Fact-checking and 'good faith'

A while back  I posted a blog on the charming story of a pig that had a phobia of mud, and pointed out that it was in fact a story completely made up to sell sausages and promote a campaign for the fairer pricing of pork. I linked to the PR company which was using the example as evidence at how for a small fee it could get you in all the national papers and even onto Radio 5live and other BBC programs. Yet in the comments I was excused of being unfair to the journalist who ‘wrote’ the story and that:

If you had quoted the full Mail story, you would see that it was the owners of the pigs, farmers of twenty years, who are the ones saying she has a phobia of mud and that she likes to wear boots. The papers and media outlets reported in good faith what they said. Nor does PR woman Emma Cantrill say they are making this up – as Angry Mob claims – she is simply pointing out how they found a good angle that as well as being a fun story also helped advertise her client. Come on Angry Mob – once you were a source of light in the dark, but mow you are spinning stories as much as exposing the spin.

This comment was posted from an proxy IP address for one Associated Newspapers Ltd, owners of the Daily Mail. Brilliantly the commenter / journalist demonstrates just how stupid certain tabloid employees can be, given that his comment is full of complete lies.

Firstly: his accusation that the reporters reported the owner’s claims in good faith and that the claims were not made-up by the owners. The owners claimed – as I have clearly quoted in my blog post – that they ‘were at a loss, until they remembered the four miniature wellies used as pen and pencil holders in their office. They slipped them on the piglet’s feet – and into the mud she happily ploughed.’

Yet, as I clearly point out in a quotation from the PR agency in the original blog post: “Debbie and Andrew had suggested that we use one of their pedigree pigs for the campaign, as she had a distinct personality and was slightly more fastidious than her colleagues” – i.e. they picked a pig that was only slightly cleaner that the others – hardly sounds like a pig with a phobia of mud – and that: “Ross Parry Agency took this one step further and created the ‘pig in boots’ shot”.

So, the agency had the boots idea, not the owners, which makes the owners liars and the press lazy churnalists – this wasn’t a case that they happened to just have four miniature wellies in their office, but rather I suspect that the agency went out and bought some. I claimed they were making it up not because I was also ‘spinning’ ,  but rather because the PR agency is admitting to making it up. This is not the case of the PR agency ‘finding a good’ as the tabloid employee suggested, but it is a PR agency creating an angle specifically to draw in lazy journalists who can never resist a cute animal photo.

Secondly, the suggestion that ‘the papers and media outlets reported in good faith what they said’, well, forgive me for having expectations that ‘journalists’ are paid precisely because they don’t just ‘report stuff in good faith’. Even some basic checking would have revealed this story to be absolute pants, but then I’m 100% certain that 90% of tabloid journalists wouldn’t even care about truth in this instance, because at the end of the day this story makes good, quick and cheap copy and you get a cute picture of a pig in the paper.

As if to further prove my point that journalists really are a lazy bunch of gullible idiots who happily write articles without even the vaguest attempt at fact-checking The Media Blog reports this:

How journalism works: First, see this (ignoring the bit on the right about it being a parody):


Next, write this (ignoring the bit about it not being true):


Then, explain to your editor that you didn’t need a second source because you heard it straight from the CEO himself… sort of, before hearing the dim and distant sound of a penny dropping.

That is poor, I mean really, really poor. The Daily Mail have now done the usual deletion of the story, but a search for ‘Steve Jobs’ on their site still reveals the original article:

Steve JobsThere is something more sinister behind this idea that Daily Mail journalists simply ‘report in good faith’ because they don’t have the time or basic intelligence to fact-check and that is that Daily Mail journalists have plenty of time to dig around for alternate angles on a story when it suits them. Take for example the way they report health and safety stories, whereby they take an anecdote or measure and then spend a lot of effort kneeding it into an outrage story. Or the sheer amount of invented stories that only involve the reader taking the word of the journalist in ‘good faith’, given the complete lack of any sources whatsoever.

When it comes to spinning stories (or simply making the whole thing up) about immigrants, gypsies, homosexuals, the ‘PC brigade’, ‘elf n safety’, the public sector and any other Daily Mail target journalists have plenty of time to mould bullshit into an article. So don’t give me any bullshit about ‘reporting in good faith’, when clearly this is something you not only do not do, it is in fact the exact opposite of what you do.

Thanks to @deardamselfly for the hat-tip.

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