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: