Saturday 4 May 2013

From 'Arctic gales' to 'scorching sunshine'...

Express, Monday 29 April 2013:

Any hopes of a reprieve for the Bank Holiday were dashed as experts warned wind, rain and bitter temperatures will dampen spirits for much of the UK...

There is even the chance of snow over the hills in the North with everywhere on alert for widespread frosts.

Express, Saturday 4 May 2013:

Britain will be hotter than Bondi Beach as families flock to the coast this Bank Holiday weekend.

EC in UK challenges Mail article on Europol - but paper removes key points from letter

On 19 April, the Daily Mail reported:

The article by Ian Drury began:

British police forces will be forced to hand sensitive details of criminal investigations to Brussels or risk a massive fine.

In a controversial move, the European Union’s crime intelligence agency would be allowed to demand access to private police files.

The EC in the UK rejected the Mail's claims, stating:

The Commission recently proposed limited changes to the way the EU’s law enforcement agency Europol works. The aim is to tackle cross-border crime – for example drug dealing and human trafficking – better.

Many would no doubt conclude that better police cooperation against such major criminal activities would be of major benefit to the UK. But if it does not agree, the UK can decide not to opt-in to the proposals given its general option under the Lisbon Treaty to remain outside EU justice measures.

Despite this, the Daily Mail turned the proposals into an article headlined “EU demands access to British police files”, suggesting that Europol was to be given extensive new powers over Member States and their police forces – not the case – and that it would be able to demand additional data on victims and witnesses. In fact the proposal would significantly increase protection for this kind of data.

The Mail added that police would need to “divert resources from tackling crime to information-gathering for Brussels” and that if police did not comply the UK could face massive fines – simply wrong.

The EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstr̦m explains here what Europol is Рand what it is not.

In an attempt to correct the claims made, the Head of the Commission’s London Representation, Jacqueline Minor, wrote a letter to the paper which said:

The EU is not seeking new powers over Member States for its law enforcement agency Europol (‘EU demands access to British police files’, 19 April).

Member States set up Europol in 1993, to pool resources against major cross-border crime.

There is an existing agreement to supply data to Europol. The European Commission is proposing measures to clarify that and to strengthen democratic oversight and data protection. The aim is to tackle crime better.

The proposal only takes effect if Member States agree. It would not expand access to data on witnesses and victims.

It would not give Europol direct access to national databases – let alone “private police files”. Member States share data they already have, so resources will not be diverted to collecting data for Europol.

Finally, there is nothing in the proposal about fines.

Europol will remain an agency supporting – not usurping – national police forces.

The Mail published a version of the letter but:

in editing the letter – without consultation – the Mail alters its meaning and reduces its force.

This is what the Mail published:

Member States set up Europol in 1993, to pool resources against major cross-border crime. There’s an existing agreement to supply data to Europol.

The European Commission is proposing to clarify that and to strengthen democratic oversight and data protection. This would take effect only if a Member State agrees, and it wouldn’t expand access to data on witnesses and victims. It wouldn’t give Europol direct access to national databases – let alone “private police files”.

There is nothing in the proposal about fines for not supplying data.

The EC notes:

the Mail’s version below omits any mention of the original article and thus deprives the reader of any point of reference. It also omits the important point that resources will not be diverted from police work to collecting data for Europol.

In changing “if Member States agree” to “if a Member State agrees” it also changes the meaning. Member States need to agree collectively on the changes but if they did so then they would take effect everywhere, helping police to prevent crime and catch criminals everywhere – except if the UK (and/or Ireland) decided to invoke its opt out.”

The EC in the UK has complained about the Mail editing letters before, while one MEP couldn't even get her letter, debunking a false Mail story about the EU banning Famous Five books from schools, printed at all.

The PCC and the MailOnline's publication of 'clearly inappropriate' creepshots

On 24 September 2012, MailOnline published an article about 'creepshots' - photographs of females taken without their knowledge (often 'upskirt' photos) - that were taken in a Georgia high school by a teacher and posted on Reddit.

The article admitted the photos 'were taken without the subjects' knowledge' and that the subjects 'are caught unawares by stealthy 'creeps' with cameras'.

It added:

Most shots focus on the buttocks or breasts of non-consenting women going about their daily lives - and users admit that 'at least 40 percent' of the images are of underage girls. 

As this blog noted at the time:

Someone at MailOnline then decided to illustrate the article with FOUR of the creepshot photos the article is complaining about.

There is no justification for publishing any of these images. Indeed, MailOnline has now removed all the photos from the article - albeit, some 15 hours after it was first published - a clear indication it knew this was a serious error...

It admits the photos were taken 'without permission' and yet deems them suitable to publish. It refers to the fact that many of the images are apparently of 'underage girls', yet deems them suitable to publish. Given the faces are covered, MailOnline has no idea how old any of the girls are, yet deems them suitable to publish.

One person contacted the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre about the MailOnline article. Another complained to the PCC. The latter complaint was sent on 25 September.

The PCC replied:

The concerns you have raised relate directly to the unidentified girls in the photographs. Given the nature of your concerns, it may be difficult for the Commission to investigate or understand the matter fully without their involvement.

However, we do appreciate the significance of these issues. In such circumstances, we would often take steps to contact the individuals concerned to make them aware of our services. In this instance, it is clear impossible for us to do so as we cannot identify them. We may therefore have difficulty in pursuing this matter. However, we will ask the Commission to consider whether there are exceptional public interest reasons for it to proceed with an independent complaint. 

One month later, on 29 October, the PCC said:

The Commission has noted carefully your comments about the public interest in pursuing an investigation and it has decided to do so, on an own-volition basis. It will write to the newspaper for its formal response, passing on a copy of your complaint.

The person who made the complaint emailed on 4 January asking for news but received no reply. The PCC did respond to a further email on 7 February - which noted the MailOnline article was still 'live' - but only to say the matter was still under investigation.

No further information was received by the person who made the complaint until 9 April, when the PCC issued its decision. He saw none of the correspondence from the Mail and has no idea what happened in those six months.

The PCC's decision is worth repeating in full:

The Commission investigated, of its own volition, a complaint framed under Clause 3 (Privacy), Clause 6 (Children) and Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge). The Commission noted that the article under complaint had come to its attention because of a third-party complaint it had received from a member of the public concerned about the publication of the images with the article. The Commission had not received any complaint from any individual featured in the story. The Commission recognised the significance of the issues raised by the complaint, however, and had for this reason chosen to investigate the matter of its own volition. Nonetheless, it remained the case that without the involvement of any of the individuals concerned, the Commission faced a significant practical difficulty in making a finding on this case.

The Commission first considered the matter under Clause 3 (Privacy) and Clause 6 (Children).  The complainant said the photographs had apparently been taken without consent and apparently showed pupils at a school, potentially under 16. The complainant made clear that he was concerned about both the censored and uncensored versions of the article. He objected to the publication of the photographs.

The photographs under complaint had been republished by the newspaper from a website on which they had been posted by anonymous users. The faces of the women had not been shown and they were not otherwise readily identifiable. No verifiable information was available about where or when they had been taken.

Clause 3 states that everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life and that it is unacceptable to photograph individuals in private places without their consent. Under Clause 6, young people should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion; a child under 16 must not be interviewed or photographed on issues involving their own or another child’s welfare unless a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult consents; and pupils must not be approached or photographed at school without the permission of the school authorities.

The content of the photographs themselves – including the furniture, surroundings, and clothing of those shown in them – suggested that they showed pupils in educational institutions, as the newspaper had clearly accepted. The newspaper’s report quoted one individual who claimed to be a teacher taking photographs of his pupils without their consent. Against this background, the Commission was concerned by the publication of the photographs, and in particular, extremely concerned by their initial – albeit brief – publication in an uncensored state, which was – as the newspaper had immediately accepted – clearly inappropriate in light of the information reported in the story.

Given the nature of this case, the Commission reviewed closely the information provided by the newspaper about the background. It noted the newspaper’s position that the article had been prepared for publication on the US homepage by a US journalist and that the photographs had been left uncensored for several hours due to a “regrettable” error. The newspaper had confirmed that the matter had been raised with the editorial staff concerned to understand how the incident had occurred and to avoid any recurrence. It had instructed its US Picture desk to take greater care to scrutinise photographs of this kind and emphasised that decisions should be referred to line managers before publication to ensure that due consideration has been given to publication and that pixelation has been properly applied where appropriate before pictures can go live on the site. It had also reminded them of their obligations under the Code and noted that abiding by the Code remained a contractual condition of employment contracts for its journalists. During the course of its correspondence with the Commission it had decided to remove the article from its website, in view of the sensitivity of the material.

The Commission acknowledged the measures that had been taken. It noted that the preparation of material for publication online presents particular challenges but emphasised that the Editors’ Code of Practice applies equally to material published in print and online. It emphasised that the newspaper should continue to keep its processes under review, including in relation to staff training, to ensure that such an error would not recur.

It remained the case, however, that the Commission had no direct information about the circumstances in which these particular photographs had been taken. As it had noted, both the context and the photographs themselves strongly suggested that they had showed individuals who were unaware of being photographed, and indeed the newspaper’s report had stated this as fact. Nonetheless, the Commission concluded that it would not be appropriate for it to rule on the potential for intrusion posed by the photographs on the basis of conjecture, however well-founded. The Commission did not issue a ruling under Clause 3 or Clause 6 but it considered that the newspaper’s decision to remove the article from its website was appropriate in the circumstances. The Commission also noted that it would review the matter should it receive a complaint in future from any of the individuals photographed or, alternatively, corroboration of the circumstances in which the photographs had been taken.   

Finally, the Commission considered the complaint under Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge). The terms of Clause 10 set out that the press must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by using hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices. The Public Interest clause of the Code states that the PCC will consider the extent to which material is already in the public domain, or will become so. In this instance, the newspaper was reporting on a matter of controversy involving the publication of material elsewhere on the Internet. This was different from an instance in which the publication or its agents had used clandestine devices or subterfuge to obtain journalistic material for the purpose of publication. The republication of photographs to illustrate a news story on the controversy did not raise a breach of Clause 10.

The PCC's wariness seems slightly strange - it admits the paper had stated the subjects were unaware they were being photographed 'as fact' and admits this is a 'well-founded' view. But the PCC says this is only 'conjecture' and essentially refuses to issue a clear adjudication because of that - despite calling publication of the photos 'clearly inappropriate'. There appears to be no evidence to dispute the claims made about the origins of the photos and, furthermore, the Mail reported on 27 September 2012 - three days after the original article appeared:

A high school substitute teacher has been fired after police say he took pictures of his students without their knowledge and posted them to a perverted website.

The uncensored photos were visible for around 15 hours on MailOnline - it is a matter of opinion as to whether the PCC's description of that as a 'brief' period is fair or accurate.

Moreover, the person who made the complaint noted the article was still up on MailOnline in February - many months after it was first published and the correspondence with the PCC began. It was only after all that time that it seemed concerned about the 'sensitivity of the material'.

Wednesday 1 May 2013

Mail on Sunday corrects minaret claim

A correction from the Mail on Sunday:

An earlier version of this article showed a picture of a mosque with dome and minaret and suggested that such a building might be added to the skyline of Chipping Norton. We would like to make clear that the proposal is for a conversion of an existing shop and there will be no addition to the skyline of Chipping Norton.

Scottish Mail apologises over asylum claims

The Scottish Daily Mail has published the following correction and apology, after a complaint from the Scottish Refugee Council:

In an article on January 25, 2013, headlined: "Crisis as Asylum Seekers target Scotland" we stated that asylum seekers were ‘targeting' Scotland. We now accept that asylum seekers are dispersed by the UK Border Agency on a ‘no choice' basis and would not be able to choose to live in Scotland. With the current rate of asylum applicants to the UK well within the average rate of the past ten years, we also accept that it is misleading to categorise this as a ‘crisis'. We are happy to clarify the position and apologise for the error.

According to the PCC:

The newspaper also agreed to: publish an article regarding the work of the Scottish Refugee Council; hold a meeting with the organisation; and inform editorial staff of the issues and concerns raised at the meeting.

Thursday 25 April 2013

The Star's misleading X Factor splash

The front page of Tuesday's Daily Star splashed with the headline 'Cops raid X Factor star's home' next to a large photo of Simon Cowell:

The picture caption describes Cowell as 'shocked'.

But contrary to the very strong impression given by that front page, the 'star' whose home was raided was not Cowell.

The 'star' in question was, in fact, Ella Henderson who was on the show last year. Yet it wasn't, it seems, even her home:

Police were last night quizzing the parents of The X Factor star Ella Henderson on suspicion of money-laundering...

Singer-songwriter Ella, 17, who shot to stardom in last year’s series of the ITV1 talent show, currently lives in London and is working on her debut album. She was not available for comment yesterday.

But Cowell was still 'shocked', wasn't he?

A spokesman for SyCo declined to comment on the Hendersons’ arrest.

Friday 19 April 2013

Star illustrates new story with photo from 2008

The front page of today's Daily Star includes a dramatic photo of an explosion in Texas:

As Scott Bryan points out, the same photo is prominent on pages 8-9, illustrating their double page spread.

The Star is reporting on the explosion yesterday at a fertiliser plant in West, Texas.

Unfortunately, the photo the Star uses is from an explosion at an oil refinery in Big Spring, (west) Texas in 2008.

(Big hat-tip to Scott Bryan)

Thursday 11 April 2013

The Mail, the BBC and Thatcher 'bias'

As sure as night follows day, so the death of Margaret Thatcher was always going to be followed by the Daily Mail complaining about 'anti-Thatcher bias' in the BBC's coverage.

On 9 April, this was published on MailOnline:

Note the use of 'public anger' to describe a reaction they support. When the Mail and Richard Littlejohn were criticised recently over their coverage of Lucy Meadows, which led to a protest outside the Mail's offices, the paper described it not as 'public anger' but an 'orchestrated Twitterstorm'.

The Mail's journalists had searched Twitter and comments left on their own website to find people criticising the BBC for being anti-Thatcher. There is nothing wrong with that per se, but the problem is that it only tells half the story - the half the Mail wants its readers to believe. It was equally easy to find tweets and comments criticising the BBC for being too pro-Thatcher in its coverage but these were completely ignored by the Mail. The Media Blog listed a handful of examples (there were many, many more), where tweeters accused the BBC of broadcasting 'pro-Thatcher toadying', 'pro-Thatcher propaganda' and a 'pro-Thatcher diatribe'. Another said: 'Shame on you BBC...Your pro-Thatcher bias is quite disgusting.'

But readers of the Mail's article only got this:

The BBC was accused of 'disgraceful' bias yesterday over its coverage of Baroness Thatcher's death.

Angry viewers complained its news bulletins gave too great an emphasis to her critics and to controversies such as the poll tax and the miners' strike.

Twitter users accused the BBC of 'shameless' bias against the former Prime Minister. The broadcaster also faced criticism because newsreaders did not wear black ties following the announcement of her death.

The one-sidedness of the Mail's coverage was emphasised when the Guardian revealed the number of complaints the BBC had received about its coverage:

the BBC said on Wednesday it had received 268 complaints that its coverage was biased in favour of Thatcher, and 227 who said it was biased against her.

A further 271 people complained that the BBC had devoted too much airtime to the former Tory leader's death.

Arguably, the fact the BBC received similar numbers of complaints from both sides suggests its coverage might have actually got it about right.

But it is clear that more people had complained to the BBC about a 'pro-Thatcher' bias in their coverage than had complained about an 'anti-Thatcher bias'. Would Mail readers have got that impression? Not at all.

And this is not an accident. In another article today about 'anti-Thatcher bias' at the BBC (which refers to 'readers' fury' but three of the four quotes it uses come from comments on the Guido Fawkes blog) the Mail's Alasdair Glennie says:

So far, the corporation has received 766 complaints over its coverage of Lady Thatcher’s death.

But that's it - he provides no breakdown of the figures. This is deliberately partial and dishonest - to give the actual breakdown would suggest there was more 'public anger' (to use the Mail's term) about a pro-Thatcher bias in the BBC's coverage. As that does not fit the pre-determined narrative of the Mail, it's quietly ignored.

So where's the real bias here?

The Mail also got upset about BBC news presenters not wearing black ties. To illustrate their article, they used of photo of Huw Edwards wearing a bright pink tie - and also a poppy - above a caption which said: 'Huw Edwards was among those who did not wear a black tie while reporting the news for the BBC'. As James Cridland pointed out, Edwards was actually wearing a dark blue tie when reporting on Thatcher's death. As the Media Blog uncovered, the photo of him wearing the pink tie and poppy (the poppy being a bit of a clue that it wasn't a photo from this week) was actually a photo from the Mail archives...and from November 2006. The photo has since been removed, but it's worth considering why they used it in the first place.

(Cridland had a tweet of his quoted by the Mail as one of the 'critical' members of the public - Cridland said in response: 'I wasn’t outraged, just interested'.)

It's also worth noting that the Allen and Glennie article states:

other users noted that BBC presenter Mark Mardell was wearing a black tie, whereas Sky's Adam Boulton was not.

So where are the Mail articles about Sky's (in the Mail's words) lack of 'sufficient respect'?

The Mail was also up in arms that the BBC dared give airtime to speakers who were not willing to sing Thatcher's praises, and were outraged that these guests were allowed to say what they believed:

One of Thatcher's arch critics – former Labour MP Tony Benn – was one of the first invited to speak on BBC 5 Live and BBC World Service and was given free rein to criticise Lady Thatcher.

It is, of course, entirely legitimate that all views were allowed to be heard and it seems curious that the Mail seems to suggest otherwise.

Mail columnist Stephen Glover wrote that although the BBC coverage 'pleasantly surprised' him at first, as the day went on, 'the case for the prosecution was subtly gathering force'. Given he wrote a column in 2007 about the BBC 'hating' Thatcher, this conclusion may not have been a complete surprise to his readers:

Again and again we were shown the same footage of 1990 poll tax riots, and familiar pictures of police grappling with miners during the 1984-85 miners’ strike. The clear message was: This is how it was under Thatcherism. Words such as ‘divisive’, ‘polarised’ and ‘out of touch’ began to be bandied about freely by BBC journalists describing the events of the 1980s.

It seems odd to suggest that Thatcher's time in office could be fairly and honestly reported without giving significant time to the miners' strike or the poll tax riots. Glover seems to have missed that such footage also appeared on Sky News. A comment on the Media Blog from Matt said:

When the news broke, I was in the unusual position of being able to watch BBC News and Sky News simultaneously (I was in the gym). Sky ran non-stop footage of the police beating up miners and poll tax protesters, while the Beeb ran interviews with politicians and sombre-looking newscasters talking to camera.

Glover also criticises BBC journalists for 'freely bandying about' words such as 'divisive', but later in his column he writes:

I don’t deny she was a ‘divisive’ figure


You may say Margaret Thatcher was unusual in being so divisive, and so is bound to be dealt with in an unusual way.

And who was it who argued:

Her divisiveness was a mark of her boldness for which we should all be grateful.

Not a BBC journalist, not Glover, but Andrew Alexander - one of Glover's fellow Mail columnists.

So, it seems, Mail journalists are allowed to say Thatcher was 'divisive' - and indeed praise her for it - but BBC ones aren't.

It is not surprising that the Mail wishes to celebrate Thatcher's life and achievements. But to report 'public anger' with the BBC over anti-Thatcher bias without reporting on the pro-Thatcher bias complaints? To accuse the BBC of bias for not getting out black ties, when many journalists from other outlets did not either? To accuse the BBC of bias for covering the miners' strike and poll tax riots, and for giving airtime to Thatcher's political opponents, when other news outlets have done the same?

Where's the real bias here?

Wednesday 10 April 2013

MailOnline falls for April Fool's Day story

This article was published by the Croydon Advertiser's website on Sunday 7 April:

The Daily Mail has reported that Westfield are to erect a statue of Kate Moss in their new Croydon shopping centre - less than a week after the 'news' was the Advertiser's April Fool.

We reported on April 1 that the Australian retail giant had commissioned the statue to "cheer up the town" after reading an article in the Mail which said Croydon was the second unhappiest place to live in the UK.

The prank claimed that directors had chosen Kate Moss because her famous haircut - the Croydon facelift - summed up their plans for the Whitgift Centre, but that Hammerson, partners in the £1 billion joint venture, preferred a statue of comedian Ronnie Corbett.

It also featured an image, created using Photoshop, of shoppers surrounding a huge statue of Kate in the Whitgift Centre.

Despite publishing an article after midday which said the idea had been scrapped, the Daily Mail published a story on its website yesterday which reported the plan as fact.

Towards the bottom of the article about Moss's appearance at an Aids charity fundraiser, it reports that the supermodel, who grew up in Addiscombe, is "soon to be honoured in her home town".

The reporter states that Westfield will build the statue and repeats our made up claim that the company has commissioned sculptor Marc Quinn to produce a replica of his 18-carat gold statue which shows Kate in a yoga pose.

The MailOnline article written by JJ Anisiobi - published on 6 April - has now been edited to remove the claims.

The Sun's prison/hospital confusion

An apology published by The Sun:
In an article ‘Real life Mr Bump has had 34 ops’ (11 January) a picture caption mistakenly said that Mr Terry Butler had been ‘in prison’ for 15 months instead of ‘in hospital’.

We apologise to Mr Butler and regret any distress caused.

Wednesday 3 April 2013

The Express and salt (cont.)

Thursday's Express serves up another 'miracle cure' front page story:

This is not the same 'cure for high blood pressure' that the Express announced on 18 December 2012. It's different from the one from 1 November 2011, too.

Today, 'five easy steps' to 'curing high blood pressure' are revealed by Jo Willey:

Keeping active, slashing salt intake, eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, cutting down on alcohol and not smoking all cut the chances of developing the deadly condition.

Most of these are rather obvious things that pop up frequently in 'secrets of a longer life'-type stories on the front of the Express.

But the inclusion of 'slashing salt intake' is interesting because in July 2011, one paper said:

cutting our daily intake [of salt] does nothing to lower the risk of suffering from heart disease


a study...shows although blood pressure reduced when salt intake was cut, this had no long-term health benefits.

The quote from the leader of the study pointing out it wasn't quite as simple as that was left until nearer the end of the article

“We believe that we didn’t see big benefits in this study because the people in the trials we analysed only reduced their salt intake by a moderate amount, so the effect on blood pressure and heart disease was not large.”

And all this appeared under the headline:

'Now salt is safe to eat: Health fascists proved wrong after lecturing us all for years'

Which paper? The Express, of course:

The article under that silly headline was also written by Jo Willey and it included this:

Earlier this year the Daily Express revealed how “nanny state” council bosses at Stockport Council banned salt shakers in fish and chip shops as part of a healthy living drive. But critics condemned the move, insisting customers should be free to make up their own minds.

While that is indeed what the Express claimed in a front page story ('Salt banned in chip shops'), it was not true

Monday 25 March 2013

Mail apologises to Sir Roger Moore for repeating false claims first published in The People

On 20 January, The People published the following apology to Sir Roger Moore:

On 16 September we published an article headed “I’ve had Moore women than James Bond” which claimed that Sir Roger Moore had recently spoken exclusively to The People and made comments to our journalist about his private life.

We now accept that Sir Roger did not give an interview to our reporter and did not make the comments that were reported in the headline.

We apologise for any distress and embarrassment our article has caused to Sir Roger Moore and we have agreed to pay him damages and legal costs.

Two months later and the Mail, which appears to have simply copied-and-pasted the claims, has also apologised:

An article on September 17 (‘I’ve had more lovers than 007’) included comments attributed to Sir Roger Moore by a Sunday newspaper about his private life.

That newspaper has now accepted its report did not accurately reflect a conversation with Sir Roger Moore and he did not make the comments it reported.

We apologise for any distress and embarrassment caused.

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Express and statins (cont.)

The Express's coverage of the effects of statins (like their weather reporting) has always lurched from one sensationalist extreme to the other.

One day, statins are the key to a longer life, a wonder drug, a miracle pill that beats cancer, halts Alzheimer's and cuts the risk of an early death. Sometimes, these headlines pop up more than once:

On other days, statins are subject to health alerts - they can be a risk to health, can raise your risk of diabetes and could cause agonising muscle problems, lung disorders and kidney damage.

Sometimes, these headlines pop up more than once, too:

The latest front page - the one above right - is from today. This story claims statins 'can cause kidney damage'. Newly-published research has found:

patients taking higher strength pills were more at risk of suffering acute kidney injury.

But there is a telling quote towards the end of the story:

Prof Peter Weissberg, British Heart Foundation medical director, said: “Most people in the UK are on low doses of statins. Further research is needed to establish whether it is the statins or the underlying blood vessel disease in people taking high doses that causes kidney problems.”

Mail corrects claim on company collapse

Daily Mail, 2 March 2013:

all that remains of Cressida's patrimony is a pile of bricks alongside the A444 at Castle Gresley.

It once used to be the Bonas Brothers factory, but the business went bust in the Eighties. Its last hurrah was a line of goods branded Magic Touch, which included elastic for ladies' tights.

This was a desperate attempt to save the business, but memories are long in this corner of Derbyshire, and some blame Cressida's father, Jeffrey, for the collapse of the company with a loss of 100 jobs.

'Jeffrey let the business down,' says a former employee. 'All there is left is a pile of rubble.'

Daily Mail, 20 March 2013:

An article on March 2 repeated a claim that Mr Jeffrey Bonas had been partly responsible for the failure of part of the family business.

We are happy to clarify that Mr Bonas left the business concerned in 1972 and it was run under different ownership from 1980 for a further 25 years.

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Not smoking is good for you, reveals Express

The front page of Tuesday's Express reveals '7 Easy Steps To A Longer Life':

Jo Willey's story explains what those '7 easy steps' are:

staying physically active, sticking to a healthy weight, eating a health diet, maintaining good cholesterol levels, keeping blood pressure down, controlling blood sugar levels and not smoking.

This is, the paper says, 'latest research':

Latest research has found that following the simple steps and making small changes to daily routine are the key to a long and healthy life.

These seven steps were devised by the American Heart Association in 2010 - this research confirms, not entirely unexpectedly, that doing these things are good for you.

However, it would be a surprise if any of this was news to most people. Express readers may think this all sounds a bit familiar. For example, on 3 August 2011:

The 'secret' was:

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

Stunning stuff. And the sub-heads on both front pages begins: 'Experts find key...'

It does seem odd that the Express considers this front page news at all. There were two big news stories on Monday - the political deal on future regulation of the press, and the Cyprus bailout. For such a strongly anti-EU paper as the Express, it's curious that they decided not to lead on events in Cyprus, and chose this instead.

Thursday 14 March 2013

The Sun vs Gordon Brown (cont.)

This apology to Gordon Brown appeared in today's Sun:

In Trevor Kavanagh’s column of 12 November, it was stated that Gordon Brown accused The Sun of blagging his son’s medical records. In fact, Mr Brown has never made such an accusation, in Parliament or otherwise. We were wrong to use this erroneous allegation as a basis to make comments about his character and integrity and to suggest that Mr Brown was ‘not telling the full story’. We withdraw these criticisms and apologise to Mr Brown.

This is the fifth time that the paper has corrected claims about Brown in less than five months.

Tuesday 12 March 2013

'We do not normally find it worthwhile challenging Daily Express euromyths but...'

An article in today's Express claims:

Journalist Alison Little writes:
Euro MPs want to brainwash children with “sinister” Soviet-style propaganda on a new website, it was claimed yesterday.

European Parliament chiefs are considering setting up a site to target young children with a “playful” presentation of their working methods and democratic principles.

There are two sentences from the European Parliament’s 2011-14 communication strategy included in the story:

“Research has shown the social and political perception of young people starts at a very early age. In a playful manner which is tailored to the needs of young internet users, a special Europarl website could bring democratic principles and the working of the methods of the European Parliament closer to children.”

The only other quotes in the article come from UKIP MEP Paul Nuttall, who says:

"Political propaganda on vulnerable kids is a form of child abuse."

The Express's stance is reinforced by an editorial comment.

The response from the European Parliament's Information Office in the UK is worth repeating in full:

Welcome to the brave new world of EU reporting at the Daily Express, where information is bad, transparency is dictatorship, civic rights are forms of oppression and checking facts makes you blind.

We do not normally find it worthwhile challenging Daily Express euromyths. It would be like trying to engage UFO Magazine in scientific debate: a waste of time and dangerous for one's mental health. Moreover, we are used and resigned to the peculiar phenomenon of its journalists switching off all critical faculties when it comes to taking politically motivated anti-EU tirades as fact, then working backwards to try to fit the circumstances to the 'crime'

But today's 'story' really does deserves a short comment.  The paper, prompted by a complaint by a eurosceptic politician, published a piece arguing, entirely un-ironically, that creating a website informing young citizens and future voters of their rights is now to be considered propaganda.

You heard right. The modern, Express-sanctioned meaning of propaganda - made worse by that one-size-fits-all criticism of "paid for by tax payers' money" - is not raging against a minority, say, or distorting the truth about which side is winning in a war, or inciting the populace to violence. Modern day propaganda is for a democratically elected Parliament to make people (including young people) aware of its existence and their rights within it. And to have the audacity to do so with the aid of that sinister, new-fangled technological wizardry: a website!!!!

In fairness, an Express reporter had contacted this office and asked for a quote about how 'The Parliament' would justify its deeds.

Never mind that an eloquent explanation of the purpose of the initiative (which is still only just that, a proposal being looked at) already appears in the document she herself had raised as 'proof' of this conspiracy to inform.

Never mind that it had been written by a body of senior MEPs including a British vice president of the Parliament, whom she was at liberty to interview were she able to spare the time. (She could not, or did not see fit to publish their comments).

We also happened to mention that, with one simple Google search, we had been able to come up with the UK Parliament's equivalent of this outrageous practice. Shocking, I know. Is there to be no end to the horror?

The reporter, to be perfectly fair, displayed immense fortitude at this juncture. She absorbed the ground-shifting discovery that propaganda was indeed alive and well at the heart of the Mother of Parliaments - never mind the barbarous EU - and then delivered this killer line: we should feel free to use this example in our own comment to her.

Let me write this again. It was to be somehow our job to put the 'propaganda' slur in context by mentioning the existence of similar initiatives in most national parliaments including Britain's own. Providing context and balance in a story is no longer the job of the Daily Express reporter, you see. If you want balance and context you have to knit it yourself.

You'd be searching in vain for this context in today's story, reader. You will not find it. What's worse, your ignorance of the existence of sinister educational websites set up by the Houses of Parliament leaves your children vulnerable to the horror of 'Soviet-style' British propaganda right here right now, under your very nose and, needless to say, with your taxes.

The Express did not include any response from the European Parliament in its article.

Sunday 10 March 2013

'We cannot get ahead of ourselves'

The front page of Wednesday's Express 'revealed' that a '3p blood pressure pill beats dementia':

The headline on the online version of the article is slightly different: '3p pill cuts dementia risk by half'.

This story emerges from the launch, rather than the completion, of a four-year trial of losartan. The lead researcher, Dr Pat Kehoe, told Sense About Science:

"While we certainly have an attractive drug candidate both from the point of view of possible effect and the low cost, we cannot get ahead of ourselves here or over simplify things - we still have to conduct the study to generate the proper evidence before we can make any claims as to how useful the drug will be."

Pregnancy 'news' round up

Most of the tabloid newspapers put yet more royal baby news on their front pages on 6 March:

The Sun's front page makes it very clear - the Duchess of Cambridge was handed a teddy bear and said:

"Thank you, I will take that for my d...for my baby"

The same quote was used elsewhere.

Two days later and the Mail published a follow-up:

She didn't? With the help of a video of the incident, the Mail reveals that she actually said:

"Is this for us? Awww, thank you so much, it's [very] very sweet of you"

In other words: not much like what was originally reported. Curiously, this didn't make the front pages.

Meanwhile, in other 'pregnancy news', the Daily Star ran the headline 'Mystery of 'pregnant' star Cheryl Cole' on its front page on Saturday.

Here's what happened: a pregnant woman went to see Cheryl Cole in concert. 'So nice to see lovely @CherylCole', she tweeted. Cheryl replied: 'Nice to see you too, you look amazing pregnant'.

The 'mystery' is that anyone thought this meant Cheryl was pregnant, or that this was worthy of a place on the front page of a paper.

Friday 8 March 2013

Mail on Sunday apologises for smoking claim

Mail on Sunday, 27 January 2013:

E-cigarettes ‘can cause more harm than smoking’, experts say

They are billed as a healthier alternative to smoking, yet experts now warn that electronic cigarettes may be more damaging than the habit they replace.

Mail on Sunday, 3 March 2013:

A Health article on January 27 said some experts believe electronic cigarettes can be more harmful than real ones. In fact we are not aware of any experts who hold this view compared to the risks of cancer, heart disease and lung damage from real cigarettes. We apologise for any contrary suggestion.

(More info on the complaint to the PCC that led to this apology can be found here.)

Monday 4 March 2013

Mail apologises to Christine Hamilton

An apology in today's Mail reads:

A recent reader's letter wrongly compared a 2003 driving offence for which Christine Hamilton was acquitted with the more serious offence of perverting the course of justice to which Chris Huhne has pleaded guilty. It also wrongly accused Mrs Hamilton of wrongdoing in connection with a driving offence while working for Sir Gerald Nabarro in 1971, when in fact she did not work for him at the time and was not involved. We apologise for any distress caused.

Compare that with this letter, which challenged one of the Mail's incorrect EU stories and which they refused to print.

Friday 22 February 2013

Derren Brown challenges Sun 'exclusive'

A Sun 'exclusive' published on 18 February revealed:

Telly illusionist Derren Brown is planning his most mind-blowing trick — turning a straight man GAY.

The hypnotist also thinks he can use his powers to make a gay man fancy women.

He hopes his latest stunt will be as big a hit with viewers as last year’s Derren Brown: Apocalypse.

Derren, 41, who came out as gay four years ago, said: “I was thinking about this the other day — it would be interesting wouldn’t it? To take a gay guy and make him straight and a straight guy and make him gay.”

Just because he thinks it's interesting, doesn't mean it's going to happen, despite the Sun's headline:

In response, Brown tweeted:


(hat-tip to Chris)

Saturday 16 February 2013

'At no time did one of the doors open'

Today, the Mail's website has reported:

The article by Tom Kelly begins:

A British tourist told yesterday of his flight of terror when he claims an emergency exit on a super jumbo blew open at 27,000ft.

David Reid and his son Lewis feared a bomb had gone off after hearing a ‘massive explosion’ two hours into their flight on the brand new £250million Emirates Airbus A380.

Freezing air blasted in and the cabin pressure plunged after the door in business class came an inch and a half ajar, leaving a gaping hole, said Mr Reid.

The comments under the story are extremely revealing as the vast majority debunk claims made in the article.

For example, in the image shown above, the Mail claims that the:

Door indicator shows green for open instead of red for closed.

But this is wrong for two reasons. A green light on a door indicator would indicate the door is closed - after all, an open door would be the dangerous thing, and danger is usually highlighted with red.

Secondly, it's not a door indicator light anyway. It's an 'Attendant Indication Panel'. As someone called Flyboy88, who says he works on these aircraft, says in the comments:

that light actually means there is a passenger call bell or a phone call to that doors inter phone.

Another comment, from someone claiming to be a pilot, says:

Ok speaking as an A380 pilot, I have to say this article is almost laughable in almost every sense.

1) The picture showing the "door indicator" is actually the passenger call indicator indicating that someone was obviously so bothered by this that they wanted a Gin and Tonic.

2) If a door had "blown" as the article had suggested, do you think with an approximate pressure differential between inside and outside of 8.5 PSI that a blanket would stop everyone from being sucked out?

3) I would love to know how you can hide under an A380 jumpseat, there is barely enough room to keep a lifejacket there.

4) There is no curtain between Economy and Business class, they are separated by....... a floor. This was nothing more than a leaky seal in a door and the blankets were for passenger comfort on a short (2.5 hour flight).

I think Mr Reid needs a groundschool refresher of basic physics and leaves the operating of these multi-million pound aircraft to the professionals.

- Bus Driver, Reading, United Kingdom, 16/2/2013 6:01

The allegations in the article are from someone who:

claims he suffered a chest infection following the ordeal

The Mail seems to have believed his version of events, without questioning them or his possible motives. He also claims:

Freezing air blasted in and the cabin pressure plunged

But, as many of the comments point out, it would be very odd if air 'blasted in' at 27,000ft. And if the cabin pressure 'plunged' the oxygen masks would have deployed, yet this is not mentioned anywhere in the article.

It seems odd, too, that none of the other passengers - who were apparently 'weeping in panic' - seems to have come forward to support the claims made in this Mail article.

There are two quotes at the end of the article which say:

An Emirates spokesman said: ‘We can confirm there was a whistling noise emanating from one of the doors on the A380 upper deck on flight EK384 between Bangkok and Hong Kong on Monday, February 11. At no point was the safety of the flight in jeopardy.’

An Airbus spokesman said: ‘It is not possible for a cabin door to open on an A380 or on any aircraft whilst in flight, as doors open inwards and have locking mechanisms.

By 2:30pm, there were over 600 comments on the article, and most of them were very critical of the Mail and its fact-checking. But they didn't correct or edit it in response - instead, they gave it even more prominence on their homepage and made it top story:

It seems accuracy has lost out to numbers of visitors as the most important thing about this story as far as MailOnline is concerned.

At 3:07pm, the Mail updated the story, adding a further quote from an Emirates airline spokesman:

'At no time during the flight did one of the upper deck doors open. There was also no loss in cabin pressurisation at any time during the flight.

'The noise from the door was caused by a small dimensional difference between the inflated door seal and the door lower frame striker plate, when the door is in the closed position. This is currently under investigation in conjunction with Airbus. Emirates have now fixed the problem.

'The blankets were placed around the door to abate the whistling sound emanating from the door, not to prevent the door from opening.

'There was no point during the incident where the safety of the flight was in jeopardy.

'In addition, the green light next to the door does not represent that the door is open. It is an Attendant Indication Panel and is used for communication information for the Cabin Crew.'

Despite this latest update, the rest of the article - including the photos claiming the green light shows the door is 'open' - remains uncorrected.

(Hat-tip to Martin)

Friday 15 February 2013

Mail corrects Littlejohn column

The 'Clarifications and corrections' column in today's Mail includes this:

A recent column said that EU regulations prevent the Women’s Institute from selling jam in re-used jars. In fact the rules apply only to commercial food businesses.

The 'recent column' was written by Richard Littlejohn and was mentioned on this blog on Tuesday.

This correction was published (at time of writing) ten hours ago on the Mail's website. But they haven't bothered to edit the original column - the incorrect claim remains there, and this correction hasn't been added to article. It doesn't appear anywhere on today's Littlejohn column either, so his regular readers may not even realise this has been corrected.

Moreover, the original news article, which made the same false claims back in October, remains live on their website and has never been removed or edited or corrected.

In the circumstances, it might make sense if they acted in some way over the original and then apologised for giving their readers the same, untrue information twice.

Thursday 14 February 2013

'I would like to ask MailOnline to please remove the photos'

Yesterday, MailOnline published an article under the headline: 'Baby's first picture! Pregnant Evan Rachel Wood can't stop smiling as she emerges with ultrasound scan':

The first photo on the article was of the actress holding the ultrasound picture. There was then a close-up of the image of the unborn child.

'Daily Mail Reporter' wrote:

She clutched the black and white photograph in one hand while strolling down the street with a friend.

Wood then took to Twitter to complain about the photos, making clear she wasn't 'strolling down the street' but on the roof of her hospital's parking garage:


MailOnline - named Newspaper Website of the Year at last year's Press Awards - has now removed the article.

(Hat-tips to ChainBear and Ian Childs)

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Littlejohn reheats 're-using jam jars' story

Richard Littlejohn devotes much of his column in today's Mail to the horsemeat scandal. In it, he says:

Funny how the EU can enforce strict food hygiene regulations which prevent the Women’s Institute selling jam in second-hand jars but can’t stop Eastern European horsemeat being passed off as beef.

Regular readers may remember this 'story' from October, when the EC Commission Representative in the UK dismissed tabloid stories on a 'ban' on re-using jam jars at fetes as:

completely untrue. There are no EU laws, new or old, which ban re-using old jam jars for fetes.

A question was asked in the European Parliament on this issue following the media coverage. The answer, from Tonio Borg for the European Commission, was published on 14 December. It made clear:

In the Guidance document on the implementation of certain provisions of Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs (SANCO/1731/2008 Rev. 6), the Commission indeed specified that "the occasional handling, preparation, storage and serving of food by private persons at events such as church, school or village fairs are not covered by the scope of the Regulation"...

Therefore, the Commission can confirm that, as long as the preparation, handling and selling of jams at local events to raise money for worthy causes is an occasional activity, it is not covered by Regulation (EC) No 852/2004. Rules governing such activities are established by Member States under national law.

A WI press release from 4 January 2013 confirmed:

Legislation is predominantly aimed at food businesses and excludes occasional activity with respect to charities; therefore the recent interest does not apply to infrequent charitable activities. 

Despite all this, Littlejohn claims not only that there are 'strict' regulations banning the WI selling jam in re-used jars, but that the EU are 'enforcing' them.

(Hat-tip to James)

The Express and salt (cont.)

On 6 July 2011, the Express revealed:

The story explained:

Salt is safe to eat – and cutting our daily intake does nothing to lower the risk of suffering from heart disease, research shows.

For years, doctors have been telling us that too much salt is bad and official NHS guidance aims to speed up new measures to control how much we eat.

But now a study, using more data than ever before, shows although blood pressure reduced when salt intake was cut, this had no long-term health benefits.

And anyone who says different is a 'health fascist'.

Today, the Express had another article about salt:

Now the paper says:

Reducing the amount of salt we eat could save 25,000 lives a year, health experts said last night.

Deaths from heart disease and strokes would dramatically fall if shoppers checked the ingredients of everyday foods like bread and cereals.

Doctors blame the high levels of salt-laden processed foods we eat for pushing up blood pressure levels, raising the risk of heart disease.

Mail's apology to Duke of York

The Mail has published the following apology to the Duke of York:

Articles of 7 and 14 May 2012 said that the Duke of York had demanded a private plane, travelled in a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce and snubbed free accommodation for his official Diamond Jubilee visit to India. We now accept that the Duke had no personal involvement in the decision to charter the plane, did not travel in a Rolls, and that the British High Commissioner’s residence was deemed too small for his party on this occasion. We apologise to the Duke of York for the misunderstanding.

Sorry we said you were an extremist

This clarification was published by the Sun on 7 December 2012:

In a story headlined "Lad of 12 leader of Cornish liberators" (Oct 23) we stated that Cornish extremists had recruited a 12-year-old boy to run a division of their "liberation army".

We are happy to clarify that the Mid Cornwall Liberation Army, an outdoors adventure group run by the boy and his friends, has nothing to do with the militant Cornish National Liberation Army.

Sunday 10 February 2013

Billy Connolly denies claims in Sun 'exclusive'

The Sun, 3 August 2012:

EXCLUSIVE: Dressing down for film lothario Russell Brand

Sex-mad comic Russell Brand was told off by Billy Connolly after he refused to start filming until a wardrobe girl flashed her boobs at him.

His cheeky demand delayed shooting on the first day for two hours, so the assistant eventually gave in for the sake of the schedule.

Randy Russell, 37, who’s had a stint in sex rehab, was filming Eric Idle’s musical What About Dick? in LA with fellow comedians Billy, 69, and Eddie Izzard, 50. A source said: “It was just a bit of fun.”

But Billy failed to see the funny side. The source added: “Billy got annoyed when he found out and and gave Russell a stern ticking off.”

Russell caused chaos when he pulled the stunt in his dressing room.

The source recalled: “Russell tried to persuade a wardrobe assistant to show him her breasts but she was having none of it — at first.

“But when it started to look like they weren’t going to get any work done she gave in and flashed him. Russell is a charming scoundrel and everybody let him get away with murder on set — except Billy.

“But after their heart-to-heart he settled down and gave a great performance and filmed the scenes like a consummate professional.”

Billy Connolly, interviewed in the Independent on Sunday, 16 December 2012:

"That [widely reported] story," says Connolly evenly, "is a total invention. A complete fabrication. It's total bollocks. It never happened. Russell was very well-behaved, and I found him very interesting."

Friday 8 February 2013

Mail apologises over swimming claims

Daily Mail, 22 September 2012:

Every medal won by the British Swimming team at the London Olympics cost a grand total of £8.4million each.

That's a hell of a price to pay, particularly when none of those lavishly funded gongs proved to be gold. The silver won by Michael Jamieson, plus Rebecca Adlington's two bronzes, were a truly grim return from £25,144,600 of public investment...

Did you know that Britain's swimming team are controlled by a chief executive living in Germany and a performance director based in Australia?

It's true. CEO David Sparkes and coaching supremo Michael Scott pop in and out of the country from their overseas homes.

The Mail, 6 February 2013:

British Swimming: A sports report on September 22, 2012, calculated that three medals won by the British team at the London Olympics had cost £8.4million each. In fact, the team's budget also funded diving, in which Tom Daley won a medal, and the Paralympic team, which won 39 medals. We also accept that David Sparkes, CEO of British Swimming, lives in the UK, not Germany, including for tax purposes, and apologise for any contrary impression given.