someone into a rant about the inconvenience of road closures.

Littlejohn says:

There will probably be those who will accuse me of using these tragic deaths as a stick to beat the police. I can’t help that...

But ruining the Christmas Day of thousands of other people by forcing them to spend hours stranded in their cars unnecessarily was an act of callous indifference on the part of the police.

'Callous indifference' indeed.

Littlejohn appears not to have spoken to the police or the Highways Agency, nor does he seem to have been anywhere near the scene of the accident.

Photographer Michael Rawlins was there, and he has blogged about how many of Littlejohn's assumptions are as ill-informed as you might expect.

For example, Littlejohn says:

The accident on the M6 happened at 11.25am. Though the southbound carriage-way was reopened in the afternoon, the northbound carriageway stayed shut for several hours until early evening.

Rawlins points out that the soutbound carriage only re-opened around 2:30pm because:

the 3 bodies had only just been removed from the scene some 10 minutes earlier...It stands to reason that the southbound carriageway would also remain closed until this had happened, the last thing you need is an accident on the opposite carriageway because someone was rubbernecking.

Littlejohn also refers to a:

three-lane tailback of stationary cars and lorries stretching goodness knows how many miles into the distance.

A photo taken by Rawlins (at 2pm) one mile south of the accident shows:

vehicles are travelling south on the north bound carriageway... escorted by a Highways Agency vehicle not shown in this picture. If the blue sign is about a mile from the accident and other than the truck on the inside lane there is no stationary traffic then this debunks Littlejohn’s statement somewhat.

Rawlins adds:

I’m sure there were some tailbacks at Jct14 to the south but I drove from there up to the crash site along the diversion route and it wasn’t any busier than a normal weekday evening.

The real tragedy is that 3 people lost their lives on Christmas Day, families have lost 3 very loved people. The bigger tragedy is Littlejohn gets away with spouting this rubbish.

The anonymous police blogger Nathan Constable has also written about Littlejohn's article, labelling it 'horrible' and a 'poor-taste cheap shot'. He writes:

it’s not “just one vehicle involved” – the witnesses and other motorists have just watched this horror story unfold in front of their eyes and most will not have the desensitisation that the emergency service people have.

It is quite likely that the first few cars in the now huge queue will have witnesses on board. They will quite possibly be traumatised as well as having important information to share. You don’t just wave people on and hope they think to call in later.

He goes on:

So it’s not “just one vehicle involved” is it Mr Littlejohn? Emergency service personnel don’t just pack up and go home for tea and medals. In the incident I dealt with six months ago I went home and cried and I am about as cynical as they come.

And even if it was “just one vehicle involved” we still need to find out how and why this happened.

Was another driver driving dangerously?
Did they perform a manoeuvre so dangerous it was criminal?
Is someone else responsible?
Have the mechanics of the car been tampered with?
Is it murder?
Is it suicide?

You see – its not as simple as saying that “everything points to it being a tragic accident” within an hour of getting there. 

He adds:

The arrogance and ignorance it must take to write something like this simply staggers me.

Sunday 23 December 2012

Desmond papers disagree over Brucie's future

The headline on the front of today's Daily Star Sunday is 'Brucie: I'm Off! - No new contract for Strictly star':

The online version of the article carries the headline: Bruce to leave Strictly. It explains:

Strictly legend Sir Bruce Forsyth may be set to leave the show.

Brucie, 84, told us he has not signed a new contract for next year’s series.

The Star's sister paper, the Sunday Express, has a slightly different take on what Bruce has said in the same interview. Their front page says 'Brucie: I'm not going to retire' and the story makes clear no decision has been made about Strictly:

The online version, which runs under the headline 'Nice to carry on, to carry on nice Bruce Forsyth' says:

Sir Bruce Forsyth has again ruled out retirement.

Despite suggestions that he may bow out of Strictly Come Dancing this year, the showbusiness legend, 84, says he isn’t planning to leave the stage just yet...

Forsyth, who took a week off from Strictly this year, will decide whether to present the next series when he returns in April from a winter in Puerto Rico, his wife Wilnelia’s home country.

He said: “Who knows how long I will go on for? I could turn around tomorrow and say, ‘I’ve had enough’. It could be in a couple of weeks’ time.

“But at the moment, and with what we’ve been doing, which is to assess each year before we start, I’m certainly not going to retire.

“That’s the last thing on my mind, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing this show at the Albert Hall next year. Retiring is completely out of my mind.”

Saturday 22 December 2012

MailOnline's 'photoshop fail'

Over the last twelve months or so, MailOnline has been quick to jump on 'photoshop fails' by others.

Despite that, they published this picture in an article yesterday:

(Hat-tip to Squeaker)

Thursday 20 December 2012

The eagle has crash landed

The day after the 'eagle snatches kid' video was revealed as a hoax - the Telegraph published confirmation of this at 8:12pm on Wednesday - several of the tabloids ran the story in their print editions.

The Express headline read 'Terror in the skies as eagle snatches tot':

Although the article admitted a 'fierce online debate was raging' about whether it was a hoax, the paper calls it a 'terrifying incident' in the third sentence.

The Sun's headline was 'Child's prey':

Like the Express, it reports on the fact that 'some' had 'questioned whether the incident...was real or a CGI fake.' But at the top of the story, the Sun says:

Dad's horror as golden eagle swoops on his toddler son in park and tries to carry him away

The Star went with 'The eagle has landed a tot!':

It does include the truth that 'the clip turned out to be fake' but this appears to be a late addition, as the rest of the story is written as if it is genuine - including, on the right of the page:

'What do you think? Check out the video at'

(Pictures from Jonathan Haynes, posted on Twitter)

Wednesday 19 December 2012

'Incredible footage'

The top story on the MailOnline homepage this morning:

The update, placed half-way down the MailOnline homepage tonight:

ASA upholds complaint against 'irresponsible' Health Lottery ad

The Advertising Standards Agency has upheld a complaint against an advert for Richard Desmond's Health Lottery that appeared in Richard Desmond's Express.

The ad carried the slogan "Mortgage? What mortgage?" and was criticised by the Gambling Reform & Society Perception Group (GRASP) who:

challenged whether the ad was irresponsible because they believed the ad implied that participating in a lottery was a solution to financial concerns or a way to achieve financial security.

The Health Lottery Ltd claimed that the ad:

in no way depicted participation in a lottery as a solution to financial concerns.


The Daily Express...said they believed the ad was suitable for publication and re-iterated the points made by The Health Lottery.

However, the ASA ruled:

We considered that because the ad suggested that someone who had won the lottery could pay off their debts, the implication was that participation in the lottery was a way of solving financial concerns or achieving financial security. We noted that the CAP Code stated "Marketing communications must not suggest that participating in a lottery can be a solution to financial concerns ... or a way to achieve financial security. Advertisers may, however, refer to other benefits of winning a prize". We considered that other benefits of a winning a prize included purchasing new goods or experiences, rather than paying off existing debts.

For these reasons, we concluded that the ad was irresponsible because it implied that participating in a lottery was a solution to financial concerns or a way to achieve financial security.

Tuesday 18 December 2012

MailOnline calls Megan Fox a 'strumpet'

An article about a Jay Leno interview with actress Megan Fox appeared on MailOnline in the early hours of this morning.

Under the byline Monty Archibald, the article referred to Fox as a 'Christmas cracker' and then said this:

The chat show king certainly seemed to be enjoying himself as he had a chinwag with the Transformers star.

Perhaps he was just enjoying the hilarious tales of new motherhood from his irrepressible guest.

However the funnyman also surely enjoying the view after the canny strumpet twinned a Roland Mouret dress with Christian Louboutin shoes.

Making her figure all the more impressive is the fact she only gave birth two months ago.

The 26-year-old also revealed how much she is enjoying being a mother for the first time to her son Noel, whose father is her husband Brian Austin Green.

'Canny strumpet'.

Ben Fenton tweeted:

Does the author of this piece know that the word "strumpet" has only one meaning: prostitute?

This comes a couple of weeks after the Leveson report talked of the tendency of some sections of the tabloid press to 'sexualise and demean women'.

At 14:39, the article was edited. The byline was changed to 'Daily Mail Reporter' and Fox was now a:

canny actress

Despite the update, the Mail hasn't corrected the name of her son - it's Noah, not Noel.

Friday 14 December 2012

The Express and its 'unmatched, accurate weather updates'

In today's Express, the paper pats itself on the back for its weather coverage. The paper says it has:

a firm reputation for leading the way when it comes to the weather.


we are unmatched on our faithful and accurate weather updates.

And that they are:

oracles of the British weather.

This article was written by Nathan Rao. Many of the Express' weather articles, which often predict apocalyptic spells of cold or heat (usually, one appears days after the other), are also written by Nathan Rao.

For example, on 5 September he wrote about a:

tropical burst of summer could last late into October

It didn't last until late October - it didn't even last five days, as on 10 September Rao was reporting 80mph gales that would 'end [the] heatwave.'

On 7 July, the paper (not Rao this time) claimed: Sorry, there's no might about it...IT WILL RAIN 'TIL SEPTEMBER. Just two weeks later, Rao claimed that Britain would see 'temperatures soaring to 95F next week.'

On 15 June, Rao's story claiming that forecasters did 'not anticipate any significant hot spell until well into September' was splashed on the front page. Ten days later, Rao's story claiming that a 'scorching blast of summer will at last roar in from the Continent this week – sending temperatures to 93F (34C)' was splashed on the front page.

On 22 May, the Express said it would be the 'hottest summer for almost a decade'. On 9 June, this changed to 'worst storms for a decade' and a 'year without summer'.

On 19 April, Rao reported claims that it would be the 'coldest May for 100 years'. In fact, the Met Office revealed at the end of May:

temperature, rainfall and even sunshine are very close to normal....

And that there was:

a run of dry and fine weather, with some remarkably high temperatures. This included a new maximum May temperature for Scotland...

In all, it has been the longest warm spell in May since 1992.

A year ago, on 17 December 2011, the Express' front page headline screamed: 'It's a white Christmas!'. But just four days later, bookies were 'slashing the odds on this Christmas being the warmest on record' and two days after that, the paper admitted: 'It won't be a white Christmas anywhere in the UK'.

In early October 2011, Rao reported that temperatures were to hit -20C 'within weeks'. A month later, he reported a 'big Siberian freeze' will arrive 'with a vengeance...within the next fortnight'. Twelve days later, Rao was reporting that Britain was: 'on track for the warmest November since records began 353 years ago.'

There are many more examples like these. After all, Scott Bryan revealed on 23 August 2012 that since September 2011, the Express had weather stories on the front page 111 times - 52 of them as the main story.

So while the Express may indeed 'lead the way' in the amount of column-inches it devotes to the weather, to claim it is of 'unmatched accuracy' or that they are 'oracles of the British weather' is simply laughable.

* Nathan Rao has his own blog. It reveals he's been a journalist for nine years and includes a section called 'Some of my front pages'. It includes just six examples, all from the Express, one of which is the disgraceful, completely untrue 'Muslim Plot to Kill Pope' article which labelled six innocent men as Islamic terrorists with links to Al-Qaeda.

Monday 10 December 2012

'I didn’t find the card'

On 7 December, @Cheesyhel tweeted a photo of a birthday card for 13-year-old girls that she found in a local newsagents:

The card says:

If you had a rich boyfriend he'd give you diamonds and rubies. Well, maybe next year you will - when you've bigger boobies!

The Mail reported on the outrage that followed:

The article says:

American novelist Maureen Johnson was travelling though [sic] the UK when she came across the card. She took a picture and posted it to Twitter with the message: 'Dear @HallmarkPR, SERIOUSLY???? #letsmessgirlsupearlywithcards'.

The card sparked outrage across the social media service and by Saturday evening, her message had been re-tweeted more than 1,000 times.

It is not known which shop the author was in when she came across the card, but Hallmark UK claimed to be surprised that it was still on sale.

But this isn't true. American author Maureen Johnson had sent a tweet that included @Cheesyhel's pic - the latter's Twitter handle is revealed on opening the photo in Johnson's tweet.  

Today, Johnson tweeted what happened:

She then revealed the contact she'd had with Mail reporter Niamh O'Doherty:

On Saturday, December 8, 2012, Niamh O’Doherty wrote:

Hi Maureen,

My name is Niamh O’Doherty and I’m a reporter from The Daily Mail. We’re just writing a story about the Hallmark Card you found yesterday, and were wondering if you’d like to comment on it. Would you also be able to tell us in which shop you picked up the card?

Thanks so much,


From: Maureen Johnson
Sent: 09 December 2012 04:26
To: Niamh O’Doherty
Subject: Re: Query from the Daily Mail

I didn’t find the card. It was found in the uk by someone else. I had surgery this week and was not traipsing about! I think HuffPo reported it that way, but I have no idea why.


Niamh O’Doherty
Dec 9 (1 day ago)
to me
Thanks Maureen, appreciate it. Here’s to a speedy recovery!

Update: Given the Mail article was published online on 8 December, and Maureen's reply was not sent until the 9th, it seems the Mail ran the article without waiting for her reply, based on a misunderstanding of her original tweet. However, at time of writing, two days on from being told the truth by Maureen, the Mail has not corrected the story.

Friday 7 December 2012

Express article 'could potentially cause harm to people with cancer'

Today's Express asks:

Inspired by recent news events, the article by Jane Warren gets the view of an 'expert' on a variety of 'alternative cancer treatments'. The 'expert' in question is billed as:

Dr Alyssa Burns-Hill PhD, a hormone and holistic health specialist with clinics in Harley Street and Jersey.

It adds:

So just what are the alternatives that Dr Burns-Hill believes can assist in the treatment of cancer?

A quick look at the 'about' page of Burns-Hill's website reveals a telling phrase, printed in bold:

For absolute clarity – I am not a medical doctor.

The website also makes clear:

Dr Alyssa Burns-Hill PhD has provided this website for information purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for advice from your registered physician or healthcare professional.

Last month, a complaint about Burns-Hill and her website was upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority, who ruled:

We told DBH to ensure that she held adequate substantiation for her claims in future, and to ensure she stated that she was not a medically qualified doctor in a clear and prominent qualification positioned close to the first reference to the title Dr Alyssa Burns-Hill PhD.

Given the background of their 'expert', it is perhaps unsurprising that the Express' article has been criticised by both Sense About Science and Cancer Research UK. A response by Kat Arney for the latter said:

This piece contains factual and scientific inaccuracies, as well as misleading information that could potentially cause harm to people with cancer.

For example, the Express mentions the Gerson Treatment and their 'expert' says:

“I was on a 21st-century version of Gerson called Plaskett Therapy. It is a very hard regime to follow and is controversial because it is alternative, not complementary. Success is difficult to quantify as many people turn to Gerson as a last resort."

But Arney points out:

Although the article states that Gerson therapy is controversial, it fails to mention that there is absolutely no solid scientific evidence to show that Gerson therapy can treat cancer, and that it can be very harmful to a patient’s health. Coffee enemas have been linked to serious infections, dehydration, constipation, colitis (inflammation of the colon), and dangerous electrolyte imbalances or even death. The information on Gerson therapy in the article is misleading, inaccurate and potentially harmful for cancer patients.

The Express also discusses homeopathy:

THE THEORY: A natural system for the treatment of disease by highly dilute doses of substances. It works by treating like with like.

OUR EXPERT SAYS: “This is often disregarded because it works in a different way to conventional medicine. It looks past the symptoms to consider the whole person.”

Arney replies:

The reality is that there is no solid medical evidence to prove that homeopathy can treat cancer. 

Arney also tackles other 'treatments' the Express raises, including diet:

there is no good evidence to suggest that any particular foodstuff can really treat cancer.


The article claims that eating a lot of sugar is “feeding any cancer cells”. This is an unhelpful oversimplification of a highly complex area that researchers are only just starting to understand.

And stress:

The article claims that “stress is a factor in cancer” that has been “scientifically substantiated”. This is a bold overstatement of the current state of research in this area. Many people believe that stress can cause cancer, particularly breast cancer. But the evidence for this is lacking.

Cancer Research sent a letter to the Express challenging the article:

Dear Sir,
The Daily Express article “Do cancer alternatives really work?” (Friday December 7th) contains misleading information and several inaccuracies that could cause harm to cancer patients.

We understand that people want to try everything after a cancer diagnosis, but strongly urge anyone considering complementary or alternative therapy to talk to their medical team about their safety.  We go to a lot of trouble to make sure we find out what treatments really work though our research, and cancer patients deserve the best information we have, not dangerous speculation.

There is absolutely no solid evidence that Gerson therapy can treat cancer. In fact this treatment can cause very serious side effects.

Cancer patients searching for accurate, reliable information about alternative and complementary therapies can find it on our CancerHelp UK website or by calling our Cancer Information Nurses on 0808 800 4040 (9am-5pm, Monday to Friday).

Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK Chief Clinician.

The paper has refused to print it. Arney concludes:

In his recent report, Lord Leveson highlighted the harms to the public from inaccurate and misleading science and health reporting by the press.  We are disappointed that the Express has chosen to print this article about a serious health issue without checking the scientific validity of the claims within it. By failing to do this, they have done a disservice to their readers, cancer patients and their families.

UPDATE (10 Dec): Sense About Science has edited the Express article (pdf).

Saturday 1 December 2012

Leveson on the 'clear evidence of misreporting on European issues'

Last month, the Mail claimed the EU was planning to ban Famous Five books from schools. The story was fiction and described as 'nonsense' by the EC in the UK. But when an MEP sent a letter to the readers' editor at the paper, he refused to publish it on the grounds that the original report:

may not have suggested in so many words banning books (that might make it look very unpopular) but it has criticised them

In fact, it didn't suggest banning books in any words - the report didn't include the word 'book' at all.

This is the latest thing the EU has been accused - wrongly - of wanting to ban. See also jam jars, selling a dozen eggs, cars from town centres, milk jugs, classic cars, shopping bags, Britain, kids from blowing up balloons and so on. It's not just non-existent bans - it's also half-truths about flying flags and pouring dead bodies down the drain.

When Express editor Hugh Whittow gave evidence at the Leveson Inquiry, he stated firmly:

we don't twist anything. We just present the news of the day.

When asked about a front page story '75% say: 'Quit the EU now'', Whittow accepted they did twist things. Robert Jay QC asked if the headline was misleading given that the 75% who apparently say 'Quit the EU now' included 47% saying renegotiate membership. Whittow replied:

I accept that from what you say.

Almost exactly one year before Leveson's report was published, Patrick O'Flynn, the Express' chief political commentator, claimed:

Over the course of the past year every criticism we levelled against the EU has been justified.

Lord Justice Leveson says in his report (p.687):

Articles relating to the European Union, and Britain’s role within it, accounted for a further category of story where parts of the press appeared to prioritise the title’s agenda over factual accuracy.

He concluded:

there is certainly clear evidence of misreporting on European issues...

The factual errors in the examples above are, in certain respects, trivial. But the cumulative impact can have serious consequences...

there can be no objection to agenda journalism (which necessarily involves the fusion of fact and comment), but that cannot trump a requirement to report stories accurately. Clause 1 of the Editors’ Code explicitly, and in my view rightly, recognises the right of a free press to be partisan; strong, even very strong, opinions can legitimately influence the choice of story, placement of story and angle from which a story is reported. But that must not lead to fabrication, or deliberate or careless misrepresentation of facts. Particularly in the context of reporting on issues of political interest, the press have a responsibility to ensure that the public are accurately informed so that they can engage in the democratic process. The evidence of inaccurate and misleading reporting on political issues is therefore of concern. The previous approach of the PCC to entertaining complaints only where they came from an affected individual may have allowed a degree of impunity in this area.

(Hat-tip to Gareth)

Star's latest example of an 'embellished and inaccurate' headline

The front page of Saturday's Daily Star boasts an 'exclusive':

'Ash and Dec's Secret Jungle Date'. It's yet another story from I'm A Celebrity which has been on the front page of the Star almost every day since the series started.

Just below the 'Exclusive' banner we're told:

Sex-starved TV babe Ashley Roberts wants a date with I'm A Celebrity host Declan Donnelly after leaving the jungle, we can reveal.  

So the 'secret date' hasn't actually happened.

This comes two days after the Leveson Report said, in a section on 'deliberately misleading headlines' in which the Star gets several mentions (p.682):

What seems clear is that, faced with a fiercely competitive market, some titles have found themselves on the wrong side of the line between an attention-grabbing but accurate headline and an embellished and inaccurate headline.

Leveson on the 'tendency to sexualise and demean women'

One phrase that unexpectedly appears in the Leveson Report is (p.664):

massive pervy eyeful

It is a quote from a 'story' published by the Daily Star on 15 November 2011:

The 'story' says:

Sam's a bit of a ski bum

We assume you're not even reading this because you're still getting a massive pervy eyeful of that pert ass going up a fake ski slope.

But if you have managed to tear your bum-filled eyeballs away, you will realise the owner of those tight buns is TOWIE babe Sam Faiers, 20.

She showed off her impressive, er, snow plough on a family day out at Brentwood Ski Centre in her Essex hood.

This was submitted to Leveson by the organisation OBJECT as one example (among many) of the objectification of women in the media.

Referring to the Star, Sun and Sport, Lord Justice Leveson pointed out (p.664):

all three titles contained what can only be described as objectifying material. All three included numerous articles with no other purpose except to show an image of a scantily clad or topless woman...

All three titles included articles with no purpose other than to attach a photograph of, and describe in derogatory language, a woman’s breasts or bottom...

All three contained large scale advertisements for pornography and/or escort services. And all three included articles which appeared to eroticise violence against women.

He concluded (p.664):

The evidence as a whole suggested that there is force in the trenchant views expressed by the groups and organisations who testified to the Inquiry that the Page 3 tabloid press often failed to show consistent respect for the dignity and equality of women generally, and that there was a tendency to sexualise and demean women. That failure is particularly clear in the pages of the Sport, which is, in my view, hardly distinguishable from the admittedly ‘softer’ end of top-shelf pornography. But it exists to a lesser degree in the Daily Star and The Sun. For The Sun, at least, it is a failure of consistency, rather than a general failure to show respect for women. The Sun has campaigned admirably against domestic violence, rape, and size zero models.[373] But it is clear that those campaigns have, perhaps uncomfortably, sat alongside demeaning and sexualising representations of women.

Friday 30 November 2012

Leveson on the 'discriminatory, sensational or unbalanced' reporting of minority groups

One interesting but overlooked section of the Leveson Report has been about the representation of minorities.

On the treatment of the trans community, for example, Leveson writes (p.668):

On the basis of the evidence seen by the Inquiry, it is clear that there is a marked tendency in a section of the press to fail to treat members of the transgender and intersex communities with sufficient dignity and respect; and in instances where individuals are identified either expressly or by necessary implication perpetrate breaches of clause 12 of the Code. Parts of the tabloid press continue to seek to ‘out’ transgender people notwithstanding its prohibition in the Editors’ Code. And parts of the tabloid press continue to refer to the transgender community in derogatory terms, holding transgender people up for ridicule, or denying the legitimacy of their condition. Although the Inquiry heard evidence that parts of the tabloid press had “raised [its] game in terms of transgender reporting”,[393] the examples provided by TMW of stories from the last year demonstrate that the game needs to be raised significantly higher.

The section on ethnic minorities, asylum seekers and immigrants is also critical of parts of the press. Leveson states (p.668) that:

the identification of Muslims, migrants, asylum seekers and gypsies/travellers as the targets of press hostility and/or xenophobia in the press, was supported by the evidence seen by the Inquiry.

For example:

the following headlines, which appeared to have little factual basis but which may have contributed to a negative perception of Muslims in the UK: ‘Muslim Schools Ban Our Culture’; ‘BBC Puts Muslims Before You!’; ‘Christmas is Banned: It Offends Muslims’; ‘Brit Kids Forced to Eat Halal School Dinners!’; ‘Muslims Tell Us How To Run Our Schools’.  

The report outlines several other examples (there are lots to choose from) such as 'Muslim Only Public Loos', 'Terror Target Sugar', 'Brave Heroes Hounded Out' and 'Muslim Plot To Kill Pope'. 

Leveson concludes (p.671):

The evidence demonstrates that sections of the press betray a tendency, which is far from being universal or even preponderant, to portray Muslims in a negative light.

Moving on to reporting of immigration issues, Leveson begins by saying (p.671):

The tendency identified in the preceding paragraph is not limited to the representation of Muslims and applies in a similar way to some other minority ethnic groups.

He then outlines some examples of poor journalism, including 'Swan Bake', 'Asylum Seekers Eat Our Donkeys' and 'Failed asylum seeker who has dodged deportation for a decade told he can stay...because he goes to the GYM' all of which were untrue.

Leveson found (p.673):

evidence suggested that, in relation to reporting on Muslims, immigrants and asylum seekers, there was a tendency for some titles to adopt a sensationalist mode of reporting intended to support a world-view rather than to report a story. The evidence given by the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain suggested a similar approach to gypsy and traveller issues.

And (p.672): 

It is one thing for a newspaper to take the view that immigration should be reduced, or that the asylum and/or human rights system should be reformed, and to report on true stories which support those political views. It is another thing to misreport stories either wilfully or reckless as to their truth or accuracy, in order to ensure that they support those political views. And it does appear that certain parts of the press do, on occasion, prioritise the political stance of the title over the accuracy of the story.

His conclusion is damning (p.673):

Nonetheless, when assessed as a whole, the evidence of discriminatory, sensational or unbalanced reporting in relation to ethnic minorities, immigrants and/or asylum seekers, is concerning. The press can have significant influence over community relations and the way in which parts of society perceive other parts. While newspapers are entitled to express strong views on minority issues, immigration and asylum, it is important that stories on those issues are accurate, and are not calculated to exacerbate community divisions or increase resentment. Although the majority of the press appear to discharge this responsibility with care, there are enough examples of careless or reckless reporting to conclude that discriminatory, sensational or unbalanced reporting in relation to ethnic minorities, immigrants and/or asylum seekers is a feature of journalistic practice in parts of the press, rather than an aberration.

'Chubby arms'

MailOnline headline, 6:55pm:

Mail headline two hours later, after lots of critical comments below the article and on Twitter:

Thursday 29 November 2012

'Absolutely wrong'

On 25 November, the Sunday Mirror's Celebs magazine had singer Kelly Clarkson on the cover:

Clarkson responded to the quote, and other aspects of the story, on her website:

Um, so a UK Magazine called the Mirror, Sunday Celebs edition, just put out an article on me and just to clear up the absolutely wrong so called quotes from me, I have never had anorexia nor did I ever say "no one should be as famous as me". I said in the interview, when asked about fame, that I have no desire to be as famous as Britney or Madonna. I said that kind of fame was too much for any person and that I have experienced a portion of what they deal with and that I didn't handle that well and I'm happy where I'm at in my career. Side note, I love when people take what you say and twist it to make you sound obnoxious and arrogant ....nice job Mirror.

'In fact...her father is still alive'

A correction in today's Daily Mail explains that someone they said was dead is, in fact, alive:

An article in Tuesday's paper said that the parents of Tory MP Fiona Bruce had both died after being placed on the Liverpool Care Pathway.

In fact, Ms Bruce informs us that, while this was true of her mother, her father is still alive six months after she refused permission for him to be put on to the controversial system.

This is not the first time the Mail has made this mistake - in 2010 they referred to the 'late' Tony (father of Fern) Britton and to the 'late' Sylvia (mother of Carole) Caplin when both were very much alive.

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Sorry we said you were a soft-porn actress

The Mail has published this apology today:

Our serialisation of a biography of Mick Jagger in July erroneously described model and Brazilian TV presenter Luciana Gimenez Morad as a soft-porn actress. It also said that she had received a lump sum payment from the star after their son was born.

In fact, while she does receive monthly child support, she neither requested nor received a lump sum. We apologise to Ms Gimenez Morad.

'Supplanting reality' with Melanie Phillips

Melanie Phillips, 18 November 2012:

fabrications, fantasies and falsehoods take on a life of their own  and can come to represent a settled view which, despite being without any foundation whatever, starts to supplant reality altogether.

Melanie Phillips, 26 September 2011:

Christmas has been renamed in various places ‘Winterval'.

When the Sun identified an innocent man as a paedophile...

From Private Eye, Issue 1327:

"Fury erupted last night after it emerged ex-director-general George Entwistle will get a £450,000 payoff," seethed the Sun.

"The blundering boss managed to negotiate a year's salary in lieu of notice when he quit on Saturday, despite his contract only entitling him to six months."

Entwistle's payoff is small change compared to the £7m pocketed by the Sun's own blundering boss, chief executive Rebekah Brooks, when she belatedly resigned over her role in the company's dliatory and deceitful reaction to phone-hacking allegations.

While the paper has never mentioned the "fury" aroused by her reward for failure, an editorial made it very clear what it feels about Entwistle: "there was no way BBC Director General George Entwistle could have survived after the Newsnight paedophile scandal."

In fact there is a precedent Entwistle could have cited had he chose to hang on. Back in March 2003, the Sun printed a photograph of a man it claimed had been convicted of sex offences against children, under the enormous headline "FACE OF KID BAN PERVERT" - only to find that he was an unrelated and innocent man who had to leave his home and was put under police protection.

By coincidence the paper had only been edited by Rebekah Wade (as she then was) for a couple of months. Did she take responsibility and immediately resign? Er, no - not even when the Sun was forced to print two apologies, pay damages and take out adverts in the local press where the man lived to asssure neighbours of his innocence. 

(Via Primly Stable) (See also the BBC's news report)


In the latest stunning exclusive from the 'newspaper website of the year', MailOnline reveals that a woman who once won Celebrity Big Brother has been shopping for a sofa. Not only that - and make sure you're sitting down for this - but...

Hanna Flint's article begins:

Her personality is as bland as the colour of her coat.

So it comes as no surprise to see Chantelle Houghton admire a sofa in the same beige shade.

Whether someone writing about a coat and a sofa being a similar colour should be throwing around the insult 'bland' is open to question.

But if the people at MailOnline think that Houghton is so 'bland' it seems curious they've mentioned her in 131 articles this year, including 59 since 1 September.

(Hat-tip to Helen Lewis)

Sunday 18 November 2012

Mail refuses to publish letter denying 'EU wants to ban Famous Five books from schools' story

On 7 November, the Mail claimed that the EU was planning to ban Famous Five books from schools. As the report referred to in James Chapman's story made no mention of books, banning books, Enid Blyton or anything similar, this was standard anti-EU scaremongering. A spokesman from the EC in the UK - quoted at the end of the story - said it was 'nonsense'.

MEP Mary Honeyball decided to write to the Mail:


RE: Now Brussels takes aim at the Famous Five! Books portraying ‘traditional’ families could be barred

The article by James Chapman (Mail 7/11/2012) claiming that the EU could be planning to ban books portraying stereo typical family values is misleading in the extreme. It was incorrect to suggest that such books could be barred from schools.

Brussels does not have legal powers to intervene in which books are available in UK schools; it is a matter for the UK government.

The European Parliament committee report to which your article refers does not suggest banning books- and in any case this is certainly not something which would be legally binding.

Even in areas where the report does call for EU level action and where such action would be legislatively possible, it could only be done if the European Commission makes a formal proposal. In addition, the European Parliament as a whole and also a large majority of Member States must then adopt it.

I hope this important point clarifies the inaccuracies I refer to in your report.

Yours Sincerely

Mary Honeyball MEP
Labour spokesperson in Europe on culture media and sport and gender and equality

The reaction of the Mail's Readers' Letters Editor was this (Sarah is Mary's press officer):

Dear Sarah,

I’m guessing James Chapman knows a bit more about the byzantine workings of the European Parliament and its committees than Mary Honeyball does.


readers’ letters editor

This unhelpful, rather snotty reply is not particularly unusual from the Mail - see their reaction when challenged over the use of Winterval last year.

Mary was then given a longer explanation as to why they would not publish her letter:

I eventually decided against it on the grounds that it is by no means incorrect that such books could be barred from schools.

Brussels may not have direct legal power to intervene on which books are available in UK schools – but you would have to be very na├»ve not to appreciate the way in which such a thing might become a matter of no choice for the UK government.

The European Parliament committee looking at this subject definitely exists and has published a report. It may not have suggested in so many words banning books (that might make it look very unpopular) but it has criticised them – and we’re not unfamiliar with the way in which such things begin as criticism and move on towards calls for a ban. After all, to these MEPs, what else are their criticisms for?

It may, of course, be something which isn’t legally binding today – but tomorrow? And that’s all our story warns about.

We’re well aware that this discussion may be at an early stage and ‘EU level action’ would require ‘a European Commission formal proposal’ etc, etc, but we like to warn people well in advance just what those underemployed ‘representatives’ are getting up to in Brussels: forewarned is forearmed.

It seems that although he accepts there is no recommendation to ban books (despite Chapman's original article referring to 'proposals') he thinks it might possibly happen one day at some point in the future and therefore he can't publish a letter challenging the story on the basis of what has actually been said in the report. It's not as if this is a response to a complaint, and the Mail is being asked to publish a retraction in their corrections column. This is just a letter from an MEP - and one that they are scared of letting their readers see.

Sun admits single Italian isn't Bulgarian father-of-seven

On 13 October, the Sun published the following apology:

Salvatore Quero

In a story headlined ‘Greedy Bulgars’ (September 11), Salvatore Quero, a single Italian man, was identifiable in a photograph as part of a Bulgarian family claiming benefits.

We are happy to clarify that Mr Quero is not a member of the family and was simply providing them with food.

The Sun's website still carries the photo:

However, the caption has now been changed to:

Benefits takeaway ... concerned male passer-by helps family enjoy food from McDonald's.

Now that they know that the single Italian in the photo isn't the Bulgarian father-of-seven. 

Tuesday 13 November 2012

The Mail's Star Trek/Wars confusion

From the corrections column in today's Daily Mail:

William Shatner was of course in Star Trek not Star Wars as a feature in Friday’s paper wrongly stated.

'Exactly what happened'

Yesterday, Daily Mail Sport tweeted a link to an article claiming Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini had fallen asleep during his team's recent game against Tottenham Hotspur:

MailOnline's Martin Domin wrote:

Manchester City have yet to hit the heights of their Premier League winning campaign last season but they haven't been so bad to send anyone to sleep.

But that is exactly what happened at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday when City boss Roberto Mancini appeared to nod off during injury time in the first half.

And it's not as if his side were winning at the time - Tottenham were in front thanks to a Steven Caulker header.

Thankfully for City's title hopes, Mancini woke from his slumber in time to deliver a half-time team talk that inspired his men to victory after goals from Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko.

But if you try to click on that link now, you get a 'The page you have requested does not exist or is no longer available' error page.


Probably because Mancini didn't actually fall asleep (from Kiimi):

As the Guardian's 'as it happened' report of the match explained:

45 min+1: Aguero takes the ball on his chest masterfully in the box. He finds Silva, who works a slide ball through to Zabaleta. His shot is saved though. The cameras cut to Mancini in his dug out. He looks momentarily interested, sees Zabaleta's shot, then rolls his eyes, slumps in his chair and goes back to talking to himself.

(Hat-tip to Ste)

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Mail article on EU banning books dismissed as 'nonsense'

The Mail claims the EU is now looking to ban...the Famous Five:

James Chapman explains:

Books which portray ‘traditional’ images of mothers caring for their children or fathers going out to work could be barred from schools under proposals from Brussels.

An EU report claims that ‘gender stereotyping’ in schools influences the perception of the way boys and girls should behave and damages women’s career opportunities in the future.

Skip straight to the end and the 'spokesman for the London office of the European Commission' is quoted saying:

'This is nonsense. "Brussels" has no legal powers to intervene in which books are available in UK schools, it is a matter for the UK and for schools.

'The European Parliament committee report - which anyway represents just the committee's view - does not suggest banning books.

'And even in areas where it does call for EU level action and where that is legally possible, that can only be done if the Commission makes a proposal - it hasn't - and if the European Parliament as a whole and a large majority of member states then adopt it.'

So eventhough the paper has a quote saying the story is 'nonsense' they run it as 'Brussels wants to ban some books' anyway.

In fact, the report says nothing at all about banning books from schools or anywhere else - the word 'book' isn't used at all. It suggests 'study materials' could be introduced to counter 'gender stereotypes' and suggests there is a need to:

raise awareness in Advertising Standard Committees and self-regulatory bodies about the negative influences of gender discrimination and stereotypes in the media.

Enid Blyton isn't mentioned, either.

The report also looks at the labour market and says:

disproportionate representation of women in part-time jobs and the gender pay gap clearly show that gender stereotypes result in gender discrimination on the labour market.

It makes some suggestions which it believes may remedy this. But Chapman doesn't mention any of this, which seems curious, given the Mail's front page story today, which focuses on another report on the gender pay gap:

That article doesn't mention the report from the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality either.

More 'miracle cures' revealed by the Express

Another Express front page, another 'wonder pill' to 'beat' a disease:

Jo Willey's article explains:

People at risk from cholesterol could soon take a simple pill which controls levels and protects sufferers.

Scientists are hailing the treatment as a new fat-buster because of the way it helps to prevent the clogging up of patients’ arteries.

'Scientists are hailing the treatment'. But the Express forgets to mention something rather important about the 'scientists' in question. The research covered by the Express was led by Dr Mitchell Jones. The 'pill' comes from a company called Micropharma.


Dr. Mitchell Jones has been with the company since its inception and is the driving force behind Micropharma’s innovation and R&D.

The paper has included a dissenting view, although it comes deep into the article, as usual:

Victoria Taylor of the British Heart Foundation said: "This is a relatively small piece of research and it’s still some way off before we could recommend probiotic supplements to help people with high cholesterol."

Similarly, last week the Express revealed '7 easy ways to beat arthritis':

Jo Willey (again) explained that the 'easy ways' were:

The seven key methods are herbal therapies, exercise, massage, acupuncture, yoga, meditation and dietary supplements.

Organisations working with sufferers must be delighted that beating arthritis is so 'easy'. But the quotes in the article suggest - shock - it may not be that simple:

A spokeswoman for Arthritis Research UK...said: “...there isn’t very much hard scientific evidence that many of these therapies actually work.”

Ailsa Bosworth, chief executive of the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, said...“There is no evidence that any of these therapies have any impact on slowing or halting the disease."

Sunday 4 November 2012

Mail on Sunday publishes second apology for front page splash

In June, the Mail on Sunday's Richard Dyson and Martin Delgado carried out an investigation into the website Yipiii. The results were splashed on the front page:

The paper claimed that their reporters had spent £162 on the website and:

only won a £19.99 fish bowl. 


The reporters did not use the free plays they were offered.

A week later, they admitted that wasn't true:

In our front-page report last week we said Mail on Sunday reporters had spent £162 on Yipiii plays but won only a £20 toy goldfish bowl.

In fact, one reporter used ‘free plays’ acquired during the experiment and went on to win an iPad worth up to £400.

And in a different experiment another journalist spent £40 and won £35 of flowers and a £101 iPod Nano.

We apologise to Yipiii for not mentioning these.

Also, we said customers can top up their accounts as often as they like. In fact, top-ups are limited to £200 per day. 

Yes - the paper 'forgot' to mention the £500-worth of Apple goods it had won on the site.

Today, they have apologised again:

In a report (June 10) on the ‘winmarket’ Yipiii Ltd, which offers a roulette game to win online shopping, we said we had 162 £1 plays but won only a £20 toy.

In fact, the 162 plays included ‘free spins’ won on previous plays and after our test, but before publication, a reporter won a £400 iPad with remaining credit. Players have an 85 per cent chance of a prize or further play and non-winning stakes can be used as discounts on purchases through the site.

Users need to actively log in for the roulette wheel to appear when they are shopping. We apologise to Yipiii for not including this information in the article.

Unlike the original 'investigation', neither apology has appeared on the front page. 

Saturday 3 November 2012

MailOnline publishes another fake photo it found on Twitter

MailOnline reports on looting in the wake of Superstorm Sandy:

The article, written by Adam Shergold and Emily Anne Epstein begins:

Several brazen thugs have robbed their neighbors and their local shops of everything from basic food stuffs to expensive electronics and they are taking to Twitter to broadcast their spoils.

'Check out this laptop I scored,' SevenleafB tweeted earlier today. 'It's easy just reach out an grab it.'

It appears the looters are organizing through the hashtag #SANDYLOOTCREW.

It then publishes one of the tweets in question - the one referred to in the MailOnline headline:

However, if you search Google Images for that photo - which doesn't take long - it pops up in a July 2010 story from California's Oakland Tribune.

Indeed, several of the images used by the 'brazen thugs' on #SANDYLOOTCREW are old - some date from 2005 and 2008.

It seems the folk at MailOnline didn't check out the photo beforehand. As they didn't with a photo posted on Twitter during Hurricane Isaac in August. And as they didn't with a photo posted on Twitter of the 'Essex lion'.

Friday 2 November 2012

MailOnline and the 'womanly curves' on a 14yo girl

Yesterday, MailOnline published an article about the 14-year-old actress Elle Fanning and the costume she was wearing for Halloween.

The headline was:

One day later, the headline was changed to:

This appears to have been a reaction to criticism on Twitter, and in the comments below the article:

Just want to add to the chorus of comments: She is 14, she is a child, stop talking about her as if she is a piece of meat! The only point of this article is to point out how she is hitting puberty and to sexualise her and that is just incredibly wrong.. please stop sexualising her and other young girls.
- Isabel, Wolverhampton, 2/11/2012 0:56

i actually can't believe 'womanly curves' on a child as been written.
- rebecca , newcastle, 02/11/2012 00:32

One of your creepiest ever headlines, DM - just plain gross.
- boredwiththemall, justhere, 1/11/2012 23:27

Totally inappropriate headline. She is 14 years old, please stop sexualising young girls.
- Earlybirrd, Cheshire, 1/11/2012 21:12

It wasn't just the headline that was changed - several parts of Leah Simpson's story were removed. So:

The 14-year-old took to Instagram to share a photograph of her Halloween outfit and wasn't afraid to flaunt her curves for the camera


The 14-year-old took to Instagram to share a photograph of her Halloween outfit.


Elle was a posing professional as she wore a metallic maxi dress which looked rather demure at first glance.

Although it covered up her chest area and thighs, the design featured a high split which allowed her to pop her leg out of the side.

When she turned around, flesh was on show as the cut-out material scooped to just above her derriere and featured clasps which fastened at the centre of her neck.


Elle was a posing professional as she wore a metallic maxi dress.

This sentence remain unchanged, however:

The model and fashion week regular has definitely got a knack for parading her best angles.

Elle Fanning is 14 years old. 

In September, MailOnline published four creepshots of schoolgirls of unknown age.

The Express and statins (cont.)

A couple of weeks ago, an Express front page referred to statins as 'wonder' pills that slashed the risk of cancer.

On 4 April, the paper claimed statins could 'halt Alzheimer's' - a claim described as 'wildly misleading':

In between those two, on 10 August, statins were described as 'key to a longer life' and a 'miracle pill':

And today, the Express warns: