Has the Daily Mail Jumped the Shark?

The TV show Happy Days in many people’s view went in to a terminal decline when The Fonze jumped over a shark whilst water-skiing. Watching the show always involved suspending disbelief to quite a large extent as the Fonze is clearly a ridiculous character but the point when he jumped over a shark was the point at which the writers went too far. Was it hubris or over-confidence or simply desperation that led the writers to take their audience for granted? Either way it was a watershed moment. I wonder whether the Mail has similarly over-reached itself – not with its attack on Ed Miliband via his father so much, but by their attempted defence.


In many ways the attack on Ralph Miliband was typical of the Daily Mail – it is typical of their Modus Operandi: prejudicial, ill-conceived and misrepresentive of the subject. This response by Miliband Senior’s biographer is very telling.

The sole basis for this assertion was a diary entry at the age of 16 in autumn 1940, where Ralph Miliband wrote that “the Englishman is a rabid nationalist” and, “when you hear the English talk of this war you sometimes almost want them to lose it to show how things are.” Such sentiments might sound shocking, but they need to be put into their real context.

A few months earlier Miliband had arrived in Britain with his father, having walked from Brussels to Ostend, where they took the last boat leaving for Britain. While working hard to improve his English, he was also spending much of his time wandering through the streets of London trying to make sense of his new environment. He was in a constant state of anxiety about the fate of his sister and mother, who had remained in Nazi occupied Belgium as stateless Jews.

Because he believed that the earlier appeasement of Hitler was largely responsible for the situation, he was occasionally exasperated by the atmosphere of complacency and superiority amongst the British upper classes, and this no doubt provoked his intemperate diary outburst.

There is nothing new in any of this: The Mail has done this to many others. What is unusual is that Daily Mail could not deny Ed Miliband a response.


The petulance that accompanied the printing of Ed Miliband very measured article was impressive to behold.

Ed Miliband:

Britain has always benefited from a free Press. Those freedoms should be treasured. They are vital for our democracy. Journalists need to hold politicians like me to account — none of us should be given an easy ride — and I look forward to a robust 19 months between now and the General Election.


The Daily Mail sometimes claims it stands for the best of British values of decency. But something has really gone wrong when it attacks the family of a politician — any politician — in this way. It would be true of an attack on the father of David Cameron, Nick Clegg, or mine.

There was a time when politicians stayed silent if this kind of thing happened, in the hope that it wouldn’t happen again. And fear that if they spoke out, it would make things worse.

I will not do that. The stakes are too high for our country for politics to be conducted in this way. We owe it to Britain to have a debate which reflects the values of how we want the country run.

The Daily Mail Comment

Red Ed’s in a strop with the Mail. Doubtless, he’s miffed that his conference was overshadowed by the revelations of his former friend, the spin doctor Damian McBride, serialised in this paper, which exposed the poisonous heart of the Labour Party.

Nor did he see the funny side when we ridiculed the yucky, lovey-dovey photographs of him and his wife, behaving like a pair of hormonal teenagers in need of a private room.

But what has made him vent his spleen — indeed, he has stamped his feet and demanded a right of reply — is a Mail article by Geoffrey Levy on Saturday about the Labour leader’s late father, Ralph, under the arresting headline ‘The Man Who Hated Britain’.

They seem to want us to believe it was an act of great magnanimity for them to publish the response rather the act of cowardice and calculation it really was. They know how much worse it would be if it was published elsewhere under the headline What the Mail refused to print. The choice of the grave photo shows the standard dehumanising attitude of the DM to those they oppose – although to be fair to them they have at-least acknowledged that this was in poor taste. Note the choice of language – responding to a deeply personal attack on his father, Ed is characterised as behaving childishly, whilst the Mail repeat the words ‘evil’ in reference to Ralph Miliband’s views.

If the professional ethos of journalism is to speak the truth to power then the Mail is undoubtably the very antithesis of a journalistic organisation. The reaction to this particular example though is interesting. The hardcore Mailites remain loyal but their wider credibility as a newspaper has been compromised. I – and many others – have long seen through them but the Mail has always maintained this pretence of seriousness. It is interesting, and not a little ironic, to see this pretence stripped away by their own bloody-mindedness. While Stephen Glover whines about the leftist conspiracy and alleged hypocrisy, the country at-large seems to take a different view. I find myself wondering if they have perhaps over-reached themselves this time?

I for one, truly hope so.



The Sun on Tiger Woods crashing into a tree – He’s having an affair!

Whereas the Guardian have written a normal article based on FACTS. The Sun have taken it into their own hands to publish unfounded accusations.

Many other newspapers have covered the story, including the Express, the Independent, and the Times and none of them have given these accusations the light of day.

So where did the Sun get the accusations that firstly, Tiger had a row with his wife and secondly, rather more seriously that he has been having an affair. The Sun claims:

Reports in the US claim he has been cheating on her with party hostess Rachel Uchitel, 34.

“Reports in the US” seems to be a sneaky way to print wild allegations without substantiating them whatsoever.

The Independent also prints the allegations, but unlike the Sun they don’t make them the centre of the story, in the last line printing…

Rumours about the golfer’s private life surfaced this week with a tabloid newspaper speculating about marital unrest, but it had little evidence to substantiate its outlandish claims.

Note how a respectable newspaper doesn’t engage in wild speculation and even the claim of marital unrest is said to be “unsubstantiated.” Even though the Independent is a quality paper, if they had found out through sources that they trusted and believed that Woods was having marital problems or even an affair, it would have featured more prominently in the story.

None of the American sources that claim this affair, such as this, this and this have any actual evidence to back it up and the Hollywood Gossip names the newspaper the National Inquirer (which first made the allegations) as “the unreliable tabloid”

Even the Mail and the Express have not gone as far as claiming an affair, with the former claiming an argument, and the latter – surprisingly – having the decency not to print unsubstantiated allegations.

It just makes you wonder, how low will the Sun sink?

A guide to Daily Mail reporting

Would you like to be able to write for the Daily Mail? Do you dream of being one of the people behind the infamous ‘Daily Mail Reporter’? Well, dream no more, because writing for the Daily Mail is just as easy as you think it would be! Take this article for example: ‘Chris Moyles facing axe from Radio 1 breakfast show… and could be replaced by his pal Vernon Kay’. Wow, what a story you might think, the self-styled saviour of Radio 1 Chris Moyles (pronounced ‘talentless twat’) could be ‘axed’ by the BBC and replaced by one of his friends. You may think that such a story might be boyond you – would you have such good sources, and would you have the manpower to write it – the article did require two Mail journalists – Sara Nathan and Paul Revoir.

Well, fret not, because you could invent such an article in your very own living room – all you need is a PC or laptop, the ability to type reasonably coherent sentences and knowledge of a few tricks of the trade.

First of all, you’re going to need an introduction that makes you sound in the know; something like:

Chris Moyles’ reign over the airwaves could end next year in the face of plummeting listeners, the Daily Mail has learnt.

This makes it sound as if you’ve actually heard your story from a source – that you haven’t just made it up. Next up you need to tease your readers with what it is that you have ‘learnt’:

The loud-mouth DJ, who lures seven million listeners to the Radio 1 breakfast show every week, is said to be poised to leave his show in July, when his one-year £494,000 deal comes up for renewal.

Television presenter Vernon Kay, who hosts All Star Family Fortunes for ITV as well as fronting his own Radio 1 show on Saturday, is now seen as the favourite to replace Moyles, 35, who has courted controversy throughout his five-year stint on the breakfast show.

Remember the importance of never stating that something is true, always use phrases like ‘is said’, ‘is now seen’ etc because these imply that it is a third-party suggesting these things and you are merely repeating them – it adds an air of credibility to whatever it is that you’re making up. Once you’ve established the gist of your scoop you need to pad it out with ‘sources’ – people you invent to back up your story, you never need to reveal them, so don’t worry about making them up- every tabloid journalist does this:

Mr Kay’s agents are already believed to have been approached and a BBC source said: ‘Vernon is extremely popular and the radio bosses love him, no formal offer has been put in yet – there’s still seven months left on Moyles’ deal after all – but he is definitely in the frame.’

Another senior BBC radio source said: ‘Moyles is still the saviour of Radio One, but he will go sooner rather than later.

‘But it works both ways, he only signed a one-year extension deal as he didn’t want to be tied down, he wanted the freedom to move on.’

See, it isn’t difficult, just remember to use phrases that imply you are merely repeating stuff you’ve heard on the grapevine, not making stuff up; like ‘believed’ is a great one to use in any situation – here it is used to invent the idea that Vernon Kay’s agents have been approached by the BBC. To make the BBC approach seem genuine you just need to invent a BBC source – make sure whatever you have made up is put into inverted commas though, because you want the reader to know that the ‘source’ said it, not you.

Already you’ve got a pretty convincing story, you’ve got two ‘sources’ and dragged his agents into the frame, how could anyone not believe the veracity of your scoop now?

Remember though, that this is the Daily Mail so you’ll have to add some filler about ‘controversy’ because Chris Moyles is fat and offensive and just the sort of person the Daily Mail dislikes. Once this is done you can celebrate your very own scoop and enter the ranks of tabloid journalist! Hurrah for you!

However, do not under any circumstances make the same mistake as the two clowns who have written this article though, otherwise you will be laughed at. Do not EVER end your article – like they have – with something like this:

Last night, a Radio 1 spokeswoman insisted no plans had yet been made for Moyles’ departure, nor his replacement, saying: ‘There is absolutely no truth in this.’

That’ll just confirm to your readers that you have just totally invented the whole story. You’d look like a right dickhead (or in this case, a right pair of dickheads).