Thursday 24 January 2013

'Corrections must be given more prominence'

The main headline on the front page of the Mail on 3 January stated there were '4,000 foreign murderers and rapists we can't throw out':

The first line of the story underneath proved the headline wasn't literally true:

Nearly 4,000 foreign murderers, rapists and other criminals are roaming the streets, free to commit more crimes.

A factcheck by the excellent Full Fact concluded:

After Full Fact contacted the UKBA, they confirmed that no published breakdown is available for the types of offences these people served a sentence for. Such information could be obtained by a freedom of information request, but no such requests seem to have been made.

So while we know that there are just under 4,000 foreign national offenders living in the community subject to deportation, there's no evidence as to how many of these are guilty of the offences being suggested. This doesn't sit well with the Mail's headline

Perhaps inevitably, then, there's a clarification in today's Mail, which confirms what Full Fact found three weeks ago:

The headline of an article on 3 January suggested that there are 4,000 foreign murderers and rapists in the UK who cannot be deported.

We are happy to clarify that, as the article stated, the figure in fact refers to 3,980 foreign criminals, including murderers and rapists, who are currently subject to deportation orders.

In other words, when the Mail splashed '4,000 murderers and rapists' on its front page, it didn't actually know how many of that 4,000 were guilty of those crimes.

The clarification, however, did not make the front page, where the original error appeared so prominently. Mail editor Paul Dacre said at one of the Leveson seminars in October 2011:

I believe corrections must be given more prominence. As from next week, the Daily Mail, the Mail on Sunday and Metro will introduce a "Corrections and Clarifications" column on page two of these papers.

He said this a couple of months after telling MPs that it was a 'great myth' that corrections are 'buried'.

But today's clarification didn't make page two either. The paper has devoted that page to their 'daily lottery' today. Instead, it's buried towards the bottom of page four:

Quite a difference when compared with the size of the original error - especially from a paper whose editor said that corrections 'must be given more prominence'

(Thanks to Nick, Steve and Lee for help with the page four image)

Wednesday 23 January 2013

The Sun vs Gordon Brown

The Sun, 21 October 2012:

In his column “Toffs who play at being comrades” (September 30) Toby Young stated that Gordon Brown now charges £70,000 for an after-dinner speech.

We are happy to clarify that Mr Brown does not receive such money personally, and that all revenue from his speaking engagements goes to fund Mr and Mrs Brown’s charitable work and their involvement in public life.

The Sun, 25 October 2012:

“Brown's duty bill hits £114k” (July 18). We are happy to clarify that Gordon Brown’s allowance goes directly to office and staff costs incurred as a former PM and is not received by him personally. We acknowledge that expenses incurred in staffing are not “earned” as stated. His only personal income is his salary as an MP and he renounced the pension he is entitled to as a former Prime Minister.

The Sun, 18 January 2013:

In an article “Brown in £30,000 expenses row” (Aug 18), based on the Conservative Party’s statements about Gordon Brown’s expenses, we would like to make clear that Mr Brown does not claim for accommodation expenses when visiting London on parliamentary business. We regret any confusion caused.

The Sun, 22 January 2013:

In an article ‘Gordon is browned off’ (Sept 28) we stated that a Gordon Brown press conference in New York was cancelled when only one reporter turned up.

We would like to make it clear that Mr Brown was delayed at an earlier United Nations meeting which overran, paying tribute to Aung San Suu Kyi. We are happy to clarify the position.

(Huge hat-tip to Tim Fenton at Zelo Street for spotting these.)

Monday 21 January 2013

Blue Monday, How I Hate Blue Monday

Blue Monday is complete nonsense.

As Dean Burnett says in the Guardian today:

every year, much of the media become fixated on a specific day – the third Monday in January – as the most depressing of the year. It has become known as Blue Monday.

This silly claim comes from a ludicrous equation that calculates "debt", "motivation", "weather", "need to take action" and other arbitrary variables that are impossible to quantify and largely incompatible.

He adds:

Its creator, Dr Cliff Arnall, devised it for a travel firm. He has since admitted that it is meaningless (without actually saying it's wrong).

In today's Mail, Luke Sakeld also writes about Blue Monday:

It has been suggested that the concept of ‘Blue Monday’ was based on junk science drummed up by a travel company as a clever ploy to have us booking holidays to sunnier climes.

But this comes halfway through the article - after many sentences which clearly suggest Blue Monday is a genuine thing. The spur this year appears to be a press release from Anglian Home Improvements, which may just have an ulterior motive for suggesting natural light and windows can improve a person's mood. 

The headline on today's article is:

However, the sheer emptiness of Blue Monday - and the laziness of the 'journalism' - is revealed by this:

Yes, that's the 'today is Blue Monday' article, based on the same press release, but written by Sean O'Hare, that the Mail published last week.

It said :

it comes as little surprise that today is said by experts to be the most depressing day of the year.

Depressing, indeed.

Ben Goldacre's excellent article - from 2006 - on the background to Blue Monday is worth reading.

(hat-tip to Edward)

Sunday 20 January 2013

The People apologises for lying about Sir Roger Moore interview

Today, The People published an 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.

Madeley, Widdecombe and the paramedics

In his column in last week's Express, Richard Madeley wrote about the case of Thomas Passant:

'Lunch is for wimps' - Gordon Gekko in the seminal movie Wall Street, released in 1987.

Twenty-five years on, Gekko would make short work of the West Midlands Ambulance Service.

Incredibly, paramedics refused to interrupt their lunch break despite an emergency call for an ambulance to attend.

He went on:

So what did a paramedic team in Shropshire decide was a lesser priority than feeding their faces?

You’ll never guess. No, really, you won’t. Indeed when I read about it this week I thought it was some kind of joke, albeit in poor taste.

But the grotesque truth is this.

West Midlands Ambulance Service’s finest continued to munch their lunch after a six-week-old baby boy suffered a heart attack. His family dialled 999 but had to wait 41 minutes for an ambulance to come, because a crew were on their break and couldn’t be interrupted.

The College of Paramedics issued a statement in response:

"It's simply not true that this crew sat 'feeding their faces' knowing that a patient, in this case a baby, was suffering a life-threatening heart condition," said Andy Proctor, Paramedic spokesperson for College of Paramedics members in the West Midlands.

"It's absolutely outrageous to suggest that this or, indeed, any paramedic or ambulance crew would knowingly sit eating a meal whilst a child's life is at threat. We believe that this article has totally misreported the facts in this case."

"What he [Madeley] also didn't mention is that a paramedic was already at the patient's side within minutes, providing life-saving treatment.

Quotes from other people in the statement criticised the paper for:

inaccurate and poorly-researched journalism

And said:

it is extremely disappointing to read such an article which plainly has not reported all the facts clearly.

The College of Paramedics called for an 'unequivocal public apology' and a donation to the Ambulance Services Benevolent Fund.

A follow up statement from them explained what happened next:

A storm broke on Twitter, with Richard Madeley being harangued to the point where, on Monday evening, he acknowledged on Twitter that the story was "widely misreported" and that he was writing a follow-up piece. However, he did not apologise and has not now been seen on Twitter for three days.

Meanwhile – despite a torrent of comments under the online version of the article – the Express issued no correction or apology.

On the afternoon of Tuesday (January 15th), the College of Paramedics, which represents the professional interests of paramedics, issued its press release setting out the facts of the story and putting the paramedics' side. This release almost immediately 'went viral', receiving 12,000+ unique views in a matter of hours and becoming widely quoted on Twitter and even more quoted and 'Like'd by many thousands of Facebook users.

On Wednesday, the Express responded by not only closing the comments section under the online Richard and Judy page but removing all comments completely. Yet still the original story stood. And the storm on Facebook continued, unabated.

Then at lunchtime on Wednesday, the family of baby Thomas joined the Facebook debate in defence of paramedics. Matthew Passant, Thomas' father, posted: "I'm the childs father who the article was about and let me tell you me and my partner have nothing but gratitude to the paramedics who attended to my son Thomas and the paramedics know this as we have spoken to them and their bosses personally." He also wrote "your paramedics, along with the doctors and nurses and everyone else on the way is the reason why our son is still alive and recovering every day."

And Thomas' aunt, Kate Passant, posted: "We as a family were shocked to read this article and just want to say thankyou to the paramedics who attended. The paramedics that attended him did an amazing job and helped save his life."

The response from the Express? Repentance? A correction? An apology?

Not a bit of it. Instead, the Express removed the Richard and Judy piece altogether on Thursday (today), as if it had never existed.

But the day before removing Madeley's article, they published a comment piece by Ann Widdecombe which repeated the charges (and which remains live on their website):

A baby of eight weeks is facing possible disability for life as a result of an ambulance crew finishing its break before going on a 999 call...

when it comes to putting sandwiches before a dying baby and then defending such action as reasonable, Britain has sunk to a new depth.

The College noted it was 'strangely similar' to the Madeley piece and added:

This ignored the truth that, in fact, baby Thomas was receiving paramedic treatment within minutes of the 999 call being made, and the fact that no ambulance crew refused to interrupt its break: that simply did not happen. 

Yesterday, Madeley returned to the subject and back-tracked on what he wrote last week:

It seemed like an open and shut case. It took 41 minutes for an ambulance to arrive at the West Midlands home where a baby had suffered a heart attack. Why? Because the crew were on an “undisturbed” meal break and couldn’t be called out until they’d finished. The rules are rigorous. Undisturbed means undisturbed. This is the policy set by the ambulance service.

The original story provoked a flurry of negative headlines and comment. I wrote about it here last week, expressing incredulity that such a state of affairs was possible and criticising the crew involved.

Seven days on, I am 100 per cent certain that I got this part of the story wrong. No mealy-mouthed apology, this. Yes, the crew had requested a break but they had no knowledge of the 999 call until they clocked back on. In the circumstances my criticism was unjust.

He goes on to repeat some of the stories he has heard over the last week from paramedics. But he still doesn't mention a paramedic was on the scene within minutes of the call.

And 'no mealy-mouthed apology, this'? He admits his criticism was 'unjust' and some of what he said was 'wrong' but he hasn't actually said 'sorry' at all.

The Mail and Bowie

The Mail, 19 October 2012:

It is an anonymity that David Bowie has increasingly come to love.

While it is six years since his last public performance, the once prolific star has apparently not written a song since 2003.


Little wonder his closest associates now openly say Bowie has retired for good from a music world that still fetes him as one of its greatest and most individual talents.


Bowie’s biographer Paul Trynka told me: ‘Although my heart tells me David will be back, my head tells me he won’t, and I don’t think we will see him tour again. None of the musicians David worked with have heard from him. He feels he’s made his mark and he’s content with that.’

Others in the know agree. Recently, his long-time tour promoter John Giddings admitted he, too, believes Bowie will not make a return.

Instead, Bowie — whose last album, Reality, came out nine years ago — seems to be content to see out his years in self-imposed obscurity.


Bowie, it seems, is happy to spend his Golden Years far from the public gaze he once craved.

The Mail, 9 January 2013:

He stunned the world by announcing the release of his first new music in 10 years - but David Bowie has in fact spent the past two years recording in secret, it has been revealed.

The reclusive star chose his 66th birthday on Tuesday to announce his new album,The Next Day, and the release of a single, Where Are We Now?, which is already at the top of the UK iTunes chart - beating Taylor Swift - and will chart this weekend.

And on Tuesday, his longtime producer Tony Visconti revealed he had been working in secret on the 'contemplative' disc with the 'happy and healthy' superstar, saying: 'I've been listening to this on headphones, walking through the streets of New York, for the past two years.'

Friday 18 January 2013

'May have given the impression he's a cocaine user'

A correction in today's Mail says:

An article published on 22 October 2012 about world-renowned heart surgeon Dr Jeffrey Moses which first appeared in the New York Post may have given the false impression that he is currently a cocaine user who is, and was for years, allowed by his hospital to operate on patients while under the influence of the drug.

The article reported allegations of cocaine use made by Dr Moses’s ex-wife in their 2005 divorce case which were proven to be conclusively false by two identical tests which were negative. The decision by the New York Presbyterian Hospital not to discipline Dr Moses was based on these tests and a court-ordered examination by a psychiatrist which concluded he had no cocaine addiction problems.

The New York Post has accepted that it did not intend its article to give the impression that Dr Moses performed heart surgery under the influence of cocaine. We are also happy to make clear that the New York Post has said it regretted any misunderstanding caused by its article and any harm it caused Dr Moses personally or professionally.

Notice the Mail doesn't make any statement of regret or apology of its own.

Thursday 17 January 2013

'No truth whatsoever'

Five days ago, the Mirror reported that Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins was:

teaming with Paul Weller and Bruce Foxton on new single.

The article didn't have any confirmation from Wiggins, Weller, Foxton, any of the others said to be involved, or their spokespeople. Just one anonymous source:

A source said: “It’s all incredibly exciting and has been in the pipeline for some time.

“Everything has finally been signed off though, and a date set for mid-February.”

The Mirror's article has now vanished from its website - very possibly as a result of this post on Weller's Official Facebook page:

'No truth whatsoever'.

Mike Dawes at MailOnline, the Huffington Post and the Express all repeated the story based solely, it seems, on the Mirror's anonymous source. There doesn't appear to be have been any fact-checking by any of them - just some copy-and-pasting. The Express article was published after the Weller denial.

Five days on, all three articles remain live and uncorrected.

(Hat-tip to oboogie at MailWatch Forum)


A quick mention for something that has already been covered on The Media Blog.

The front page of the Express on 12 January looked like this:

Under the image, the caption reads:

A snowplough battles through the blizzards battering the M6 in Cumbria yesterday.

Yesterday? That's odd, given that the Express used the very same photo on 7 December 2012.

Given the paper's penchant for over-the-top, worst-case-scenario weather headlines, this may not have been an accident.

But if it was, it follows other recent photo errors such as the Czech soldiers it said were British, and the Dutch Olympians it said were British.

(Hat-tip to DailyExpressLOL)

Monday 7 January 2013

MailOnline Showbiz Awards deserve award for hypocrisy

Ladies and gentlemen, it's the awards you have been waiting for. No, not the Baftas or the Oscars, but the inaugural MailOnline Showbiz Awards 2012.

The idea is explained perfectly in the intro:

Just like you the readers, the activities of particular celebrities deserving of praise, and those not so deserving have been named in our own non-exhaustive list of recipients for the inaugural Mail Online Showbiz Awards.

We're then given the details. First: best bikini body. Cynics might suggest this is just an excuse to publish ten photos of scantily-clad female celebs - and they'd be right. There's also a 'rear of the year' award, illustrated by ten celeb arses.

To try and demonstrate that the MailOnline Showbiz Team are not totally in thrall to celebs, there's also a 'Put it away, love' category.

Curiously, Rihanna comes second in that category, depsite being 'awarded' 5th best bikini body and 4th best rear. Helen Flanagan also appears in the 'Best bikini body' and 'Put it away, love' categories.

The winner of the 'Put it away, love' category is Courtney Stodden. MailOnline has written 95 articles about Stodden in the last 18 months. Many of these are about her not wearing much: showing off acres of flesh in skimpy Halloween costumes; wearing a lacy crop-top and barely-there skirt; wearing towering see-through heels and a short red dress; wearing bikinis and stripper heels and so on and on and on. They even used the phrase 'All grown up at last!' when she turned 18.

The suggestion that they actually want her, or any of the other women they named, to cover up is utterly hollow, given the relish with which they have published photos of them all wearing so little.

Indeed, one week after suggesting Flanagan should 'put it away, love', MailOnline published five photos from a photo shoot it described like this:

In the 'Flab to Fab' category - and make of that name what you will - the top ten is missing a 5th, 6th and 8th placed person, which does nothing to dispel the idea this was a rush job.

Two other categories are worthy of note: Pointless Celebrity Tweeter and Vainest Celebrity Tweeter. The MailOnline Showbiz Team named Maria Fowler - who appeared in The Only Way Is Essex - as 'winner' of the former category.

If you search MailOnline for 'Maria Fowler Twitter' you get 138 results.

In this article, her tweets were so 'pointless' that members of the MailOnline team transcribed seven of them and took screenshots of six.

In this article, they included three more of her tweets and there were four more in this one, which also included three photos she had posted on Twitter.

There were two more of her tweets, and three more of her Twitter pics, in this piece, one tweet here, one pic here, two pics here, one tweet here, two here, three here, four here, and two tweets and three tweeted pics included here.

And that's just going back to 20 August 2012. 

If the MailOnline's hacks believe Fowler's Twitter feed is so 'pointless', why are they so keen to repeat so much of what she posts on it?

Thursday 3 January 2013

The Mail v Big Fat Quiz of the Year

The Mail has been desperately trying to create 'Sachsgate II' over a few jokes broadcast - after the watershed - on The Big Fat Quiz of the Year:

Originally, Ofcom received only a handful of complaints by people who appeared to have actually watched the programme. After several days of campaigning by the Mail, that number reached 165. Not, exactly, the success they were clearly hoping for:

Ofcom had received five complaints by last night, but that number could quickly grow – in Sachsgate, an initial two complaints rose to nearly 45,000.

The Mail said it made:

no apology for voicing concerns shared by an overwhelming but seldom-heard majority.

So seldom-heard, indeed, that even after days of trying to get a negative reaction, only a fraction of the people who saw the programme, or had read the jokes in the Mail, bothered to make themselves heard. 

The majority of comments on the online versions of the articles were critical of the Mail's stance. When the Mail needed some 'angry' comments to back its position, it chose the 'worst rated' ones from its own website.

Ofcom told the Independent that:

the vast majority [of complaints] were made in response to the negative media coverage.

Yet when defending Jan Moir over her nasty Stephen Gately article at the Leveson Inquiry, Mail editor Paul Dacre downplayed the 22,000 complaints sent to the PCC. He said:

You keep using the phrase "a lot of people" complained about this. You realise that these are all online complaints and this is an example of how tweetering can create a firestorm within hours...Most of those people conceded they hadn't read the piece.

But the Mail expresses no such concerns about the Big Fat Quiz complaints:

it was revealed that complaints to Ofcom and the broadcaster had now reached 165.

At least 80 viewers have complained to Ofcom about the show, which featured puerile sexual jokes and innuendo just minutes after the 9pm watershed. Some 85 have complained directly to Channel 4.

Some of the Mail's anger was specifically aimed at Jonathan Ross, who the paper has targeted since Sachsgate. Ross appeared on Big Fat Quiz and his production company made it. An editorial on 2 January said:

the Mail is quite happy to be accused of being reactionary when it wonders how many more of society’s broader problems are exacerbated by such creeps as Ross.

It also argued:

It cannot, surely, be fanciful to draw a connection between the explicit four-letter outbursts of such TV role models and the epidemic of vile, coarse ‘sexting’ in our schools.

But the paper provided no evidence for such a connection.

The Mail has repeated the (what it calls) 'vile' jokes again and again - including embedding video of 'one of the controversial jokes' on its online articles. It claimed that it had to publish all the jokes so people could make up their own mind about whether they were suitable for broadcast. It said the same when it repeatedly published dozens of images and videos of scantily-clad singers on The X Factor.

The Sun, however, was more coy. It said a joke about the Queen was:

too coarse to be repeated in a family newspaper.

Oddly, the Sun positioned this story and this claim on page 3, next to a topless female model. This is also the very same 'family newspaper' that on both the 28 October 2011 and 11 November 2011 ran full page ads for 'Triple-X DVD blockbusters'.

This morning, the lead story on MailOnline was this:

The headline was clear: Jack Whitehall could be dropped as a presenter at the National TV Awards. But deep in the story, there was this giveaway sentence:

A spokesman for the awards last night said the comedian had been booked and would be presenting an award as planned.

Despite that, MailOnline decided to run it as a major story implying the opposite.

The Independent revealed a few hours later:

Kim Turberville, creator and executive producer of the NTA, told The Independent: "Contrary to spurious reports earlier today, I would like to confirm that there has been no crisis summit over Jack Whitehall’s invitation to present an award at this year’s National Television Awards."

"We are very much looking forward to welcoming him on January 23 for our live show.”

The final word, for now, should go to the Mail, which said - apparently without irony - in its 2 January 2013 editorial:

Indeed, a New Year seems an appropriate time to take stock of what is deemed acceptable in popular culture – and ask what effects a constant diet of filth, misogyny and casual contempt for the vulnerable may have on impressionable young minds.

Wednesday 2 January 2013

Another 'sour' post about the weather predictions in the Express

Express hack Nathan Rao appears not to have enjoyed this post about his not-very-reliable articles about the weather.

Despite claiming it made him 'chuckle' he took to his personal blog to label it 'sour', 'yawn-inducing' and 'pointless drivel'.

Well, if anyone knows pointless drivel when he sees it...

The 'yawn-inducing' insult is curious, too, given he's been following Tabloid Watch on Twitter since 6 November 2011.

Apart from those insults, Rao had nothing to say about the post. He didn't challenge or debunk it in any way - he just indulged in petty name-calling.

Twenty-eight people decided to post comments in response to Rao's outburst - every one is critical of him and challenging him to point out where this blog was wrong. He hasn't responded on his blog, but tweeted:

Chuckling at how many people have so much to say that they are unwilling to put their names to. Carry on chaps.

So let's look at Nathan's articles about the possibility of a White Christmas in 2012. 

On 21 November, the Express said:

Nathan explained:

Britain is on course for a White Christmas with snow likely as far south as London, say forecasters.


Much of Britain can expect its snowiest winter for 100 years, according to James Madden, forecaster for Exacta Weather.

On 7 December, Nathan went further - a White Christmas was not just 'odds-on' but a 'dead cert'.

Less than a week later, the prediction changed to a 'wet Christmas'.

By 22 December, the Express had decided Christmas Day 'won't be a white-out' and on the big day, the paper reported:

Hopes of a white Christmas have been washed out

And the Met Office's verdict on Boxing Day about a White Christmas?

Some 'dead cert'.

And yet another blemish on the record of - ahem - 'unmatched' and 'accurate weather updates' from Rao and the Express.

New year, same old churnalism

The Express and MailOnline have both published a story today - in their 'news' sections - claiming that 8:52pm tonight is the perfect time to find a partner through online dating.

And the entirely unbiased source of this extraordinary revelation?

Internet dating website

As Michael Marshall notes at the excellent Bad PR blog:

Sometimes, PR is so lacking in subtlety it can be astounding.