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.